Gulf 'leads motorsport revolution'
Manama, April 2, 2008
The Gulf is leading a revolution in the motorsport industry which will see high-profile new race circuits go hand in hand with hi-tech initiatives in areas such as energy conservation, the chairman of top luxury car brand Aston Martin said.
In a keynote address on the first day of the Motor Sport Business Forum Middle East in Bahrain, David Richards praised the countries of the region for the billions of dollars they have spent on infrastructure in recent years and hailed countries like Bahrain for realising the challenge was to build sustainable automotive industry to accompany their new circuits.
"The business model of a race circuit that could stand on its own and just be isolated and run a motor race without anything else around it is gone forever," he said.
"The idea of a track like Brands Hatch in England running races on Saturday and Sunday and then being closed the rest of the week is not going to sustain itself. When you look now you see that each individual country is looking at motorsport in a cohesive way and looking at it in a sustainable way. As we look towards the future and the relevance of motorsport I am quite convinced this is going to be a critical factor," he added.
Bahrain is taking the lead in attempting to use its circuit to attract investment in fields such as research and development and car manufacturing by building a business technology park near the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakir.
Richards, who has been involved in motorsport in the Middle East for over 30 years and last year led a consortium in the purchase of Aston Martin which included Kuwaiti investors Investment Dar and Adeem Investment, said such ventures could give the sport some much needed good press.
"A lot of people looking at motorsport from the outside see it as people driving round and round in circles, burning fuel and wasting money. But we could communicate more effectively the technology that can be developed because performance doesn't just mean speed it means efficiency," he said.
Future ventures should include research arms with the aim of developing cleaner fuels or more efficient engines in order to combat the idea that F1 is a "frivolous" industry, he added.
"We will not continue to get the inward investment of car companies, or commercial sponsors unless we are relevant to their consumers and we must maintain that. I think we have been poor at communicating that of late.
"If you turn the clock back to the beginning of the last century clearly developments on the race track were moving to motor cars day by day and people could see that - today that happens less, but in a changing world where it is becoming such a significant issue motorsport has a major role to play in accelerating this technology," he said.
With the region soon to boast six "world-class" circuits, Richards believes it will be the heart of many new innovations in global motorsport.
"The Middle East, and more particularly the Gulf, has become a very specific purple patch in the economics of motorsport worldwide. It's a reason why I don't think anyone who is actively involved in motorsport professionally ought to ignore it," he said. - TradeArabia News Service