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NOVEMBER 1, 2004

Jones and Yoong join A1 troops

The A1 Grand Prix series has announced five more franchise-holders including Alan Jones, the 1980 Formula 1 World Champion, who is fronting an Australian entry which will be run by longtime Formula 3 entrant Alan Docking. The other deals are for South Africa, Portugal, Canada and Malaysia.

The South African franchise, announced by none other than President Thabo Mbeki, has been acquired by businessman Tokyo Sexwale, a former African National Congress activist and political prisoner who was imprisoned in the infamous Robben Island jail with Nelson Mandela in the 1970s and was named a regional governor when Mandela came to power in South Africa in 1994. He later quit politics and went into business, trading in oil and diamonds, a connection which seems to have been the link with A1, one of the partners of which is oil and diamond dealer Tony Texeira. Texeira's connections are also responsible for the Canadian franchise which has been acquired by J Jay Laski, the chairman of Regent Mercantile Bancorp Inc of Toronto, a company which has had dealings with him in the past.

The Malaysian franchise has been acquired by Alex Yoong and it is safe to assume that he will be the driver of the Malaysian car when the series kicks off in September next year. The Portuguese franchise has been bought by soccer names Luis Figo, who plays for the Real Madrid team and Carlos Queiros, who was formerly the Portuguese national coach and the coach of Real Madrid. He is now working for Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. The only other franchise-holder to be named is Britain's John Surtees although A1 says that the deals for China, Lebanon and Pakistan have all been done.

"A1 Grand Prix is effectively the World Cup of motor racing," said Tokyo Sexwale. "It will create a new patriotic edge to the sport and add a new dimension to one of the most popular sports in the world. We are proud and pleased that there will be a South African entrant in this exciting global event. We fully subscribe to the need to spread motor racing away from its traditional European and North American roots and into the developing world."