Formula One Fever is running rampant as Bahrain revs up for the glitz, glamour and speed of the Middle East's first-ever Grand Prix race on April 4th, 2004.
I, for one, am happy to admit that I'm caught up in the excitement and can't wait for the big weekend to arrive. Having experienced the high-octane thrills of Formula One racing in both Monaco and Britain, I know that race-goers in Bahrain are in for a feast of speed, colour, excitement and entertainment. Meanwhile, the eyes of the world will be focused on the state-of-the-art Bahrain International Circuit and on the myriad of culture and colour that makes Bahrain unique.
Between now and race day, a cast of thousands is preparing Bahrain for its big debut on the world stage of Grand Prix racing. The specially-designed track - tipped to be the most advanced F1 track in the world, high-tech facilities, stunning grandstands and VIP viewing towers are all well ahead of schedule and, when finished, will make Bahrain a jewel in the Grand Prix calendar.
The Bahrain International Circuit will feature six motor sport facilities comprising the Formula One Grand Prix Track, an Inner Track for testing, club events, a racing school and driver training activities, an Outer track for all classes of racing, incentive events, and manufacturer engine, tyre and component testing.
In addition to the conventional tracks, there will be a Test Oval for hot weather vehicle and component endurance testing, a Drag Strip for every class of dragster and an international standard Karting Track.
This, together with the landmark VIP viewing tower, first-class hospitality suites, grandstands and spectator areas for 70,000 people, a state-of-the-art medical centre, an international broadcast centre, a media centre for 500 journalists, team buildings, merchandising areas, helicopter and light aircraft landing facilities, excellent road access and parking all add up to a truly amazing and unique purpose-built complex.
All over Bahrain, businesses and services seem to be joining BIC in gearing up for April's Grand Prix weekend. Hotels and apartment blocks are reserving rooms for interested parties with the F1 teams and their entourages already booked in. Roads and traffic systems are being improved in a massive infrastructure investment programme that will provide year-around benefits for residents and visitors alike. Members of the media are preparing themselves to provide both local and international coverage for one of the world's biggest sporting spectacles - together with covering the varied and fascinating culture of Bahrain. And, throughout the country, banks, shops, malls, restaurants and bars are making plans to play host to tens of thousands of race fans, drivers, mechanics, marshals, media and corporate guests who will be eager to enjoy all that this country has to offer.
Bahrain has been fortunate to have one of Formula One's biggest fans in HH the Crown Prince Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa. His backing proved instrumental in the country being awarded the prestigious event and his unwavering support for the project has helped to pull different organisations together to work towards a common goal.
During the three-day weekend, BIC estimates that there will be more than 100,000 visitors at the Circuit. In addition, there will be hundreds of millions of television viewers worldwide. The eyes of the world will be well and truly on Bahrain.
In terms of Formula One, the Grand Prix weekend comprises team practice on Friday, qualifying on Saturday and racing on Sunday. However, that's not all; each of the three days packed full of motoring action with Formula 3 and manufacturer practice and racing (see inset for details). The BIC team is also planning a raft of activities - including open-air concerts featuring big-name artists and cultural events that will help showcase the country - to add to the on-track excitement.
BIC planning may be starting with the Grand Prix, but it's certainly not stopping there. Thanks to the extensive high-tech facilities being built - and Bahrain's cooperative climate - the Circuit will be sought after year-around for hot weather car and tyre testing. In addition, the Bahrain International Circuit is already putting together a yearlong calendar of racing events and activities to ensure that the track brings both business and kudos to Bahrain.
Bahrain's Formula One event is expected to cost the country BD56.2 million ((US$148.6 million), but it will bring massive economic benefits in terms of tourism and business. And, it puts Bahrain on the map in one of the world's most exciting and prestigious sporting events.
Aside from the economics, Bahrain is ideally placed to host Formula One racing. The country has always had a committed and enthusiastic motor racing community. Car rallies have been held in Bahrain for more than 50 years, and interest in motor racing is only going to increase with the addition of the Grand Prix to the country's sporting calendar.
Come to Bahrain and watch the race!
Bahrain has made it easy for Formula 1 fans to come and watch the first ever Grand Prix in the Middle East. You can apply for a visa online, or the conventional way by mail or in person at a visa office overseas.
To apply online, click here and fill out the application form.
Formula-1 tickets are now on sale with one or three-day passes available. Prices range from BD38-BD170 (US$100-US$450) for a three-day pass with one-day tickets from BD15 (US$45). Children up to 15 years old will be entitled to a 50% discount. There is also a range of hospitality packages available to suit a variety of requirements. For more information, clickhere.