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And now for Bahrain… 23 Mar 2004

Sauber Petronas test driver Neel Jani (SUI)launched the build-up to April's inaugural Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix. The 20 year-old Swiss reached speeds of just under 300 kph in his Sauber Petronas C22 Formula One car as he easily broke the speed limit on King Faisal Highway in front of a mesmerised crowd of 20,000 fans. This was the first F1 car demonstration in the Middle East. Sauber Visit Bahrain, Bahrain, 19 February 2004.

The historic race is less than two weeks away

Attention switches to the Middle East this week, as the countdown begins to the inaugural Grand Prix of Bahrain. On April 4, after two years of planning and sixteen months of construction work, Formula One racing will finally come to the region for the very first time.

The circuit was officially opened only last week, with the Williams squad taking part. However, during the coming days the full party of Formula One teams, TV broadcasters, motor racing media together with the drivers, management and the rest of the Formula One entourage will be descending upon the Kingdom.

For many it will be their first visit to the region. For all of them it will be a unique experience which they have been looking forward to with anticipation since the race was announced on the championship calendar last year.

Over the next seven days flights will begin to arrive bringing the vital, final ingredients needed to make the Grand Prix a reality. Race cars from Ferrari, Williams, Renault, McLaren, Jaguar, Toyota, BAR, Sauber, Jordan and Minardi will be jetted in strapped to aircraft pallets. With them will come packing cases, crates and boxes of high-tech equipment, plus all the TV gear required to generate the live pictures of the race that will be beamed around the world.

Bahrain’s airport and transportation links will finally see the results of countless months of planning to accommodate the increase in traffic and personnel. Hotels across Manama will begin to fill (restaurants are already fully booked), shopping malls and the famous Souqs will witness the influx of drivers and their wives, friends, team principals, technicians, engineers and members of the media corps.

Many spectators and guests will be jetting in on extra shuttle flights from places such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha; countless thousands will cross the causeway from Saudi Arabia while others will arrive by air from around the globe.

The drivers will get their first taste of the spectacular Herman Tilke-designed circuit in first practice on Friday April 2. The session kicks off 1100 local time, while Sunday’s race gets underway at the slightly unusual hour of 1430.