20 days until Bahrain

2006 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix Countdown: 20 Days Manama, 20th February 2006; Momentum is gathering as the countdown to the 2006 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix is now just three weeks from completion. The excitement in Bahrain is tangible, with...

2006 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix Countdown: 20 Days

Manama, 20th February 2006; Momentum is gathering as the countdown to the 2006 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix is now just three weeks from completion. The excitement in Bahrain is tangible, with increased ticket sales, business trade and hotel bookings all being recorded as the only Grand Prix in the Middle East grows nearer and more events for the Bahraini community and international visitors take place. There is no doubt that Bahrain is the place to be, and here are a few reasons why:

Yalla Bahrain !
A stunning calendar of events is underway to support the 2006 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix under the title Yalla Bahrain! - a cry of encouragement that rings out whenever the Kingdom of Bahrain takes its place on the world's sporting stage.

Already the stunning Motorsport Art Exhibition has been opened by Honda Racing F1 Team driver Rubens Barrichello in the presence of His Highness the Crown Prince Shaikh Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. The exhibition, at the Bahrain National Museum, will be open to the public until 13th March and features a dazzling array of work from international artists and the Bahraini community. This event was followed by an enormously popular autograph session for Jenson Button in the Seef Mall, where fans turned out in their thousands to welcome the young British driver to Bahrain.

Another young driver to receive the warmth of the Bahraini welcome was Felipe Massa, who generously gave time at the public day of Formula One testing to sign autographs on the Dhow in the Bahrain International Circuit Vending Area. The calendar continues throughout the run-in to the Grand Prix in recognition of the honour of launching the 2006 FIA Formula One World Championship in Bahrain and to illustrate that Bahrain is open for business in the global spotlight of the sport, including:

Yalla Bahrain ! F1 Festival - 24th February
The glamorous Corniche on the King Faisal Highway will be filled with spectacle from 4pm this Friday, as a cavalcade of racing cars including Porsche Michelin Supercup racers, Holden V8s, Caterhams, MINI Coopers and Apache buggies are joined by the BIC's Hummer fleet and a phalanx of Harley Davidson motorcycles. Overhead will be a thrilling display by the Flying Bulls stunt planes and then, later, a pyrotechnic extravaganza. For the crowds there is plenty more to savour close at hand with street performers and barbeques hosted by some of the most famous hotels in Bahrain.

Pit Lane Walkabout - 9th March
All holders of three-day Grand Prix tickets will be able to get up close with the teams and cars and have the chance to see inside the pit garages in this exclusive offer.

Jump Bahrain - 10th -12th March
Sébastien Foucan developed the discipline of Parkour (known as free-running or 'the art of displacement'), with his childhood friend David Belle. Heavily influenced by Asian philosophy, Sébastian decided to become 'Fluid like water' while crossing urban landscapes unaided by technology. Death-defying leaps and cat-like poise are the hallmarks of the team - currently to be seen in Madonna's latest pop video - who will cross Manama on March 10th and then perform at the Bahrain International Circuit on March 11th -12th .

Bahraini Spectacular - 11th March
Central Manama will truly come to life in celebration of the Grand Prix, with a giant carnival themed on both Formula One and the best of Bahrain. Over 500 children, military and Arabic bands, fire dancers and floats will make their way to a 'stadium' beside the Shaikh Salman Bridge where a multimedia extravaganza will be concluded with an epic firework display.

Starting Grid Presentation - 12th March
For the first time in the history of Formula One the pre-race presentation will be screened live as part of the FOM coverage of the race - and for good reason. A spectacular show involving traditional Arabic dance, lively music and the participation of Bahraini children around three exquisite themes from Bahraini life: the pearl, the souk and the dhow will enthral race fans at the circuit and the millions counting down the final moments to the Grand Prix.

F1 Testing February 13-16
Formula One arrived in Bahrain for a four-day test last week, with Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, Honda Racing F1 and Scuderia Toro Rosso all making the most of the opportunity to acclimatise to their new cars and drivers to Bahrain International Circuit in readiness for the coming Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix.

All winter the teams have been testing hard, with Honda having logged almost 22,000km since the end of last season as it prepares to end a 38-year gap since it last constructed both the chassis and engine of a Formula One car. Next come McLaren, Renault and Ferrari who have all covered over 17,000km. The results from testing have seen Williams, Renault and McLaren-Mercedes all topping the timesheets, with Williams and Renault also notching up some impressive lap counts.

It would seem that McLaren remains the bookies pre-season favourite however, with Renault and Ferrari in close attendance -- and a best price of 2500/1 for Super Aguri to take the constructors' title in the team's debut season.

In Bahrain the Ferrari F2004, winner of the inaugural Gulf Air Grand Prix in Michael Schumacher's hands, made headlines as the fastest car on the track despite its restricted engine and hybrid aerodynamics. Of the latest-generation 2.4-litre V8s it was Honda that put in the most convincing performance. The two RA106s logged 850 laps over the four days and ran over 0.6s faster than the new Ferrari 248 F1, which managed only 175 laps over the four days before conducting a private four-day test to try out new developments.

The value of coming to Bahrain was evident to all the teams and their technical partners. For Bridgestone, Technical Manager Hisao Suganuma was adamant: "It is far better to test at the venue of the first race rather than in Europe, particularly as it is so cold and last year's track temperatures were 50 degrees," he said. "Even more importantly the information we are building here means that we can also predict the tyre specifications for the second race in Malaysia and it is vital to have this information as early as possible."

Suganuma's views are backed up by the comments of teams testing in Europe, who have often had to curtail their programmes due to unfavourable weather. The best that Toyota driver Ralf Schumacher could say of his time at Vallelunga was: "Although the low temperature played against us because it has made it difficult to get heat into all the tyres, we still managed some successful running in the rain." Even the impressive form of defending champions Fernando Alonso and Renault has not been able to withstand the worst of the winter weather in Europe. In Barcelona Alonso said: We wanted to continue more running today, but the weather made it impossible -- it was too cold to run safely."

Pro-Celebrity Race
The 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix sees a unique event taking place on the supporting bill: an all-star pro-celebrity race featuring some of the world's top sporting and entertainment personalities and a host of talented professional drivers. Driving identical Holden V8 Supercars, which develop 380bhp and can touch 280km/h, these flame-spitting racers create a sound and spectacle befitting the occasion. Drivers will include former world tennis number one Boris Becker, five-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave, four-time Olympic gold medallist Michael Johnson and Arabic pop sensation Ragheb Alama. The calibre of the professional racers is also first class, including ex- Formula One stars Martin Brundle and Christian Danner. Ends

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jenson Button , Christian Danner , Michael Schumacher , Rubens Barrichello , Fernando Alonso , Martin Brundle , Felipe Massa , David Bell , Michael Johnson
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren , Toro Rosso , Williams , Honda Racing F1 Team