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'We'll bring Formula 1 testing and MotoGP to Malta'

British motorsport specialists mulling bid for construction and operation of €100 million racing track in Malta 

jurgen
Jurgen Balzan
22 November 2015, 7:31am
Lewis Hamilton and Valentino Rossi could become regular visitors to Malta if plans to construct a motorsport racing track in Malta come to fruition.

Three British motorsport experts were in Malta this week on a fact-finding mission to help them decide whether to submit a bid to construct and operate a racing track in a yet unknown location.

In September, an international expression of interest for the design, construction and operation of a motor recreation and education park was launched by sports parliamentary secretary Chris Agius and this has attracted interest from around the globe.

One of the interested parties is UK-based Totally Motorsport, who were in Malta to hold high-level meetings and visit possible sites.

“We can’t say very much at the moment as we are bound by a confidentiality agreement, however, what we can say is that the opportunity for Malta to have a world class motorsport facility will attract interest and tourism from around the globe,” Graeme Glew told MaltaToday.

Curiously, while the expression of interest’s objectives state that the bidders will propose the location of the track, the British experts said they felt “blindfolded” as the government will be selecting the site and the decision has not been taken yet. 

But Glew’s enthusiasm for the project is palpable and he says that as soon as the project’s requirements are defined when the request for proposal is launched in January, he is certain all interested investors will be on board. 

The experienced motor racing consultant said Malta is an “obvious choice” for such an investment that could cost anything between €50 and €100 million. 

Glew added that a spate of investors from all around the globe, especially the UK, are showing interest in the project.

Together with John Byfield, a motorsport specialist lawyer, and Dafydd Broom, an international circuit designer, Glew was in Malta to look at potential sites and hold talks with all stakeholders before deciding on submitting a bid. 

Broom, who has worked on various projects, including the Sepang F1 track and the Kuala Lampur street circuit, explained that the plan is to construct a Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Grade 2 or 1T track. 

An FIA Grade 2 track can host MotoGP races and other racing events including Formula 3000 and Nascar. 

Broom also noted that an FIA 1T licence – which would allow Formula 1 testing – was ‘achievable.” 

The design engineer said that Totally Motorsport would prefer a site with natural elevation as this would keep the costs and construction time down.

Broom said a track of such magnitude would take between six and 12 months to design and between 12 and 24 months to construct. 

The site and size of the track are yet to be decided, however Glew – who worked with various teams in Formula 1 for seven years – is determined to put Malta on the international map of motorsports. 

“Motor racing is not detrimental, but beneficial on a number of different levels to Malta,” Glew said.

He explained that a multi-purpose circuit would “be good for the economy, reduce road accidents and attract tourists.” 

Insisting that such a circuit is feasible and would create jobs, Glew said that the country’s favourable climate was another advantage.  

Asked whether he is aware that such a project would rouse the ire of the environmental lobby, Glew said air and sound pollution and other possible problems will be mitigated through intelligent design and the use of the latest technologies. 

Citing the recent creation of Formula E – a class of auto racing for electric-powered cars – Glew pointed out that motorsport has also gone green. “I am here to convince people, including the environmental lobby, that this project will be beneficial to Malta,” he said. 

Following the EOI announcement, Alternattiva Demokratika, Front Ħarsien ODZ and the Siggiewi local council said they would oppose the development of a race track on ODZ land, with the council saying that one of the proposed sites close to Dar tal-Providenza is the same size as the whole urban area of Siggiewi. 

The Totally Motorsport representatives were non-committal when asked what size their track would be but Broom said he has designed international standard circuits in less than the 800,000 square metres cited for the site between Siggiewi and Qrendi. 

MaltaToday is informed that the shortlist of sites being considered for the track includes the stretch of land between Siggiewi and Qrendi, the area around the Hal Far quarter mile track and the pristine Mtahleb area. 

Most of the existing FIA Grade 2 and 1T tracks vary between 2km and 5km in length and cover up to 1.5 million square metres. 

Broom and Glew would not commit themselves on the length and size of the track, but they pointed out that the track would only be feasible if it has auxiliary facilities, such as cart racing facilities, hospitality services, a business park, retail outlets and education facilities.

Glew, who raced Formula Ford for three years before setting up a race team and race driver school said that the track would include a driving education centre “to train young drivers in road safety in order to reduce the number of casualties on the Maltese roads.”

In a clear reference to the lax security measures at the Papaqli ghall-Istrina event which saw up to 26 people injured after a driver lost control of a supercar, Byfield said that holding motorsport events on anything other than a purpose built facility or completely closed off safe area is unacceptable.

Guaranteeing state of the art security measures in the planned circuit, he said “spectators want to see races and events and they can be close to the action but within a safe and secure environment.”  

Clearly, Totally Motorsport are not the only company interested. Last year, Maltese promoters Charles Bellia and Frans Deguara, through their company, ICSKA, proposed the construction of a circuit at the old airfield between Siggiewi and Qrendi or in Hal Far, close to where the airport runway ends. 

Both sites are on public land but reportedly ICSKA is also in talks with the owners of private land in the limits of Qrendi.  

The company has the backing of UK investors Copse Consortium, and has filed two planning applications so far, although these are still at pre-screening stage. The proposed circuits are at least of 3.5 kms long. 

jurgen
Jurgen Balzan joined MaltaToday in 2011, specialising in politics, foreig...