When Formula One drivers like Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso arrive in Abu Dhabi for the first ever grand prix at the Yas Marina Circuit, they could be sharing the spotlight with past masters like Johnny Herbert, Jean Alesi and Heinz-Harald Frentzen.
The three former F1 drivers now race for the new Speedcar Series, which is hoping to run alongside the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Nov 15 2009 at the new circuit on Yas Island. "We are in talks with Abu Dhabi," said Claudio Berro, the operations director of Speedcar Series. "For me, it is important to have the Speedcar in Abu Dhabi alongside the first grand prix there. "We are working with the FIA [motorsport's governing body] to race together with Formula One. This year, we will be racing at two F1 grand prix, next year we want to make it three or more races. The combination of Speedcar and F1 is a great mix."
The six-round Speedcar Series will run in conjunction with the grands prix in Bahrain and Malaysia, while the remaining events will be held alongside the GP2 series, under the Grand Racing banner. The action gets underway at the Dubai Autodrome on Dec 5 and 6, with new cars that are completely different to the ones used in the last championship, won by the former Benetton driver Herbert. "Speedcar have done a good job on the improvement of the car, with a new body and engine," said Berro. "We are using composite material instead of steel for the body, which is easy to repair. We have a new engine from the American firm Roche Tuner.
"You can see the evolution of the car, especially in the V8 engine, which has injection and 620 horsepower." The new cars are undergoing their second round of testing at the Dubai Autodrome. The second season of Speedcar Series will also have a new prize money structure. The total purse is US$3million (Dh11m), with the championship-winning driver and team each getting $500,000. Drivers will also win money for each of the 12 races through the season. As an added incentive, drivers on pole position for each of the six rounds will be awarded $10,000.
The series should make a first stop in Qatar this season. "Qatar have a motorbike circuit at the moment, but we had a very open discussion to have the Speedcar race on the same circuit," said Berro. "We need to check the circuit, but I think it will be possible to have an exciting race." Berro also has other big plans to make Speedcar the second biggest competition in motorsports, behind Formula One.
"Speedcar is not competing with Formula One," he said. "F1 is the pinnacle of motorsports, but we can aim for the spot just behind F1. Why not? In this area we have four fantastic circuits in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Qatar and Bahrain. I believe the Middle East provides the right combination to organise a worldwide series of a very high level. We don't need to go to other regions. "We could also consider changes like having a pit stop, which can be very exciting. If we want to have pit stops, we need to have strong teams. Speedcar was born just last season and we need to raise our levels and keep going up."