Richards: Middle East Pivotal to Motor Sport's Future
The Middle East region will play a pivotal role in the future of the motor sport industry, said David Richards during his keynote address on the first day of the Motor Sport Business Forum Middle East.
Richards, Chairman of Prodrive and Aston Martin, and a former team principal of the BAR and
Benetton Formula One teams, talked about the history of motor sport in the Middle East and
what the future holds for the region.
Speaking to a packed auditorium, gathered in the high-tech Ruf factory at the Bahrain
International Circuit, he said: "From next year, this region will have six world class race
circuits. It shows that the Gulf has become a significant focal point for the motor sport
He added that these circuits have developed a new business model for racing facilities around
the world, with the addition of subsidiary businesses to complement the main events on the
track. This is evident in Bahrain with the planned creation of a multi-billlion dollar Technology
Centre and in Abu Dhabi with the development of the Ferrari World amusement park.
Richards said: "The business model of a stand-alone race circuit is gone forever. This area of
the world is looking at motor sport as a proper sustainable business plan and we should all
The keynote address was followed by a lively and informative opening session involving three
major players in the industry.
His Excellency Shaikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa, chief executive of the Bahrain Economic
Development board, talked about the huge impact the introduction of a Formula One Grand
Prix has had on the region and on Bahrain in particular. A recent article in the Financial Times
revealed that $11.3 billion has been spent on motor sport investment in the Middle East over
the last five years.
Sh. Mohammed said that the Grand Prix has become a focal point not just for race fans but
for businesses in the region. As he put it: "F1 will be the biggest sporting and social
networking event in the Middle East this year."
This point was expanded upon by David Glass of leading advertising agency M+C Saatchi,
which is rolling out a $12 million advertising campaign to promote business in the area.
Entitled 'Business Friendly Bahrain', the campaign aims to utilise the Grand Prix to leverage
further business opportunities in the country.
Tony Cochrane, Chairman of V8 Supercars Australia, talked about the growing success of the
series and the reason he brought a round to the Bahrain circuit. He said that last year's event
made an impact of $100 million for the local community.
Despite its success, Cochrane was still in awe of the power of Formula One. He said: "I think
Bernie Ecclestone is the greatest marketer of sport in the world. He makes the IOC look like a
bunch of boy scouts in short pants. The branding in Formula One is extraordinary."
The two-day Forum is being held at the Bahrain International Circuit, the Home of Motor
Sport in the Middle East, in the run-up to this year's Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix. The event
has raised enormous interest throughout the region and represents the first time it has taken
place outside its traditional home in Monaco.
© 2000 - 2022 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)