Motor Racing: Dubai aiming for grand prix circuit

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THE FORMULA ONE jamboree may soon be stopping off in the Middle East after it emerged yesterday that representatives of Dubai are negotiating with the sport's supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, to host a grand prix.

"The government is taking care of it and a lot of meetings are going on," said Mohammed Bin Sulayem, a United Arab Emirates rally driver who has won 49 international rallies, yesterday. He said talks between Ecclestone and officials from Dubai were being taken "very seriously".

A spokesman for the sport's world governing body, the FIA, said last month that Ecclestone was talking to the Egyptian government about a possible race there and "another Middle East country for the same reasons." Bin Sulayem said his own discussions with Ecclestone had shown that there would be no obstacle to the Emirate staging an annual fixture if it could raise the money.

"They [the government] are studying it to do it right," he said, adding that they wanted to make sure a race circuit would benefit the local economy and not just Formula One.

They were also mindful of a costly aborted attempt in the early 1980s to build an international circuit in Dubai.

The former world rally champion, Colin McRae, said yesterday that he still intended to test out in Formula One but he would not be giving up his regular job. "I'll stick with what I know," the Scotsman said.

McRae's employers, Ford, said in March that they aimed to give the rally champion a test drive in a Stewart Formula One car "to go out and see what he can do" and the story quickly got out of hand, with rumours circulating that McRae was contemplating a switch.

"I wasn't thinking of going to Formula One. It was just a bit of PR for Ford, to make a bit of a story about a rally driver driving in Formula One," he said.

McRae said a one-off drive in a Formula One car was still possible, although the changes at Stewart, with Ford having taken over the team in June and renamed it Jaguar for next season, meant that he could not say when it might happen.

McRae also ruled out speculation that he might leave the Ford rally team at the end of this season. "I'm staying," he said, adding that the team, which has recently signed the former champion Carlos Sainz for 2000, would be strong contenders for the title next season.

McRae, speaking in Dubai following a major crash in the Australian rally from which he emerged unscathed, said he would review his options at the end of next season.