Double Apex has a chat with the promoter aiming to host an SA F1 GP. 

There has been plenty of chatter recently regarding a Formula One race in South Africa. The latest round of rumours were fuelled by a visit of Formula One Group CEO Stefano Domenicali to the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit earlier this week. 

We caught up with Warren Scheckter, who is the CEO of SAGP, while he was in Johannesburg. SAGP is a company that has been working behind the scenes for years to bring a race back to the African continent. The last time F1 raced on SA soil was in 1993.

Behind the Scenes

SAGP may not be known to most racing enthusiasts so an intro may help. The company consists of 1979 F1 World Champion Jody Scheckter (founding president), motorsports professional Warren Scheckter (founder & CEO) and former SABMiller corporate finance director, Keith Doig (executive director). Included are a number of, as yet unnamed, shareholders who are key players in the event.

Scheckter was in SA at the time of writing and in an interview he shared information regarding the potential of a race at Kyalami.

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In His Own Words

“First up, I have to let you know that an F1 race in SA has not yet been confirmed. There are many things that need to take place before we can make a formal announcement. Also, there isn’t one deal that needs to be signed for it to happen, there are several deals that need to be formalised,” said Scheckter. “We have read plenty of posts recently with all sorts of speculation about the event, but we are still a while away from being able to share any confirmation.”

There are several key stakeholders steering an SA F1 GP towards fruition. These include Gauteng Province, SA Tourism, Formula One, SAGP and Kyalami as the venue.

When asked about how such a massive project will take place, from a financial point of view, he elaborated: “An F1 race here will be made possible by funding from the private sector. We have investors, large corporates and, of course, ticket sales and hospitality to fund the event.” 

“An SA F1 GP will also be receiving financial support from government in the form of a tourism levy. It is important that people know this race will not take place by dipping into the fiscus. Government sees the benefit of hosting such an event. The benefits of which include job creation, an influx of tourism and social development that will also take place.”

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The Obvious Choice

The obvious venue to host an event of this scale is Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit in Gauteng. That was made clear by the site visit Domenicali made earlier this week. For the past few years Kyalami has played host to a round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge, a premier GT3 race series. The circuit is, however, not yet up to FIA Level 1 status ie not F1 compliant, as we have previously heard directly from Kyalami owner Toby Venter.

Click here to read our exclusive interview with Venter about Kyalami’s readiness.

“Toby Venter has done an incredible job in reviving Kyalami to its current state. SAGP, as promoter, will pay for any upgrades necessary to bring Kyalami up to FIA Level 1 grading”, said Scheckter. “We are working in close conjunction with the owners of Kyalami to make this a reality. There is enough time to make the changes should we get the greenlight for an event in 2023.”

Read up about the uncertain future of the Monaco F1 GP at this link.

SA Special

The big question on the minds of SA F1 enthusiasts is that of pricing. Will the event be too expensive for local fans to attend?

Scheckter eases the minds of local Formula One fans. “We are aiming to expand the current seating capacity of Kyalami to around the 90 000-mark. Final numbers are yet to be confirmed but we are confident it won’t be much less than that. This tally will include general access, grandstand seating as well as hospitality areas.” 

“It must be clear that we do not want locals to be excluded, therefore tickets will be discounted for South Africans. There will be an allocation set aside that you can only access as a South African resident.”

When pushed about the cost of these tickets, Scheckter wasn’t ready to spill the beans, but he did conclude by saying: “The tickets will be well within the reach of your average F1 fan.”

A provisional calendar for the 2023 Formula One season could be published during the European summer break. Fingers crossed that there is a colourful flag next to one of the dates…