Formula One enthusiasts will soon be entertained at the F1 Fan Festival taking place in Sandton, Johannesburg at the end of March. Three teams, Mercedes-AMG, Renault and Red Bull Racing will participate in this live demonstration bringing the speed and sound that epitomises the world’s fastest sport right to our doorstep. The upcoming event is the most recent of similar such shows held in South Africa over recent times.
F1-starved fans in South Africa have been shouting for the series organisers to bring a round to the African continent since the last championship race took place here in the early 1990s. The upcoming F1 Fan Festival was, in part, made possible by the efforts of a little known organisation called SAGP that has been working quietly in the background to try to bring a Formula One race to our shores. In this exclusive interview, Double Apex learns more about SAGP and its ambitions from company CEO Warren Scheckter.
Double Apex: What exactly is SAGP and when was it formed?
Warren Scheckter: South African GP (Pty) Ltd (“SAGP”), is a company which has been formed specifically to bring Formula 1 Grand Prix events back to South Africa, and is working closely with the Formula 1 Group to achieve this.
Dbl Apx: Who are the stakeholders?
WS: The people involved are 1979 Formula 1 World Champion, Jody Scheckter (founding president), well known South African businessman, Jabu Mabuza (chairman), motorsports professional, Warren Scheckter (founder & CEO) and former SABMiller corporate finance director, Keith Doig (executive director).
Dbl Apx: How long have you been planning to bring the F1 Fan Festival to SA?
WS: The Formula 1 initiative has been in progress since 2015, but the F1 Joburg Festival was planned from July of last year, as part of SAGP and Formula 1’s efforts to bring Formula 1 Grands Prix back to the country.
Dbl Apx: What is the goal/ambition of SAGP?
WS: To successfully secure and promote Formula 1 events in South Africa.
Dbl Apx: There’s a lot of competition between countries to host F1 races. Why, do you think, the series should come to SA?
WS: Formula 1 is a global sport, but (currently) has no events in Africa. Africa and South Africa offer a huge potential market for Formula 1 growth. Moreover, South Africa also has a rich heritage in Formula 1 racing, with a large and enthusiastic fan base. It’s also a destination country, which makes it an ideal location for the Formula 1 brand.
Dbl Apx: It is commonly understood that it is extremely expensive to host a Formula One race, who will pay for the luxury of hosting the race here?
WS: Compared to other mega-events like the FIFA World Cup or the Olympic Games, Formula 1 events come at a fraction of the cost, and unlike those events, Formula 1 returns to the country year after year. Formula 1 events also bring a significant and positive impact to the countries in which they take place – a Grand Prix will generate substantial value to the South African economy and will contribute billions of rand each year to GDP. It will create thousands of jobs and bring in tens of thousands of tourists every year, and will put South Africa in the global spotlight in a positive way. It’s hardly a luxury when considering all these benefits, but more a necessity – South Africa needs this kind of positive stimulus right now. Whilst some public sector funding will be required, the private sector will provide a significant part of the funding.
Dbl Apx: Realistically speaking, when is the earliest we could host a race in SA, and where is it likely to take place?
WS: We are in advanced stages with Formula 1, but are not able to say exactly when the first F1 race in SA will be – given the complexity and scale of these initiatives, it takes time, but we’re hoping quite soon. As for the location, thanks to Toby Venter, who has rebuilt Kyalami to a very high standard, the circuit is now a very suitable Grand Prix venue. This is one of the reasons why bringing Formula 1 back to South Africa is now viable. Kyalami also has a very significant historic association with Formula 1.