The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ronaldo & Figo to kickstart, not kick
- Star promoters of A1 Grand Prix to visit India to push new motor sport

Calcutta, July 20: From the Bernabeu to India Gate ' Real Madrid mates Ronaldo and Luis Figo are sure to kick up a storm ' but not kick a football ' when they come to India in 10 days, to launch the latest rage in global car racing, A1 Grand Prix.

Come July 30 and the soccer superstars will be present in Delhi for the unveiling of the India A1 car and team by Sheikh Maktoum, the member of the ruling royal family of Dubai who has devised the sport.

“Both Ronaldo and Figo are promoters of A1 in their own countries, Brazil and Portugal, and have confirmed they would be part of the delegation coming to India for the launch,” Andre Timmins, director of Wizcraft International Entertainment, which is organising a series of events to introduce and promote the sport in India, told The Telegraph.

Billed as the “World Cup of Motorsport” and hoping to be the substitute for the more illustrious F1, the A1 Grand Prix will see 25 countries locked in contest. In F1, teams (Ferrari, McLaren, Honda, etc.), not countries, take part.

The A1 cars, with 3400 cc engines, will weigh around 600 kg and will be fitted with six-speed transverse sequential gear selection through the paddle-shift system.

Just like F1, A1 races will be held on weekends ' the qualifying race on Saturdays and the main races (first a 25-minute sprint and then a 60-minute race) on Sundays. Thewinning drivers and the champion teams will be awarded points, to be added up through the full season.

Of the 12 races to take place in the inaugural season, from September 2005 to March 2006, three will be hosted in Asian countries ' China, Indonesia and Malaysia. On offer is a prize money of $1 million for the top 10 finishers in every race.

Bollywood star Anil Kapoor, who will front the A1 franchise in India along with Atul Gupta from Sahara, was optimistic about the prospects of the motor sport in the country.

“We have always looked at F1 with a lot of awe and have realised that we can never make it to the top there,” he said.

“But what A1 does is give the sport a very nationalistic feeling and when 1.2 billion people cheer their home team, it’s going to be something else. I would say we are very fortunate to have got a seat.”

Other important delegates will come in for the launch from China, Australia and South Africa, Andre added. Civil aviation minister Praful Patel will be the chief guest on the occasion and the Prime Minister has been invited for the dinner to follow the launch.

The test-drive of the A1 car will happen the next day at India Gate which is likely to feature superstar Aamir Khan and Delhi chief minister Sheila Dixit.

After the Delhi flag-off, between August 1 and 11, A1 Grand Prix will be promoted in three other Indian cities ' Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore ' as a run-up to the first race on the Brands Hatch track in Great Britain in September.

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