Thailand is continuing its push to secure a berth on the Formula 1 calendar – possibly as soon as 2014 – after senior government officials managed to secure an ‘in principal’ agreement to stage a night race around the streets of Bangkok.
Representatives from the southeast Asian country and Red Bull met with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone during last weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix to thrash out the terms of the deal as part of their plans to bid for a spot on the F1 calendar.
“It will be a city race like in Singapore and Monaco. It will be a night race like the Singapore Grand Prix,” Kanokphand Chulakasem, governor of the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT), told the Bangkok Post.
The deal is still a long way from being signed – apparently the annual sanctioning fees haven’t even been discussed yet – but the signs are looking solid, with the Thai government indicating that it will bankroll 60% of the total cost to stage the event, with the rest coming from local companies, such as Red Bull and the Singha beer group.
Thailand actually has a long history in motorsport, even to the point of the country – then known as Siam – having its own Formula 1 driver in the 1950s. Prince ‘B Bira’, a nephew of the king, raced privately-entered Maseratis and Gordinis between 1950 and 1955, achieving a pair of fourth placed finishes.
Today, the country’s highest-profile racer is Tor Graves, who currently races in the LMP2 class in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Stories of a Grand Prix in Thailand have been kicking around for some time, which is hardly surprising given Red Bull’s significant presence in the sport.
Last year, a street demonstration by Mark Webber attracted over 100,000 fans (pictured, top).
While Thai officials might be speaking with the local press to trumpet the deal, that hardly means it’s been done and dusted.
What certainly will happen is that the added interest from newer F1 markets will only serve to drive the sanctioning prices of other host countries higher…