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Soweto Grand Prix

Soweto could host South African Grand Prix

HARD to imagine, but there’s talk in South Africa that the nation’s F1 Grand Prix could be resurrected — on a street circuit alongside Soweto.

It’s the country’s largest black township and the race would be known as the Soweto South African Grand Prix.

Entrepreneur Bobby Hartslief, the man responsible for saving the South African Formula 1 Grand Prix in the early 1980s, said he has been instructed to put together a bid for a new South African Grand Prix. 

A new street circuit was proposed to be constructed at the Nasrec Show Grounds adjacent to Soweto, south of Johannesburg.

“Yes, I have been approached to offer advice and comment on the concept of a Soweto South African Formula 1 Grand Prix at the Nasrec Show Grounds,” Hartslief confirmed on Friday. 

“A group of influential business people contacted me some years ago with the concept of a massive event, one substantially greater than just three days of practice, and qualifying culminating in a two-hour Formula 1 race.

“A Soweto South African Grand Prix at the Nasrec Show Grounds ticks all the right boxes. Nasrec is an international standard exhibition centre with all the necessary amenities and more already in place. 

“Nasrec is right next door to the soul of the country and the symbol of African liberty in Soweto. 

“The adjacent FNB stadium successfully hosted the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup finals and easily caters to 94,000 people. 

“All necessary planning and infrastructure to host a Soweto South African Grand Prix has been considered.

“That will cost money. Considering the challenges faced by the government at every turn, it would be remiss to expect any surplus state cash to be handed out to fund a F1 Grand Prix. 

“The group that has approached us, however, believes that they can raise the funds to float more than just a Soweto South African Grand Prix. Their concept is for a major event, an epic mega prix the proportions and magnitude of the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

“South Africa indeed continues to face its challenges. 

“A Soweto South African Grand Prix for the people, by the people, will not only bring international recognition and exposure, but it will also prove a significant morale booster for the country and provide tens of thousands of much-needed jobs for our unemployed youth.

“Do I think a Soweto South African Grand Prix can happen around the Johannesburg Nasrec Show Grounds?” Hartslief said. 

“Unequivocally yes! We will reveal more of our plans when our principals speak for themselves in due course.”

Hartslief organised and promoted five South African Formula 1 Grands Prix at Kyalami between 1981 to 1985. 

He managed the affairs of three-time Formula 1 world champion Nelson Piquet, before returning to South Africa.

Hartslief later designed and built the Phakisa Freeway at Welkom, where once again against all odds, he organised, promoted and ran six MotoGPs at the Free State circuit.

However, fact is the international F1 Grand Prix calendar is chocablock with confirmed fixtures.

The 2023 season begins in Bahrain (March 5) and ends eight and a half months later in Abu Dhabi (November 26).

With 24 races planned – two more than this season – the 2023 Formula 1 calendar is set to be the longest in the 74-year history of the sport.

That does not leave much hope for a new South African Grand Prix in the foreseeable future.

Then again, one cannot dismiss the ‘never say never’ adage.

Good luck, Bobby.


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