Singapore to host Formula One races

Singapore is to host a Formula One grand prix for five years from 2008 as part of its efforts to boost its tourism industry and raise its international profile. However, outline proposals from Bernie Ecclestone, the F1 promoter, that it become the first such event to be run at at night under floodlights have already come under fire from teams and drivers concerned about safety.

Mr Ecclestone’s proposals are understood to be based on the race providing an opportunity to maximise the European television audience. However, the scheme would also require the approval of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile and people close to motor sport’s governing body say that is unlikely.

S. Iswaran, junior trade and industry minister, said: “We will proceed with the night race only if the safety and operational requirements ... are fully met.”

Mr Ecclestone drove into another political chicane on Friday after announcing that Valencia would host a European grand prix but only if the region’s Popular party government is re-elected this month.

Spain’s Socialist government accused Mr Ecclestone of making an intolerable intrusion into a country’s political affairs. He could not be reached for comment.

Securing a grand prix represents a coup for Singapore in the face of a lengthening queue of nations anxious to host the world’s most televised sporting event other than the Olympic Games and World Cup football. Abu Dhabi is to join Bahrain on the F1 calendar in 2009 and India and Russia are also candidate countries.

Singapore hopes its event will attract up to 100,000 spectators, with the race to be staged along the streets of the central business district and the adjoining Marina Bay area, the site of a casino resort that will open in 2009.

The government said it would support 60 per cent of the cost of staging the race, which has been estimated at $70m. A tax of up to 30 per cent on hotel rooms will be levied during the race period to help defray costs. The government estimates tourist receipts from will be S$100m ($66m) a year.

“There will be broader economic spin-offs as well,” said Mr Iswaran, adding that the city-state’s growing private banking industry and local and international businesses could use the event to entertain customers.

Singapore’s inclusion in the global race circuit follows a decision by the FIA to allow up to 20 races per season. While Mr Ecclestone remains in management control of the companies that hold the commercial rights to F1, he and his family trust no longer own the business, which was bought by CVC Capital Partners, the private equity group.

The first Singapore race is likely to be held in September or October next year. Malaysia hosts a F1 event race in March on a dedicated track outside Kuala Lumpur.

Additional reporting by John Griffiths in London

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