NOVEMBER 15, 1999
Bernie and Dubai
IN April, Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone confirmed that he was talking to the government of Dubai about a Grand Prix and in recent days Dubai's most famous motorsport personality Mohammed Bin Sulayem confirmed that those talks are now very advanced with the government taking them "very seriously".
Dubai is one of the United Arab Emirates, an union of seven small but oil-rich kingdoms in the Persian Gulf region. With oil revenues on the wane, however, the city has been investing heavily in tourism with the construction of new hotels and heavy investment in duty-free activities and in international sporting events, notably the Dubai World Cup, the richest horse race in the world, an offshore powerboat Grand Prix, the Dubai Open tennis and Desert Classic golf competitions.
In December 1981, British businessman Martin Hone organized a Dubai "Grand Prix" on a 1.6-mile track around the Hyatt Regency Hotel . This featured five races and a variety of star names attracted by considerable appearance money. Since then, however, the UAE has concentrated on rallying and plays an important role in the Middle Eastern Rally Championship, hosting the UAE International, the Dubai International and the UAE Desert Challenge events. In August a delegation from Dubai visited the Belgian GP at Spa.
Despite the talks, it should be remembered that there have often been plans for races in the Middle East but none have yet happened. These have included projects in Beirut, Jordan, Qatar and even in Abu Dhabi, another of the United Arab Emirates.
While it is easy to see why the Arab states might want a Grand Prix it is less obvious why Formula 1 should want to visit the region. Obviously there is the lure of money, good weather and the fact that transmission of the races would be on the right times zones for both Europe and Asia.
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