BIC Chiefs Unveil the 2007 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix Programme Looking ahead to a thrilling few months for the whole region, the Bahrain International Circuit today revealed the programme of events that support the 2007 Gulf Air Bahrain...
BIC Chiefs Unveil the 2007 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix Programme
Looking ahead to a thrilling few months for the whole region, the Bahrain International Circuit today revealed the programme of events that support the 2007 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix. This year the first and only Grand Prix in the Middle East will take place on April 13-15 as Round 3 of the 2007 FIA Formula One World Championship.
Expectations are high for the event which, in 2006, was adjudged to have set new standards in the promotion of the sport worldwide. As a result, the 2006 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix has become the model by which Formula One's promoters now measure all existing and prospective Grand Prix host nations - and means that in 2007 the event must reach new heights.
This year's event will mark the fourth time that the world's biggest annual sporting series has come to the Middle East in just three years since the construction of the $150 million BIC facility. Returning to its original position in the Formula One calendar as the third round of the series - having been awarded the honour of opening the 2006 season when the traditional first round hosts in Australia were committed to the Commonwealth Games - means that there will be a two-month build-up to the occasion across the entire Gulf.
Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa, Director of Governmental Affairs at the BIC, said: "This has become a very special time of year for the Kingdom of Bahrain and the Gulf region as a whole. We are preparing for what has become the biggest sporting and social occasion of the year; an event that continues to grow and to win over new fans among the communities of the GCC and across the wider Middle East."
"Right now we are pleased to announce the architecture of our event," Shaikh Salman added. "It is our honour and privilege to have paved the way for Formula One in the Middle East, and still greater honour has been returned to us in the form of the FIA's trophy for the best- organised race in our debut year and now to have Mr. Ecclestone hold up our 2006 event as a guide that other countries can learn from. But I can tell you it has meant working extra hard for 2007."
Under the banner of 'Yalla Bahrain!' (translated as 'Let's go, Bahrain!'), a full schedule of cultural and community events will again precede the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix, supported by many of the biggest stars in the sport. In 2006 the inaugural Yalla Bahrain! calendar brought tens of thousands of Bahrainis and visitors to the Kingdom into close contact with motor sport - and they were met by the likes of British number one Jenson Button, seven-time Grand Prix winner Rubens Barrichello and Ferrari's rising star Felipe Massa in the month-long celebrations. Many of the Yalla Bahrain! events will be focused around the two official Formula One tests on February 22-24 and February 27-March 1.
"Bahrain offers the ideal venue for pre-season testing, and we are looking forward to welcoming the teams, the fans and the attendant media back for some valuable time here on the track and among the community," said Shaikh Salman. "As the teams, the tyre manufacturers and the fuel and lubricants experts discovered, running on our circuit in our climate was the ideal baseline not only for Bahrain but also for Australia and Malaysia. Furthermore the way that everyone contributed their time towards meeting the fans in this new market for the sport was greatly appreciated and left a big impression on both sides."
"Looking ahead to this year's Yalla Bahrain! events we will again see Formula One's star names going out to meet the public in the capital city, Manama, and furthermore we will be bringing the public and personality of the Gulf deeper into the celebrations. One of the most exciting events we are planning is a five-a-side football tournament for the Formula One teams, the national sides of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and the children here in Bahrain."
Each of the Yalla Bahrain! events will build towards a crescendo at the 2007 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix, creating a two-month celebration of the sport across the region. Having brought Formula One to a completely new market just three years ago, Bahrain is recognised not only as the 'Home of Motorsport in the Middle East', but also as the beating heart of a burgeoning motor sport industry.
A flourishing domestic calendar of circuit and drag racing events at the BIC draws the cream of racing talent from across the Arabic world. Meanwhile the BIC has created and promoted the first professional international series in the region - the Lumina CSV Championship Middle East - as a means of promoting racing talent at the biggest motor sport events in Qatar, Dubai and Bahrain.
"Building firm foundations of a Middle East motor sport industry has always been at the heart of the long-term planning behind the Bahrain International Circuit," said Martin Whitaker, General Manager at the BIC. "In Britain, for instance, the business of motor sport is credited with a bigger input to the economy than steel and agriculture combined, and ensuring that there are similar opportunities for businesses to flourish in the Sakhir desert is the driving force of the BIC and the Kingdom as a whole."
"Under Bahrain's patronage the Middle East has not only gained one of the most significant sporting events in the world, the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix, but also developed new opportunities to trade nationally and internationally," Whitaker continued. "The growing number of racing drivers in this region need teams. Teams need supporting industries and suppliers. Sponsors need the right opportunities in order to invest their marketing budget in motor sport. The sport draws fans from across the Middle East and the international community. We have a lasting structure in Bahrain to support the sport and for the sport to deliver significant benefits to the community, an industry in which the young people of the Kingdom can aspire to work in, which is what makes the Grand Prix and the Yalla Bahrain! cultural and community programme all the more important."
Describing the direct impact of the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix on the Kingdom of Bahrain, Martin Whitaker said: "Staging what was, in effect, a month-long event in 2006 brought the businesses in this country $394 million of income. That figure does not include the BIC, but every business from the travel, accommodation and entertainment industry through to the company who built the stage Jenson Button signed autographs on, who printed the event posters, who sold the advertising space used, who supplied the caterers, the restaurants and hotels, who hired cars and drove taxis."
Having increased the direct income from the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix by almost 400% from 2005, Whitaker added that the increase in positive global media coverage for the event, the Kingdom and the Middle East as a whole saw even greater growth. "Bringing in Al Jazeera Sports as host broadcaster for free-to-view Arabic coverage of the Formula One World Championship opened up a potential audience of hundreds of millions across the Middle East and North Africa," he said. "The Formula One testing and Yalla Bahrain! events brought with them still more major media networks, such as the BBC's worldwide TV and radio, while the favourable time difference to Bahrain saw key European markets reporting a three-fold increase in viewers for the first race of the season compared with recent years.
"Additionally the print media coverage by over 1000% for the month before the race and the month of the race itself," Whitaker added. "The most significant increases came from within the Middle East, which saw the value of coverage rise from BD1.2 million in 2005 to BD9.75 million in 2006. This is significant because no matter whether it is the first or the third race of the Formula One season, Bahrain is the only Grand Prix in this region, which means that the media as a whole is taking more notice. This is in line with the increase in coverage across all the BIC's activities - for example our first event for the Australian V8 Supercars generated more coverage than the inaugural Grand Prix!"
Bahrain now prepares to host its fourth Formula One Grand Prix with an event to match the status that has been built up internationally around the successes that preceded it, and with attention turned towards increasing the tangible benefits to the Kingdom and neighbouring countries in future. In just three years the standards set by the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix have raised expectations around the world to an all-time high, but the Kingdom is ready to deliver.
"Investment in the kind of terms demanded by motor sport is a serious business, which was recognised by the Kingdom from the outset," concluded Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa. "Nonetheless the return on that investment, the value of which is increased ten-fold by the commitment of the entire country, has been enormous. It is through events such as the entire 2007 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix that we will continue to grow those returns in future."