A1 Grand Prix beefs itself up for 2006-2007

The A1 Grand Prix series is due to kick off this year in October at Zandvoort but already there are signs that the series will be stronger next year than it has been this year. The series has been doing some navel-gazing in recent weeks and there are discussions about the number of teams one organisation should be allowed to run as the more cars one has, the most development time is available. Although the French team dominated the series in 2005-2006 it was helped by the fact that DAMS was also running the Swiss, Russian and Mexican operations. Carlin Motorsport and Super Nova Racing are thought to be planning to expand their teams unless A1 decides to limit the number of cars one organisation can operate. However, there are reportedly seven or eight new countries which are bidding to take part in the series. What is not clear is whether the series is going to lose some of the original field.

The series's chief operating officer David Calre, a former Formula One Management official, says that the series is talking to 17 or 18 potential venues and reckons that there will be at least two or three new races.

The word is that the series has now found the funding for the next couple of years with bank loans secured on the future revenues of the sport, effectively buying the series time to get big sponsors and more TV coverage.

The series recently announced its prize money for the year with the revelation that the dominant French team won $1.9m, which was nearly double the money of the second-placed Swiss team. Britain underperformed all year but still managed to win $820,000 ahead of Holland ($770,000) and Canada ($660,000). The total prize fund was $11m, which sounds impressive but is less than a number of F1 teams each get each year from the Formula One group. Having said that A1 Grand Prix budgets are much smaller than the equivalent in F1 and so the prize money covers a large percentage of the costs.

Interestingly, the driver who won the most money was Neel Jani of Switzerland who ran all but the final couple of races and thus won all of Switzerland's prize money for the team. Nicolas Lapierre and Alexandre Lapierre shared the work for France and so won $990,000 and $930,000 respectively.

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