Egypt plans Grand Prix near pyramids

Egypt's motor racing boss said today he is confident the country will be ready to stage a Formula One race by the end of 2004…

Egypt's motor racing boss said today he is confident the country will be ready to stage a Formula One race by the end of 2004.

The Egyptians are vying with Bahrain and Dubai to be the first middle-east country to join the World Championship.

But they hope that building the track within view of the Pyramids will be a major factor in the battle to join the calendar.

"We are determined to have a circuit in the 6th October District, which is within viewing distance of the great Pyramids which would make it one of the most scenic tracks in the Formula One Championship," said Mr Ashraf Mahmoud, chairman and chief executive of the Egyptian Motorsport Corporation.

"Realistically, we will be ready to host a round of the FIA Formula One World Championships in late 2004."

Mr Mahmoud was speaking after a meeting with Egypt's Minister of Tourism, Dr Mamdouh Al Beltagy, when two alternative sites for the track in the Greater Cairo area were discussed.

Scottish rookie Allan McNish is one of the first drivers to lend his support to the Egyptian bid.

"As soon as Egypt was mentioned I immediately thought of a photograph taken with a long lens of a Formula One car going round a circuit with the Pyramids in the background, it would be a great picture to show the world," said McNish. Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has already visited Egypt for talks as he looks to add new venues to the calendar from 2004.

But Egypt faces fierce competition from Bahrain, which is heavily promoting in F1 magazines a state-of-the-art circuit it is building, while Dubai are also in the running.

Two new countries, at least, are expected to be added to the championship from 2004 with reports from Shanghai last week claiming they already had a deal until 2010. Moscow is also looking to join the F1 circus.

Current venues will have to make way for any new races with no plans, at present, to increase the championship beyond 17 races. - PA

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