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Formula One boss keen to return to Africa in a big way

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Formula One wants to return to Africa, with Marrakesh and Kyalami keen to host a race.

Formula One wants to return to Africa, with Marrakesh and Kyalami keen to host a race, commercial managing director Sean Bratches said yesterday.

“It’s a marketplace in which we would like to race,” Bratches said at a sport industry breakfast club event, two days after Formula One announced the return of the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort in 2020 after a 35-year absence.

Morocco and South Africa have hosted world championship grands prix in the past, Casablanca in 1958 and South Africa in East London in the 1960s and Kyalami 20 times between 1967 and 1993.

“We race on five continents and the last habitable continent that we don’t race in is Africa,” said Bratches.

“We’ve been having productive conversations in South Africa about bringing a grand prix. ”

Bratches said there was a “high degree of interest” from Morocco in a circuit race in Marrakesh, with the authorities seeing Formula One, owned by US-based Liberty Media, as an economic engine for growth and tourism.

The all-electric Formula E series already has an annual street race there.

“The vast majority of our grands prix are underpinned by government and it’s because it works. We shine a bright light on these cities,” said Bratches.

Yath Gangakumaran, Formula One’s director of strategy and business development, told reporters that Rwanda and Nigeria were also keen to be involved in fan events.

“There’s a lot of interest not just for races but for actuations throughout the continent.”

Next season will see two new grands prix added to the calendar, with Zandvoort and the debut of Vietnam, but Mexico, Spain, Germany and Britain are out of contract at the end of 2019.

“We are optimistic about the prospect of a 21 grand prix schedule next year,” said Bratches. “I don’t think we are going to have more than that.”

The American said “productive conversations” were continuing with the Mexican promoter, whose race was poised to lose essential government funding, and British GP hosts Silverstone, who say they cannot afford the current terms.

A second US race in Miami remains on the cards, despite Formula One and local organisers giving up on plans for a race downtown and focusing now on land next to the Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium.

Reuters