Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix On-track for 04.04.04 race deadline The Bahrain International Circuit at Sakhir, to the south of Bahrain's capital Manama, is beginning to look more and more like a Grand Prix circuit with every day that passes. With...
Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix On-track for 04.04.04 race deadline
The Bahrain International Circuit at Sakhir, to the south of Bahrain's capital Manama, is beginning to look more and more like a Grand Prix circuit with every day that passes. With construction engineers working around the clock to complete the brand new circuit in time for next year's inaugural Grand Prix, there was time for celebration this week as machinery completed the first half of the all important track surface.
As the engineering team begin the 136-day countdown to the Grand Prix all eyes are on the track surface on which drivers such as World Champion Michael Schumacher, Juan Pablo Montoya, Rubens Barrichello, Kimi Raikkonen, David Coulthard, Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber will race for the coveted title of the first driver to win a Grand Prix in the Middle East.
The track laying activities are vitally important not only because the curing process is critical in terms of the final racing surface, but also because it is a milestone on the road to the circuit's completion. 04.04.04 will be a significant date in the Kingdom of Bahrain - traditionally, hosting a Grand Prix demonstrates a country's engineering, business and organisational prowess. Bahrainis are immensely proud of the Grand Prix and see it as the catalyst to promote awareness for Bahrain while endorsing the Kingdom's standing within the Gulf region.
The first layer of asphalt now covers over half of the new circuit and work is on schedule to have the complete circuit covered by early December. The construction team is laying an average of 650 tonnes of asphalt per day. Overall some 12,000 tonnes of stone will be used in the track building exercise - four thousand tonnes of which comes from Wales and the remainder from Malaysia.
The second layer of asphalt will be laid when all the racing kerbs and run-off areas have been completed in the middle of January and the final layer in early February. As the work on laying the all-important racing surface continues apace, the engineering teams are continuing to weave a magical spell on the construction of the buildings and the landscaping of the area that will give the circuit its unique Arabic appeal.
Every day brings new changes to the shape and form of the grandstands, pit complex and race control tower. Rising above them all is the spectacular eight-storey VIP Tower, a tall circular building that will house the Bahrain Motor Federation, the Bahrain International Circuit Management offices, a restaurant, merchandising centre and hospitality suites. The dramatic building dominates the circuit's skyline and will provide Grand Prix VIPs with magnificent views of the entire 5.475km circuit.
Alongside the track laying activities the landscaping of the circuit is also taking shape. The first racetrack to stage a Grand Prix in the desert has numerous differences to its traditional compatriots on the FIA Formula One World Championship calendar - not least the fact that it provides striking visual differences between the desert and the oasis greenery of the pit and paddock complex. Irrigation channels deliver the much-needed water supply to feed the vegetation that provides the manicured "Golf Course" atmosphere. Here the teams and drivers will go about their daily business, while sponsors and their guests will be entertained in an environment difficult to match in the entertainment, business and financially-dominated world of Formula One.
Enthusiasts are already flocking to purchase tickets for the April race. The objective of the Bahrain race promoter has been to enthuse spectators and fans from neighbouring Gulf States with a "Grand Prix Roadshow". The travelling show has added considerable value and awareness to the Gulf Air-sponsored race and to date 28,000 tickets have been sold with the organisers expecting a total of 150,000 to visit the race over the three days.
It's not only the spectators who are looking forward to the race. Already the drivers and teams are expressing considerable interest in the new circuit and are keen to view it first hand. The first to visit the site was BAR Honda driver Jenson Button who took a spin around the circuit, not in his usual form of transport but in a 4x4. His first impressions were full of encouragement and praise for the organising team, saying "From what I have seen this is going to be an excellent circuit with variety of layout."