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Williams to help launch Bahrain Circuit 16 Mar 2004

Marc Gene (ESP) Williams on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Italian Grand Prix, Race Day, Monza, Italy, 14 September 2003

FW25, FW07 at opening ceremony, plus Mercedes W196

Williams test driver Marc Gene will become the first man to lap the Bahrain International Circuit at speed in a modern Formula One car on Wednesday when he takes to the track as part of the venue’s official opening ceremony ahead of April's inaugural Grand Prix.

Guests will witness the Spaniard in action around the newly-completed 5.411km circuit at the wheel of a 2003-spec FW25. Williams have also supplied a second car for the ceremony - the ubiquitous Saudia-sponsored FW07 as raced in the 1981 and 1982 seasons by World Champion Alan Jones and Argentine Carlos Reutemann.

Also gracing Bahrain’s freshly-laid tarmac will be a piece of Formula One history from the 1950s, piloted by a top driver from the ‘90s. Grand Prix winner Jean Alesi will drive the 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 streamliner, a machine originally raced by the likes of five times world champion Juan Manuel Fangio.

Among those invited to Wednesday’s ceremony by His Majesty the King, Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and His Highness the Crown Prince, Shaikh Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, are members of Parliament, Ministry officials, ambassadorial representatives from the region, luminaries from the world of Formula One racing.

During the formalities, His Majesty the King will host an Awards Ceremony to honour representatives of the various organisations and individuals involved in the design and construction of the circuit for their efforts in building the facility and delivering it on time.

The first Formula One race to be held in the Middle East takes place at the Bahrain International Circuit at Sakhir on April 4.