APRIL 3, 2007

Trying the same idea again

Back in the autumn of 2001 a new racing series called Premier 1 Grand Prix was launched, the aim being to combine the thrills of motor racing with the millions of soccer fans around the world. The intention was to have the cars racing in the colours of leading soccer teams with the lure for the clubs being revenues generated from TV and merchandising. The idea was due to start in July 2002 but that was delayed until March 2003 and then disappeared without trace. One of those involved was Robin Webb and he is now the man behind a revival of the idea, backed this time by Spanish sports marketing man Alex Andreu, who spent 12 years with Coca-Cola before joining ISL to establish a Spanish office in preparation for the Olympic Games in 1992. He continued to work with ISL in skiing and soccer until the firm went out of business in 2001.

The revived idea is now called Superleague Formula and there are plans for a six race season starting in 2008. The aim is to have 20 cars taking part. A variety of clubs have been approached about the idea which the organisers say will raise as much as $25m for the soccer teams in five years. Four clubs, including AC Milan, Porto, PSV Eindhoven and Greece's Olympiakos have signed up to for the idea.

The big question from a racing point of view is whether or not there is room for yet another championship. The A1 Grand Prix Series is based on the concept of cars running in national colours. That has failed to live up to expectations but is slowly gaining ground. Grand Prix Masters, a similar series in which old F1 drivers run similar cars, is ticking over but a variety of other one-make series have not been successful unless supported by an industry giant (such as Renault's support of the World Series) or the tacit support of F1 (as GP2 enjoys).