Atlas F1   What's Needed
to Host a GP

  by Michele Lupini, South Africa

Michele Lupini spent a few days at the Kyalami circuit last week, where BAR and Williams are holding some winter testing. In between the roars of the engines and those of the thunders, he set out to find out just what does it take for a circuit to host a GP

With two South African circuits seeming to want to work together to share a Grand Prix should F1 return to that country, both would have to pass an FIA inspection prior to hosting a race. There will be quite some work to do though, for either to meet F1's demanding standards.

A race-track requires to adhere to stringent measures to even host F1 testing, but it is another story altogether if you want to host a race.

For testing, besides a top class race-track with proper safety, the circuit requires various measures, including adequate run-off areas, barriers built to FIA specification, debris fences - in three tiers in places and two around the entire circuit. Then there is backup and support – a full compliment of marshals and safety crew, a doctor, medical and a helicopter on standby are essential.

Kyalami, situated north of the world's gold mining capital, Johannesburg, currently holds an F1 testing licence, but for hosting an actual race, there are some changes that will be required.

An FIA source pointed out that there are indeed differences between race and test requirements and should Kyalami earn a race, the circuit would require a list of revisions to be carried out. The changes that would be required for Kyalami are not too significant and would revolve mainly around run-off and other smaller changes.

Kyalami has often responded quickly and efficiently to FIA and other requirements in the past and would have no problem in implementing any changes. In fact, the circuit is currently carrying out major modifications, including the removal of a large hospitality suite to accommodate runoff requirements by the World Superbike promoters in anticipation of a WSBK round in April.

Although Kyalami does not currently comply with some ultimate specifications laid out for future GP circuits, the facility would more than adequately meet the FIA's requirements – once the mooted changes would be implemented, according to the source.

The Phakisa Freeway, outside another gold mining town - Welkom in the Free State, would need, on the other hand, to effect some changes in order to host F1 testing and further modifications to host a race.

Interestingly, as Phakisa is a brand new facility, some of its features better suit the ideal F1 blueprint than Kyalami, but the Free State circuit does require work. For a test licence, it will need improved run-off in places as well as work on its armco barriers, which although they meet FIM motorcycle requirements, are not adequate for F1.

For a race, Phakisa needs to erect debris fences in some areas, as well as carry out a list of small changes, but the circuit's high standards are recognised by the FIA.

Both circuits essentially meet all FIA requirements in terms of media, medical, security and other essential facilities, but although the required changes will be expensive, neither Kyalami nor Phakisa would have much of a problem in implementing such.

But before Formula One goes to South Africa, whether to race at Kyalami or Phakisa or indeed both, the country needs to earn a date on the FIA's F1 calendar. There have been expectations about an African race for some time, especially since Bernie Ecclestone's visit to South Africa in 1998, when he met with ex-President Nelson Mandela. Ecclestone then said that a South African Grand Prix was possible on or before 2001.

F1 has visited Kyalami twice since, with BAR and Williams visiting last year and again in the past week, when despite record rainfall, tens of thousands of South Africans converged on the circuit to enjoy the thrill of F1.

In the past weeks, the need for a South African GP has been highlighted by Eddie Jordan, among others, while Tomas Scheckter's signing as a test driver For Jaguar Racing with the possibility of a drive in 2001 has further upped the ante.

And Kyalami's Selwyn Nathan's admission last week that he would consider sharing a GP date every year with the government-owned Phakisa has further increased speculation that a South African Grand Prix is feasible in the near future.

Either way, there are two world class facilities, which will need a little work to be ready to host a race. And judging by the crowd that packed into Kyalami to witness three cars testing last week, South Africa is ready and waiting to welcome F1 back at last.

Michele Lupini© 2000 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.
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