As the final preparations for the first of three A1 grand prix races were under way in South Africa on Tuesday, managers of host city Durban announced they have their sights set on building a reputation as a global motorsport centre.
The A1 grand prix, a growing force on the world racing calendar, takes place on Sunday with 25 countries competing. Organisers of the race, the first of three that will take place in South Africa over the next three years, expect at least three cars per country.
The three-day event is expected to attract an estimated 100 000 local and international spectators and bring about R100-million a year for Durban.
A 3,2km street circuit spanning the warm and humid city’s beachfront with seating for about 22 000 spectators was constructed for the grand prix.
The event is part of a broader strategy to position the city as a motor-sport location, Julie-May Ellingson, the head of Durban’s strategic projects unit, said in a report published by Business Day newspaper on Tuesday.
”We are not looking just at South Africa, but want Durban to become the motor-sport city for the continent,” she was quoted as saying.
When it was announced late last year that the city had been selected to host the grand prix, government officials in KwaZulu-Natal province noted that it is a most appropriate event for the city that sees itself as South Africa’s own Monaco.
They also noted that the city has a deep passion for sport involving cars.
”The market in South Africa for motor racing is huge and our local legal drag races attract crowds of 10 000 to 12 000,” Kas Moodley, the chairperson of KwaZulu-Natal Motor Racing, said in the report by Business Day.
Hotels in the city with a reputation as a year-round holiday destination for locals and international tourists have reported high occupancy rates in the days leading to the race. — Sapa-dpa