Driving force of the BIC
Harbouring the passion for racing, Sheikh Salman Bin Isa Al Khalifa is unquestionably synonymous with the racing industry in Bahrain and globally. Sheikh Salman’s tireless efforts towards making Bahrain the Middle East’s most prominent racing hub is a testament to his zeal towards the industry, and has truly paid off as the Formula One Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix is the country’s most celebrated and looked-forward to event in the year. Having been hosting the race for over a decade, the BIC is gearing up once again for the season’s second race, and Bahrain’s third night race on April 1-3, as well as the abundance of activities that will take place during the race days. Sheikh Salman spoke to Perle Magazine about the upcoming and thrilling experiences it will bring along.
How does it feel that Bahrain is the second stop of the 21-race season?
I think it’s interesting; this is the very first time we have been scheduled as the second race – we’d usually be round three or four or the season-opener.
Being so early on in the championship means there will be a lot of uncertainty in terms of what we should expect from the teams. Everyone will still be in the process of putting together their best car, so we might see some unexpected results.
That can certainly lead to some very exciting racing for us fans, and we are greatly looking forward to it.
How do you feel going into the third night race of the Formula One in Bahrain?
I’m extremely excited about having our third night race. The response to our shift from a daylight event to one under floodlights has been fantastic. In the previous two years, we have seen a significant rise in fan attendance. In 2014, we had a then-record of 31,000 on Race Day and 83,000 over the entire weekend. In 2015, we enjoyed an even greater turnout of 32,000 on Sunday and 90,000 over the three days. We hope that this trend continues and we see even more fans this year.
We have also seen growth of 150% in the number of international visitors to F1 since 2013.
Our bookings from across the world, but especially from Europe and the US, are already well ahead of this time last year. It is a true demonstration of the Bahrain Grand Prix’s growing international attraction with our night race.
What was the inspiration behind the slogan “On The Edge of Action”?
Formula 1 is the most exciting motor racing series in the world. Especially at the Bahrain Grand Prix, we find ourselves on the edge of our seats, as we watch all of the action taking place on the track. Our slogan this year has been inspired by that particular sentiment – the exhilaration we feel when we are “On the Edge of Action”.
What do you anticipate the outcome of this year’s race will be? Is there someone in particular you are rooting for this year?
It is too early to tell who will be strong this season, but based on the early results of pre-season testing, Ferrari are looking strong and they might begin the year on a high note.
The same can be said for Mercedes, who are the two-time defending champions and can never be ruled out. Both they and Lewis Hamilton will be gunning for a third successive victory here in Bahrain.
However, like I mentioned earlier, we will be very early on in the season so it will be a toss-up as to who you can expect to be the race winner this year.
What I do expect is another extremely exciting race, just like we’ve had the past two seasons when we enjoyed plenty of action from the lights all the way to the chequered flag, and not only in front but also in the middle and at the back of the field.
I am hopeful for another nail-biting Bahrain Grand Prix.
What special preparations have been made to launch this year’s race at the BIC?
Clearly, the line-up of entertainment acts is probably the strongest we have ever had and I think that is probably the biggest difference.
In addition, we are attracting an ever-growing international fan-base for the race. Whilst our international audience has grown 150% since 2013, it is a major focus of ours to continue that trend further. So far this year, international sales are well ahead of usual.
Other than that, our preparations are much the same – with the ambition of trying to make the race weekend better and better every year.
What are some of the events or activities that will be taking place off-track for the visitors to enjoy?
There are two theatre shows that fans will be able to enjoy. The first is an international production from Japan called SIRO-A, and the other is from India known as Ticket to Bollywood.
SIRO-A is a revolution in live entertainment. It fuses mime, visual effects and an electro soundtrack to create a theatrical experience that is a feast for the senses.
Ticket to Bollywood is a high-octane production from Mumbai. There are fantastic costumes and joyful music, and it pays homage to one of the world’s greatest film industries – Bollywood. It brings to life the glitz and glamour of Bollywood song and dance.
Please tell us a little about this year’s Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge?
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge will this year be supporting Formula 1 as an exhibition round.
The series has just completed its 2015/2016 season with the championship finale held in early March.
It will be exciting to see the very best racers from around the Gulf competing against one another on a huge setting such as the Bahrain Grand Prix.
It’s their time to shine in front of an international audience that includes the Formula 1 community, and I look forward to them making the most out of the opportunity.
Is there anything else you would to add about the upcoming race that you would like the readers to know?
I would just like to invite all the readers to come and join us for the 2016 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix. It’s going to be a grand event with plenty to enjoy for the whole family.
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