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Volume 7 No. 149
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F1’s Potential Return To South Africa At Least Five Years Away, Racetrack Official Says

Formula 1 will not be racing on the African continent before the end of the decade, according to a racetrack official. Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit developer Andrew Baldwin told SBD Global that F1’s return to the South African racetrack is a “long shot at the moment,” with money being the biggest obstacle. “I can’t see it in the next five years, but maybe in a timeframe of five to 10 years you could potentially see developments,” he said. “It’s about the money.” Baldwin pointed to F1’s hosting fees that have led financial difficulties at a number of circuits around the world. The latest venue threatened to fall victim to the series’ high cost is Monza, home of the Italian Grand Prix. “We made a conscious decision to not be a promoter to international motorsport,” Baldwin said. “We can’t afford to do that. We can’t afford to take that risk. We are not going to put our own money up to make that happen ... The modern grand prix, they need government support to make them happen.” Kyalami, which is located between Johannesburg and Pretoria in the country’s northeast, hosted 21 F1 races from ‘67-93. Frenchman and four-time world champion Alain Prost was the last winner of the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami. The track is currently undergoing a complete overhaul after Porsche SA purchased the venue for 250M rand at auction in ’14. The remodeling is in its final stages, with the racetrack and handling circuit already completed. Work on the pit building and other open exhibition spaces are scheduled to be finished by the end of the month. The initial renovation budget of 100M rand is now heading toward 300M rand ($19.2M), Baldwin said. Track owners hope to recoup their investment in eight to 10 years, he added. Kyalami has applied for an FIA grade 2 license, which would allow the track to host any FIA-sanctioned series except F1. The venue is currently the only one in Africa that could potentially host an F1 grand prix, though it would require further investments, Baldwin said. Kyalami was put in the spotlight after F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone and defending world champion Lewis Hamilton both called for the series' return to Africa.

Andrew Baldwin
MULTIFACETED VENUE: Despite its rich history, motor racing will only play a small role in Kyalami’s future business plan. Baldwin said racing will contribute only 5-10% to the track’s total revenue. “The ideal number of race meetings is about 10 over the course of the year,” he said. “We try to get revenue streams coming in on a regular basis. We need income every day because we know that racing circuits all over struggle financially.” Track owners will put a focus on corporate and public events to make the place a “vibrant” year-round venue, Baldwin added. Kyalami has already hosted car launches, driver training courses and conferences. The South Africa Bike Festival will be the first public event at the remodeled venue from May 27-29. Cycling events as well as a food and music festival will also be staged on the grounds later this year. Track officials look at every income opportunity and are “learning as we go,” Baldwin said. He added that Kyalami could play host to int’l racing series such as the World Endurance Championship, but nothing is imminent. “Are we close to anything? No, but it’s not really our focus,” he said. “Our focus is to get the venue finished.”