Monday, December 11, 2006

Sentul could be an inspiration

The Jakarta Post, Dec 11, 2006

The A1GP race is entering its second year and although it has yet to be as popular as the Formula One, it has started to attract more racing lovers around the globe. The Jakarta Post's Matheos Messakh spoke to A1GP Chief Operating Officer David Clare on the sidelines of Indonesia's race at Sentul circuit, south of Jakarta, over the weekend, on the challenges and the future of the sport.

Question: What are the problems the A1GP has faced?

Answer: We are very much a young series and I think our main challenge is awareness, making sure people understand what we do and aware we are different to the other series.

You talked about focusing on the Asian market. Why are you interested in the market?

The Asian market is the market that we are trying to develop. A lot of the Asian markets are fairly new in motorsports. The traditional European or North American markets are well developed.

So as a series, A1GP is in the opposite side of the other series. It makes sense and we have a lot of interest within the Asian market. So it's a very important part of our future. Also a lot of manufacturers and a lot of development in the automotive industry is around the Asian market.

Is it true that in the first year you suffered financial losses? How do you see the future of A1GP?

It's like starting any other business. At the first year, there's a lot of capital investment.

But since the end of last season, we had significant interest from major international corporations, slightly coming in. Most of them will invest in the series. They seem to approve of what we have done in the first year and we are in to the second season.

We may be able to announce initial sponsorship partnerships in the next few months.

About the sport itself, in other series you would say that technology plays maybe 75 percent of the quality of the car. But we hope here is the driver-engineer team combination that makes up the majority of the performance.

So if you have a good engineer and a driver working together closely then the car can improve significantly.

As a new championship, is the A1GP going to have one or two main established sponsors or are you looking for several different sponsors?

Currently, we're thinking of arranging global sponsors to run every car as well as a national sponsor on each car. We haven't considered having a serious type of sponsor yet. We haven't been looking to do that because we want to make sure that the brand in itself is strong.

Do you have any plans to expand the number of teams?

There is always a plan to have some more teams, maybe in the autumn. Twenty-five is a good number, 28 is probably the maximum. But if you look at most series around the world, lots of them are in 18, 20 or 22 cars. So already we are competitive within the numbers.

In the future, are you going to make A1 the final destination of top drivers?

In many situations we hope we have our own group of drivers who want to race in A1. One or two of our drivers, for example Alex Yoong of Malaysia has spent half of his carrier with A1 and he has been very supportive.

I think you'll find opportunities in certain markets. We will be the pinnacle of opportunity to certain countries.

What is your opinion about Sentul in terms of its liability for racing? Is there anything that needs to be improved?

Definitely it needs to be upgraded a little bit. Track service and things like that need to be improved. But as a venue, the location is good, it's very popular, it creates very good TV images, which is good for us and for Indonesia.

From a technological point of view, there are certain things that need to be done to the circuit. Developing awareness about the facilities, getting people to want to come here to compete themselves.

The important thing is Indonesia as a country with (a big) enough population, should be a significant player in the industry, both in the automotive side and also from the sport side.

Indonesia needs to use this (circuit) as a catalyst for the development of motorsport, not only the domestic thing but also having a major event here gives people the start to aspire to "One day I would like to drive those cars".

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