F1 in Cape Town?

The idea of a street race in Cape Town, South Africa, has been kicking around for a number of years but the authorities in South Africa have not really embraced the idea. There is no question that F1 would like to be in Africa, and Cape Town is the best available option and Cape Town Grand Prix SA is continuing to try to make that happen. The plan is to have a race by September 2014. The circuit being planned would run through the Green Point district around the imposing Cape Town Stadium, including a section inside the facility. The problem is that at least $100 million is needed. In an effort to get things moving the organisers have done a deal with Dave McGregor, the man who promoted last two South African GPs back in the 1990s. They were held at Kyalami, near Johannesburg.

The track being planned would be around 3.5 miles in length and would include sections around Table Bay Harbour and alongside the ocean, all in the shadow of Table Mountain.

The City of Cape Town would obviously be asked to help and there is now a new mayor in Patricia de Lille, who took over from Dan Plato in May, although both are from the same Democratic Alliance party. De Lille says that her administration aims to address poverty through economic growth and by creating jobs. The Democratic Alliance has an outright majority on the council with 135 of the 221 seats. The African National Congress, the national ruling party, has only 73 seats.

Cape Town is the most popular international tourist destination in South Africa, which makes it the also the most popular tourist destination in Africa, thanks to its mild climate, developed infrastructure and spectacular setting. The city boasts 60,000 hotel beds and has hosted a series of international sporting events including the 1995 Rugby WOlrd Cup, the 2003 Cricket World Cup and hosted a number of games for the Soccer World Cup last year. The city has a population of around 3.5 million, which means it is roughly the same size as Melbourne.

49 thoughts on “F1 in Cape Town?

  1. “Cape Town is the most popular international tourist destination in South Africa, which makes it the also the most popular tourist destination in Africa, thanks to its mild climate, developed infrastructure and spectacular setting.”

    Not to mention the fact that it’s easily South Africa’s safest city.

  2. I’ve posted comments about this subject on your previous columns,and I have to say nothings changed since then.

    South Africa CANNOT afford this.After a massive waste of resources on the World Cup(And believe me,despite the success of the tournament,it resulted in a loss of billions of rands for SA), another huge expenditure of public funds would be absolutely unforgivable. We are not an oil-rich monarchy with more money than we know what to do with,we are a country run by greedy fools who lack foresight and the ability to differentiate between genuine economic empowerment and glorified vanity projects

    .As an F1 fanatic,I would love to see it return to our shores,but not now,and definitely not on a street circuit.I think it may have been in one of your columns(although I stand to be corrected) that it was said that a street circuit costs as much over a 5year period,as it would to build a permanent facility.This again serves to illustrate the lack of foresight with regards to our powers and promoters The A1 GP series that was run in Durban incurred a loss of hundreds of millions of rand for the city,and had no tangible benefits.Add to this the likelihood of ticket prices being insanely expensive,and you have a recipe for empty grandstands,and another day when B.E comes away with full pockets to the detriment of everyone else involved.

    Hopefully somebody will see the light and not allow this to happen until it becomes a genuine opportunity to become a beneficial event for our country,although I fear that won’t be the case.

    1. Racefan26,

      Whether South Africa can afford it or not, is not the issue here. The politicians, who in theory represent the best interests of the people, will make those decisions. If they decide to do it, they will decide to do it. Ticket pricing is not set by Bernie. The locals do that to recoup what they have to pay. Cape Town is a major tourist destination (in African terms) because it has invested in sporting events. In any case, you cannot judge races on tangible benefits. I have never been to Durban but after seeing the A1 racing there (on TV) I have filed away the thought in my head that Durban looks like a nice place to visit and maybe one day I will visit because of that. I will spend money there and that will benefit the local economy. Similarly, a few years back I went back to Adelaide because of my memories of the place and left a pile more money in the town. These are revenues that no accountant can write into a plus or minus column but they result because of motor racing.

  3. This is the news I’ve been waiting to hear. Cape Town with the backdrop of Table Mountain is the perfect setting for an F1 street race. It has the appeal of an international city at the tip of Africa. As a South African I’m all for it.

  4. Cape Town being largely a tourist economy would benefit in a similar way to KL, which makes about US$144 million in foreign exchange alone from the F1 GP visitors.

    Also for venues like Cape Town, they only need 0.2% of F1 viewers to visit over a 10 year period to more than double the return on investment, which is why races are increasingly being staged in such places.

  5. Who knows – maybe Superleague Formula could use it now that they seem to be cancelling every round..?
    That is, of course, if it still exists this time next year…

  6. So which GP are they expecting to replace? Do all these new track ventures genuinely believe they can be slotted in? Or is it just regional posturing in many cases? I’ve no idea personally. I can only assume most realise it’s pie-in-the-sky or it’s being used to threaten other established circuits into paying more.

  7. I think it would be really nice to have a race in South Africa again. The question remains if someone will be willing to invest in it.

    It does really show how the calendar needs a solid rethinking with a more global view to make it fit nicely. My feeling is, that pre-season testing should be dropped more and more (to go with rule stability, making it easier to build on last years cars). Maybe with a few 3 day tests spread during the year if deemed neccissary.
    Then the season can be put into nice batches of intense action with a few weeks of rest in between so everyone can keep up with it.

  8. F1 in South Africa? Good news, indeed. But another F1-Tilke circuit in the middle of Capetown? What about the redefined Killarney Circuit? Probably it would cost les than the 100 million $ that might cost another circuit in the center of the town…

  9. Good idea for a race. I’m a bit worried about the corruption index.

    But bring it on. How do we use all these possible tracks without opening up F1? Why can we not let aspiring teams get stuck in to a non – championship race or two? At a very rough guess, if the established teams forgo participating (and so gaining test mileage) that’d be their decision.

    We’re at 20, IIRC, for next season. Why not go 16 + 6, narrow the main game to the (more) classical tracks, but get two more in. With the longevity of engines aimed at 20, you’d have an interesting balance between sparing the engines, and getting sponsor exposure / testing / driver development. Might even balance the back of the grid, who desperately need tests versus available race day revs / mix / straight speed. This could break up the back to back problem as well, because the opt out could either save a team money, or give time to roll out developments / repairs / reduce parts manufacture.

  10. Joe, have another chardonnay…….I have the inside line. The DA had a fit with Gauteng province spending money. Helen Zille is head of DA in cape town and they were vociferous about state funds being used to fund A1GP and wsbk etc. Go figure

  11. We don’t need another dull street race. The prospect of what Herman Tilke could put in a football stadium terrifies me. No doubt he can fit 6 or 8 corners in there to ensure maximum ‘entertainment’ for the fans. If we are to have a track through a football stadium why not have a section through a big top and turn it into a proper circus.

    The one good thing is the the 3.5 mile length. That at least is heading in the right direction.

  12. So this would be, what, a 38 race calendar? Starting on New Year’s Eve and ending on Boxing Day. Just add Russia, a second race in the US, the Cape, Mexico City etc.

    There can be too much of a good thing.

  13. Steven, the reason why circuits are planned to go through stadiums is because it cuts down on costs – the grandstands are already in position. The Mexicans did it at Hermanos Rodriguez; there’s a baseball stadium inside the Peraltada, and the old Champ Cars used to run through it. Of course, that created two awkward ninety-degree bends in and out, but the beauty of a circuit around Green Point is that there is a) no existing circuit, and b) plenty of open space around it – sixty hectares – so whoever designs the circuit will have a pretty big canvas to work with. A quick check on Wikipedia shows that the field is 290 x 265 x 48 metres, which could theoretically be big enough to house pit lane and a temporary pit structure.

    Of course, the callenge would be in filling the stadium. It can hold over 64,000 people, which is more than the entire Yas Marina circuit can accomodate. If they built a pit structure in the middle of the stadium, that would block the view of half the fans, so it’s down to 32,000. Still, that’s a lot of people.

    1. Prisoner,

      I don’t see pits being inside the stadium. Makes no sense. A decent stadium “section” needs to be quite large in racing, a la Hockenheim

  14. I would enjoy very much going to watch a F1 race in Africa, be it in Cape Town or Luanda.
    But I wonder if the amounts frequently announced as necessary for such inaugural events also includes the “fees” demanded just for the right of staging a round of the World Championship.

    From what I read on the news and here, about the countries that already stages F1 rounds, even Arabic Peninsula countries and China are concerned regarding their nations financial health and economic safety.
    Then how come Formula One Management still elaborate their “budgets” – if can be called that – based on a marvellous growing and gold-glowing context of a decade or so ago, a context now clearly gone? Cant they see the figures are overgrown, or whatever the word that describes those miscalculations?

  15. F1 in Cape Town would be fantastic, BUT, not in the Cape winter as the storm risk is just to high. Trying to imagine the proposed route is difficult but not impossible. As for alternatives Kyalami would need $100m as would Killarney – great circuits but not up to F1 standard by a long way.

  16. Joe, here’s a picture of the stadium at Green Point:

    Spectators enter at the gates in the lower-right corner. They then go up all the steps to physically enter the stadium. The entrances themselves are above the above the actual pitch. If a circuit were to be constructed through the stadium itself, then this is a problem that would need to be addressed. As for the pit lane being in the stadium, that was just an idea to highlight how it could be used. I’ve found a picture of a proposed circuit from a while ago, but be warned … it’s not pretty:

    That said, I don’t think this will go ahead at all. Looking at the roads around Green Point, I think there’s actually the potential for a near-perfect circuit (even if I do say so myself):


    Unfortunately, it’s nearly 10km long.

  17. For your interest there are no less than four consortiums bidding for a race. Two in Cape Town one in Gautend and one in Durban. CTNGP is one as mentioned while david Gant of Gant’s food is another. The third is an unknown party but is rumoured to have strong ties with BCE and my spies tell me it has European funding and will not rely on govt funding. The Durban crowd are also quite advanced in their planning while it must be remembered that the president comes from that part of the world.
    The smart money is on Gauteng…

  18. Joe, why would Formula 1 want to go to Austin when Bernie seemed to have his heart set on Manhattan? Because Tavo Hellmund convinced him it was the right place for the sport.

    Finding a new location for a race is a bit like picking locations for a James Bond film: it’s nice when they have that glamorous, larger-than-life quality, but if the location doesn’t fit the story, then it’s just a complete waste of time.

    In the same way, it’s nice when Formula 1 gets the glamorous international venue – but that doesn’t automatically make it a good place for the sport. Case in point: Valencia. It’s right on the Mediterranean, with all that rustic Spanish architecture and the hot climate … and it is not a popular event. On the other hand, Silverstone is a former RAF airstrip in the middle of the English countryside that was converted after the war. On paper, it’s not too appealing – but it has some of the best corners in the entire championship.

    Ideally, Formula 1 would race on fantastic circuits in fantastic locations. But if that’s not possible, I know I would always pick the former over the latter. I’d happily give up a waterfront circuit at Green Point for a good circuit in the Middle of Nowhere, Gauteng.

  19. Joe
    Gauteng is the powerhouse of SA and some 60% of the country’s gdp is generated/derived in Gauteng. The CTN bid is unrealistic as it goes past countless old age homes while the gridlock it will create for locla business and industry won’t cut it.
    There have also been certain developments and comments made of late by senior officials in govt which have not reached the press which are significant, one as recently as yesterday…

    More to follow soon………..

  20. Bernie is doing Sepp Blatter.

    A truly ‘World’ Championship needs an African race, but at 20-races the calendar is tight enough, with Russia to come in 2014, I would imagine that Valencia won’t get a race after 2013.

  21. Surely F1 will only go to a new circuit where it offers one of two things – 1) An untapped market with mass exposure or 2) A country with sufficient wealth to invest in promoting it’s profile. I guess Cape Town might fulfill the first, as F1 could then be seen on all continents and truly ‘global’ but I can’t see even Cape Town, let alone some other parts of s.africa, fulfilling the second.

    As one of those observers who doesn’t travel to many GPs I personally like the addition of new tracks (I don’t often get to see the lack of atmosphere at some) but there always seems to be 5-6 announcements per season of a new track bid and the simple limit of time in a year means they are unlikely to proceed – unless another track is going to be chopped.

    Always interesting to read Joe’s blog for this side though as few others ever look into the planning and reality of the future of F1. My only take on these new circuits is which circuit is being dropped in favour of them. The only other possibility I could see is rotational deals being done between circuits, like the mentioned belgium/france possibility. Though I would assume this is more of a crisis deal rather than a preferred outcome for most circuit operators.

  22. Have to agree with of the earlier comment…there are so many very good purpose built tracks with racing history, surely we don’t need another makeshift (contrived) street circuit.

  23. I was involved in the last races at Kyalami where despite huge audiences the costs far exceeded the income generated to the country. It was so bad that the local organisers went bankrupt and couldn’t pay Bernie if my recolections were correct. People will still delight to visit CT and F1 will not make sufficient difference to justify the exhorbitant costs to a country that cannot afford it.

  24. Imagine if you could fit the pit lane and La Source ( a la Spa ) into the Green Point Stadium … The garages could be open topped with the hospitality in the stadium suites . Imagine how unique and spectacular that would be !

  25. Alas Prisoner Monkeys I know why they want to use the stadium. I just dread Tilke trying to fit a mile of track in it to simulate the race of champions or the like.

    It must be time for someone else to design a track. The first corner at Houston shows he doesn’t understand gravity. What you need for overtaking is to make a straight as long as possible timewise rather than lengthwise. So you want an uphill straight like Spa. Conversely for the same reason you want a downhill braking zone. If he is supposed to improve the chances of overtaking you need longer braking zones. People have been asking for those for 30 years to my knowledge. The cars are how the cars are so new tracks have to maximise what they can. How many downhill braking zones has Tilke designed? None. Not one.

  26. Why go to Gauteng? Because Joe, that’s where Kylami is, on the edge of Joburg.
    Gauteng, the smallest of 9 provinces (only 1.4% in land area) also has almost a quarter of South Africa’s population.

  27. Joe, indeed, and money buys the whiskey…..
    I guess it depends on who you know and what you know, factors that you are no doubt very well versed with as am I.
    As and when I dig up more info I’ll certainly share it with you and the readers of this blog….
    At this stage my hunch points toward :
    1) Cape Town (street)
    2) The West Coast (Mykonos upward toward Langebaanweg)
    3) Gauteng – somewhere around Chloorkop/Elandsfontein) to those familiar with the area/s
    Think airfields….

  28. Or maybe Malmesbury which is slighlty out of town. I’m having serious doubts about the street circuit as glamorous as it may seem. Never mind Joe, the vineyards are close by and in their hundreds.

  29. well, if current GPs are needed to be kicked out for new venues to be added to the calendar, then I think there is always more than one possibility, and surely sorry to say even Interlagos is at risk, with the shameful behaviour of brazilian motor sport ‘authorities’ going on these days.

  30. Living in Cape Town and being an F1 fan I am divided about a CTGP. It is romantic to have it around the stadium but the costs of maintenance of the Stadium are a massive financial burden to ratepayers in Cape Town (the cheapest solution is to demolish it and use the land for other purposes). Sadly, holding a race around it will probably mean more costs to local rate-payers. A few years ago there was a Tilke design for an F1 circuit near the CT airport. As this is mostly a light industrial area I think the track could have been useful to promote high-tech engineering which South Africa is perfectly capable of developing and exporting (Noble Cars were a few years back built in SA and SA will be entering Le Mans next year with a locally designed and built LMP2 car). If there were tangible economic legacy benefits I would not be as opposed to the idea. There are also local universities close by which could develop engineering expertise further (one of them about 10 years ago built its own earth observing satellite). The Austin track is a good blue-print for extending benefits of building a designated racing circuit to benefit economic and education communities.

  31. South African F1 race in pipeline – http://www.ewn.co.za/Story.aspx?Id=78830

    The Minister confirmed to Eyewitness News the proposal would receive his full attention soon.

    “It has come across my desk but we have not sat down. I hope to have a proper sit down before Christmas to get a full briefing. At the moment I don’t want to put the cart before the horse.”

    Talk of a F1 return to South Africa was nothing new, but there is hope that with Mbalula’s involvement in the process would gain the momentum needed to make it a reality.

    Let’s see…

  32. Joe,

    There is noise about a substantial public works programme to create jobs, but I doubt it would go down well to spend it on F1 in a City that is controlled by the opposition.
    I guess there’s always private money, but for this? My gut feel is no, at least not in the immediate future.

    However for the project to have any validity it has to be discussed seriously at government level, at least we’re getting at that stage. Let’s see what happens in 2012. Fingers crossed as always, emotionally I would love it go ahead, objectively maybe it should not be the priority, but then again if I have to choose between hosting something like the Olympic games with it’s massive requirement for investment or F1, there is no doubt that it is F1.

    We now have the Volvo Ocean Race that has it’s stopover here, and I look forward to see what the ROI is for that, my feeling so far is that it is a great success, maybe all these smaller events will gear Cape Town to host an F1 race.

    If that is the case, the approach is sane.

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