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FEBRUARY 13, 2008

A British Grand Prix in Gibraltar?

Look forward to a British Grand Prix in Gibraltar. It seems that anything is now possible following the confirmation that the Amaury Sport Organisation has agreed a deal to run the 2009 Dakar Rally in Argentina and Chile. The radical move comes following the cancellation of the traditional event this year in Africa because of terrorist threats in Africa. The announcement is also part of what looks like being an expansion of Dakar activity with plans for a series of Dakar-branded events, which will start with the Central European Rally which will take place in Hungary and Romania in April as a pre-cursor to a full championship in 2009.

The event dates back to 1976 when Thierry Sabine created an event that he hoped would be the ultimate test of endurance. Sabine died in a helicopter crash in the desert in 1986 but his father Gilbert took over the Thierry Sabine Organisation for many years before finally handing the event over to the ASO, which also organises events such as the Tour de France, the Paris Marathon and the French Open golf competition. The rally went from Paris to Dakar until 1992 when it was decided to try a different format and the route went from Paris to Cape Town. In 1995 Paris was dropped and the event started in Granada, Spain. In 2000 the route ran from Dakar to Cairo although this had to be abandoned in Niger because of the threat of terrorist attacks. In 2003 the event visited neither Paris nor Dakar for the first time, running from Marseilles-to Sharm al Sheikh in Egypt. The one common point however was that the rally featured stages in Africa, although there has been no stage on French soil since 2004.

The concept of Grands Prix leaving their native countries may seem unlikely but there are precedents, notably the Luxembourg Grand Prix at the Nurburgring in Germany and the San Marino GP that never took place in San Marino. If the money is right, it is possible that such deals could occur in the future.

It should not be forgotten that legally-speaking the British GP could take place in such venues as Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Caymans, Falklands, St Helena or Gibraltar, while France has a number of what are known as DOM-TOM regions (Departement d'Outre-Mer-Territoire d'Outre-Mer) which include New Caledonia, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Guyana and Reunion.