BSkyB signs deal for new motor racing 'World Cup'

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The Independent Online

BSkyB has signed a three-year deal to broadcast a new motor racing series to rival Formula One, which it hopes will accelerate interest in the sport.

BSkyB has signed a three-year deal to broadcast a new motor racing series to rival Formula One, which it hopes will accelerate interest in the sport.

SkySports will become the first UK broadcaster to screen the A1 Grand Prix, the brainchild of Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum al-Maktoum, a member of the Dubai royal family and a legendary racehorse lover.

Unlike Formula One racing, in which drivers compete individually and race on behalf of their car manufacturer, A1 Grand Prix aims to be the World Cup of motor racing with up to 20 drivers competing for their national teams.

The cars they drive will also be identical, a single-seater A1 racing car built by Lola, a British company based in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire. This, the organisers believe, will make the competition one of driving skill, rather than the technical ability of engineers or the ability to pay for expensive gadgetry.

Coverage will start in the autumn of 2005 and BSkyB will be looking for sponsors and advertisers for the programmes. An attempt by the broadcaster to launch an interactive pay-per-view venture with Bernie Ecclestone, the owner of Formula One racing, failed last year after it did not secure enough viewers. But Vic Wakeling, the managing director of Sky Sports, said: "We have been sold on the concept of a genuine test of driving skills and it has the added attraction of providing us with more international sport throughout the winter months."

Brian Menell, the South African businessman and entrepreneur, who has diamond and mining interests, is also backing the A1 Grand Prix, as is Tony Texeira, another self-made millionaire whose background includes logistics and oil.

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