A Grand Prix for Durban?

There has been talk for a long time now about the return of Formula 1 to South Africa but the money has always been a problem. However there is good news for the company which is bidding for the event, following the announcement that an investment firm called African Renaissance Holdings is going to be involved. The most likely timescale would be a race early in 2008. Up to now the plan has been for there to be a new racing facility built near Cape Town but the involvement of African Renaissance Holdings may alter that.

The company is a black economic empowerment company, with dealings in the financial world. It owns 25% of Marconi South Africa and a similar shareholding in the IT company T-Systems. It is also involved in the Tsogo Investments casino company, which runs casinos in various South African cities. The newest of these is the Art Deco-themed Suncoast Casino & Entertainment World, which was opened on the beachfront in Durban in 2002 and aims to provide patrons with an unparalleled array of entertainment opportunities for the whole family. The project is a key element in the rejuvenation of Durban's Golden Mile, a beach area on the Indian Ocean which is flanked by luxury hotels and parkland. The intention is to turn Durban into one of South Africa's prime tourist destinations and a street race in the city would probably help that cause and assist in the regeneration of the city.

Trying to get a street event in Durban is not new. In recent years Dave McGregor, the managing director of Pole Position Promotions, has been working on the project. McGregor was one the main forces behind the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami in the early 1990s. His plans in Durban were to have a 1.86-mile track around Suncoast and this was due to host a round of the local Wesbank V8 series last autumn, although it had to be called off at the last minute. Durban has also been included on the provisional calendar for the new A1 Grand Prix series with a street race listed for January 29 2006.

It is also worth noting that at the end of March Rene Arnoux drove a prototype "Grand Prix Masters" cars on a circuit around the Durban Exhibition Centre during the launch of the series.

Could it be that all the different projects are going to come together to create a South African GP in Durban, on a circuit which would be somewhat similar to a Long Beach or Surfers' Paradise class of track?

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