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SEPTEMBER 29, 2006

A big change at A1 Grand Prix

There were signs a few days ago that all was not well within the management of A1 Grand Prix when a calendar appeared with no mention of a race in Dubai - where the series was dreamed up by Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum Al-Maktoum. The sheikh is currently the chairman of the company that runs the series but it has now emerged that he is planning to sell his controlling interest in the business and is thus unlikely to remain involved.

"I'd like to thank all investors," he continued. "It is clear that A1, in and of itself, can attract and has attracted money, so I think A1 will continue to do so even without the involvement of myself, my family, or Dubai."

This will presume mean that deputy chairman Tony Texeira will step up into the leading role. The organisation will continue under the control of the exceutive committee which includes acting CEO Bruce Holmes, executive director Richard Dorfman and chief operating officer David Clare.

The news will probably result in a change of emphasis for Dubai in its motor racing activities and it is worth noting that in recent days there has been much publicity in China from the Emirates Airlines sponsorship of McLaren. It is also worth noting that Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum has announced a big new deal with HSBC and the Dubai Autodrome to launch a programme to find the next generation of racing drivers in the United Arab Emirates. The new HSBC Academy will provide an advanced motor racing training programme at the Dubai Autodrome and three scholarships for drivers to go to the La Filliere Racing School in France.

"Our aim is two-fold," says Niall Booker, Chief Executive Officer, HSBC Bank Middle East Limited. "We wish to promote the importance of good and safe driving techniques with these young drivers, at the same time help the Autodrome in their goal of one day producing a UAE national driver good enough to compete at Formula 1 level."

At the same time the Automobile and Touring Club for the UAE has announced plans to build an all-new permanent headquarters in Dubai to centralise its control of motor sport in the Emirates. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Prime Minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, is the patron of the ATCUAE, which is headed by Mohammed Ben Sulayem, a wellknown rally driver.

"Sheikh Mohammed wanted us to have a permanent new home to provide a solid base for our efforts to maintain the highest standards in motor sport and host many more international events in the future," said Bin Sulayem.