BIC continues to thrill local and international race fans

STANDING tall in the middle of the Sakhir desert is the eight-storey VIP tower at Bahrain International Circuit (BIC), also known as ‘The Home of Motorsport in the Middle East’.

Being the only desert track in the Formula One World Championship, BIC is unique both in its stature and significance.  It is one of the most modern, visitor-friendly and exciting venues in the high-speed, high-tech and high-adrenaline industry of motor racing, and it has sparked a flame in the hearts of motorsport lovers from all over Arabia.

Initiated by HRH, Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Honorary President of the Bahrain Motor Federation, the Kingdom of Bahrain and BIC emerged as the first-ever Arab hosts of Formula One in 2004. The BIC led Bahrain a prominent place on the world map while motor racing circuits across the region began springing up, all inspired by BIC’s image and class.

When the government of the Kingdom of Bahrain underwrote the development of BIC, it foresaw the facility as a catalyst for the future growth of the economy and the foundation for a string of innovative investments. Eight years on, it is clear that BIC has delivered.

The cost of building the facility that has set new standards in global motorsport amounted to approximately BD56.2million ($150 million), but the return on that investment has been many-fold, and not only has the Kingdom of Bahrain benefited, but also the wider Middle East by creating new partners in trade, boosting tourism and attracting investment, and creating jobs for the local community.

By linking with such a powerful and sought-after brand in the form of Formula One, Bahrain has also reaped the benefits being at the forefront of an elite club of nations that host the world’s premier motor racing championship. In 2005, for example, the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix generated print media coverage to the value of $43million, of which $12.4million was within Bahrain itself. That was in the event’s second year alone.

In 2006, coverage across the Middle East and North Africa leapt by a massive 780 per cent, with a total media value and global airtime exceeding that of the entire Winter Olympics held in Torino, Italy.

In 2007, the total economic impact on the Kingdom of Bahrain was a staggering $580 million, and the trend would keep up in 2010, even after all the negative effects of the global financial downturn. That year, the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix and BIC held on strong, illustrating its worth by generating a gross direct impact of $295million.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), travel and tourism generates an economic impact for Bahrain of $2billion – equivalent to 20.4 per cent of GDP. In 2015, it was predicted to be $3.8billion – equivalent to 21.4 per cent of GDP, with a growth of 5.2 per cent.

Off the tarmac, the circuit provides its corporate clients a unique setting in which they can do business. Whether it’s hiring the track or vending area or hosting major conferences, product launches or exhibitions across its luxurious facilities, the five-star catering and premium quality environment at BIC has made it one of the most popular venues for such functions.

On the track, BIC offers a series of thrills like nowhere else in the world. Drag racing, the ‘traditional’ motorsport activity in the region, has seen new levels of professionalism and public popularity ever since BIC upgraded to a strip that is now part of the Worldwide Network of the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) of the United States. This is a programme that allows BIC to conduct events under the brand of the prestigious NHRA banner. At BIC, on-the-track action is non-stop, and off-the-track entertainment is year-round. It is where ‘The Heart of the Gulf is Racing’, and it is without a doubt one of the premier ‘must see’ venues in the region.