As the V8 Supercars roadshow departs Yas Island, officials from the Australian series and their Yas Marina Circuit hosts have heralded the category's Emirates debut.
Yas Marina gets thumbs up as Supercars depart for Bahrain
ABU DHABI // As the V8 Supercars roadshow departs Yas Island and makes the short trip to Bahrain for the second round of the 15-event 2010 championship, officials from the Australian series and their Yas Marina Circuit hosts have heralded the category's Emirates debut. More than 12,300 spectators passed through the turnstiles to witness Jamie Whincup, Team Vodafone's double reigning champion, coast to a pair of victories in the championship's first day-night races.
In addition to Whincup's all-conquering display, Richard Cregan, chief executive of Yas Marina Circuit, said the V8 series' non-stop action - typified by bumper-to-bumper collisions and the high-speed manoeuvring - captured the imagination of the locals. "It's been a thrilling weekend and we are very happy - the V8s gave us everything we expected," said Cregan. "We are on the right road and these races have set us up for great events in the future."
The Abu Dhabi track chief's claims were endorsed by Tony Cochrane, the V8 Supercars' executive chairman. "We've had a wonderfully warm and hospitable welcome, and with over 2,000 Aussies here this weekend it has been fantastic," he said. Yas Marina Circuit has a three-year deal to host the V8s, with an option for a further three. "We are very happy to have staged the opening round, it's important for us," he Cregan. "For us, it's the right time of the year and it's the right thing for the circuit in terms of attracting spectators and building the loyalty of those who come out here.
"It is all about getting messages out that this is Yas Marina Cicruit and this is Abu Dhabi." Showcasing Abu Dhabi's motorsport capabilities to the Australian audience may have been achieved at the first time of asking, but Cregan and Cochrane agree that more needs to be done to maximise domestic involvement. "First and foremost, we need to help build the local interest in motor-sport at facilities like Yas and Bahrain; that's our priority for the next three years," said Cochrane.
"We have a five-year strategic plan to build a motorsport culture in the UAE," added Cregan. "Whoever we need to work with, that's what we will do. Now that people have seen what we can do in terms of a circuit and a spectacle, they will want to come. We're going to work with Tony and the V8 championship to evolve things because we need to get young Emirati drivers in to our different series." Roland Dane, the owner of Triple Eight Race Engineering - which operates Team Vodafone's pair of Holden Commodores - concurred with the importance of nurturing local talent.
"There is an increasing interest in motorsport in this part of the world," he said. "It makes sense for us to come here in some shape or form during the Australian summer, the winter here, to do a mini-series. It might not be part of our championship, it might be separate - a bit like GP2 Asia and the main European series. "But if there is demand then why not? We would need some local drivers, some Emirati stars, but if we had three, four or five Arab guys then ultimately there would be more long-term local interest."