Record turnout at Bahrain F1
Manama, April 5, 2008
Bahrain's best F1 ever attracted a record crowd of 24,000 when it opened on Friday.
The crowd at the action-packed Formula One was 2,000 up on last year's opening day of the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix.
'Everything is very good. I think this year is the best for the F1 in Bahrain,' Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa said as he toured the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC).
The three-day event at the BIC is expected to draw more than 100,000 spectators by the time it concludes tomorrow, say officials.
The seating capacity at the BIC is more than 36,000 plus the corporate lounge, Paddock Club lounge, Sakhir Tower and other lounges.
'The victory stand sold out completely and more than 90 per cent of the main grandstand,' BIC marketing and public relations manager Samer Al Shaikh told the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication, on Friday.
'For a Friday this is the best ticket sale we have had so far in the past five years.'
The fifth Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix opened with practice sessions yesterday.
They will continue from 6.45am today, followed at 2pm by pre-qualifying laps for pole position.
Ferrari dominated the day's practice sessions, re-establishing itself as the team to beat following a disappointing start to the season.
McLaren, meanwhile, took a big hit when Lewis Hamilton crashed out in the afternoon session.
Tomorrow, the Pit Lane Walk begins at 8am and F1 race begins at 2.30pm.
At 2pm, a plane will fly low over the BIC's track, vending area, tower and corporate lounges of the Paddock in celebration of the race.
'I think the event to date has been a huge success and I'm glad the weather was not as windy as yesterday,' BIC chief executive officer Martin Whitaker told the GDN.
'It's great to see people enjoying themselves. I've heard nothing but praise from people and they say it's even better than last year.'
Whitaker said he was extremely pleased with the ticket sales and attributed some of the increased interest to better awareness about motorsports in general.
'I think it's an education process, this is the fifth race and I think people understand more about F1 and motorsport in general,' he said.
'They know they will have a good weekend here and they will get good entertainment against a backdrop of the best motorsport event in the world.'
Whitaker said at this stage it was difficult to judge how many spectators had come from abroad because people buying tickets in Bahrain might be getting them for business colleagues flying in.
But based on last year's figures more than 30 per cent of spectators tend to be non-Bahrainis, he said.
Spectators coming to watch the race are also enjoying a host of activities taking place at the F1 Village.
Activities for children include face painting, strolling jugglers, stilt walkers and mime artistes.
There are race simulators and high-thrill rides such as a reverse bungee that fires victims upwards.
The main stage features a purpose-built diving pool for Oliver's Water Show - High Dive Display, featuring four world class Olympic swimmers and gymnasts.
Also on stage at various times are musical acts including DJ Hoolio and MC Ad-Apt and the band Soul-Glo, which recently appeared alongside Take That.
Other entertainment includes improvisational painting performances from Dan Dunn's Paintjam, who will create 30 paintings of iconic figures such as Tiger Woods, Louis Armstrong and Marilyn Monroe.
Feeding the Fish is also presenting a breathtaking spectacle of choreographed colour where high-tech juggling is mixed with dance and cutting edge technology, while former Wimbledon Football Club player Dan Magness is showcasing his soccer tricks.
Airbrush artist The Urbanist is bringing street style to life in dazzling colour and 3D<