A1 Grand Prix lands Chinese deal

When Dubai's Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum Al Maktoum announced a year ago his plans for the A1 Grand Prix series there were, not surprisingly, a lot of cynics who believed that the new championship would never get off the ground. Twelve months on the series looks to be very strong with the sheikh this week announcing the launch of the 16th franchise-holder, China. A1 Team China, which will be led by businessman Liu Yu, was unveiled at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, a venue in central Beijing which is normally reserved for foreign dignitaries.

Sheikh Maktoum expects around 10 more countries to join the series in the weeks ahead and hopes to have as many as 25 cars on the grid when the series kicks off at Brands Hatch in September. There is much tacit support for the A1 series in F1 circles as the new championship is recognised as having several values, not least as it will open up new markets for F1 by boosting interest in motorsport in countries which have not previously been involved, notably in Asia and the Middle East. This is good for producing new drivers but equally will help to develop new potential sponsors for F1 teams in the future.

The key to the success of A1 Grand Prix will remain the quality of the racing as some of the countries involved do not obviously have drivers of the calibre that will be needed to win races. However we expect the series to be hard-fought and for the demand for franchises to increase in the years ahead.

The signing of a deal in China is a major step forward as it increases potential interest in the series and will make A1 much more attractive to sponsors as it should give them access to the vast Chinese market.

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