Bahrain has extended its contract to host the FIA Formula One World Championship and stage the Bahrain Grand Prix until 2016 following the renewal of its contract with the sport’s promoter.
The new agreement underlines Formula One’s commitment to the Kingdom. Martin Whitaker, Bahrain International Circuit, chief executive said, “2009 will be our sixth race and it seems just extraordinary. We are the biggest social event in the Middle East and we have built on the reputation that the racing is great, the spectacle is fantastic, but the entertainment is even better.”
The event has attracted sport professionals, corporates as well as families. “The Bahrain F1 championship is now a major family attraction. Even schools in Bahrain are cooperating to ensure that children are not in schools that day,” said Whitaker.
“The BIC currently has 34,000 covered grand stand seats, last year we had an extra grand stand with 1,600 seats. The rest of the numbers come through corporate, business entertainment, we saw something in the region of 7,500 corporate guests.”
Next year the race is schedule to take place on April 19, 2009. It is third on the calendar and is expected to attract about 100,000 spectators from this region. Whitaker added, “We are holding talks about increasing the capacity of BIC, if needs be to accommodate more spectators, maybe not for next year, but certainly for the future. We have the experience and the know-how and our biggest problem is building more grandstands, which is a nice problem.”
BIC is also working with travel agents and hotels to develop packages for the Formula One period. “Lack of high calibre rooms is a problem not just for us, but for the kingdom itself. There are so many hotels under construction currently. The hoteliers can see the increase in the number of guests coming into the country, whether it is for the Grand Prix or throughout the rest of the year and clearly we will benefit from it too.”
With Abu Dhabi unveiling its plans for its debut race in November 2009, Whitaker is confident that they can support each other. “Bernie Ecclestone had said primary considerations when allowing two races in the Middle East was to make sure that they work together for the benefit for each other. And there is no doubt that the race in Abu Dhabi will increase the fan base in the region. And when that happens, that’s good news for us. Together, we can increase the profile of regional motorsport, ” said Whitaker.
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