BIC gears up for F1 and other races

Whitaker … exciting times

By alexander m arrackal
The Bahrain International Circuit (BIC), the only Formula One racing track in the Gulf, is looking to add more events to its calendar and is expected to host the opening round of the 2006 European FIA Drag Racing and Bike Racing.

Martin Whitaker, general manager of the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC), said the 2006 season is expected to put the Kingdom high on the list of Drag Racing venues.
He said the European FIA Drag Racing championship is expected to bring in a minimum of 1,000 fans of the sport from Europe. In addition to the fans, there would also be a quantum jump in the number of race drivers. 
The occupancy rates of the hotels in Bahrain, according to him, are expected to improve as a result of this event. The fans, while they are in Bahrain to see their favourite drivers in action, would also be moving around the country, doing their souvenir shopping and eating at the local restaurants. This augurs well for the retail industry and the restaurants in Bahrain, he said.
“In addition, we would also see the arrival of fans from across the region. That gives a jump to the economy of the region,” Whitaker added.
“Every single European visitor and driver, participating at the 2006 Drag Racing event, is an ambassador for the island. These visitors are sure to return not just annually for the event, they could also return as tourists, when Europe gets its winter,” he said.
Bahrain is already on the charts for beginning the 2006 F1 Grand Prix season.  Having proved itself as a friendly country, when the season begins in Bahrain, there are going to be race fans from across the globe.
“We need to have more attractions so those who are here will stay on a while longer and then move to Malaysia (for the second race). BIC is also in negotiations with Bahrain’s Economic Development Board and the Tourism Affairs. They are all very keen to capitalise on these opportunities. The government is seeing this as an important source of revenue, promotion and brand-building,” he said.
Apart from the Drag Race and the F1 Grand Prix, BIC is also looking to host the Australian V8 Superchampionship. “We will also be hosting the FIA GT championship. These are watched in 850 million homes around the globe,” said Whitaker. “In addition, we are looking at four major companies launching their products from here and some other testing their vehicles here. This will sure have a bearing on the circuit and the Kingdom,” he said.
The circuit is first and foremost a motor racing venue but, importantly, it is open every day of the year with a diverse portfolio of racing, commercial, corporate, cultural and social activities. It is also the largest active exhibition centre in the region.
Bahrain tourism is also expected to gain from the round-the-year events BIC conducts for the corporate sector and for foreign companies, looking to use Bahrain as a base to launch their products to this region and to the world. “For example, we had GM launching its Hummer H3 in Bahrain – that was an international launch. Similarly, there are many other international companies that are eyeing Bahrain, because of the world-class facilities it has and the lower costs involved when compared with a site in Europe,” he said.
“In addition, the industrial climate created by the government of Bahrain is sure to attract at least some of the companies involved in the sport. The industrial park we are developing outside of the BIC is a major attraction, and companies are eager to set up manufacturing base here,” he said.