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Malaysians getting serious

THE Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is to visit the Portuguese Grand Prix this weekend at Estoril. Mohamad will have talks with Portuguese President Mario Soares and Prime Minister Antonio Guiterres, but the main reason for his visit appears to be to see the Grand Prix.

The 71-year-old has been the architect of Malaysia's growth since he took power in July 1981, and he is keen to attract F1 racing to Malaysia to help boost foreign investment in the country.

Malaysia had been planning to construct an international standard racing circuit on the tourist island of Langkawi in the north, but since Mohamad's announcement last August of a scheme to build a new administrative capital at Putrajaya the attention has moved to that area.

Building the new garden city of Putrajaya is an $8 billion project. The site is not far from Kuala Lumpur and forms a triangle with that city and a new airport which is due to open in 1998. Putrajaya will house the entire federal government and around 250,000 people. The intention is for the three areas to grow together to form a vast conurbation for the 21st century.

Malaysia has been actively involved in F1 since May last year when Sauber announced a major sponsorship deal with Malaysian national oil company Petronas. In recent weeks Petronas has been trying to negotiate a deal with Yamaha to badge the V10 engine as a "Petronas V10".

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