Bahrain International Circuit officially opens 18 Mar 2004
The Bahrain International Circuit, venue for Aprils Grand Prix, was officially opened on Wednesday by the King of Bahrain, His Majesty Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, along with His Highness the Crown Prince, Shaikh Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
Formula One racing cars representing fifty years of Grand Prix Racing added to the ceremony at the Sakhir Circuit, 25 kilometres south of the capital city Manama, while an Airbus A340 from the fleet of Grand Prix sponsors Gulf Air carried out a series of low passes over the track.
Over 350 invited guests including members of the Bahrain Government, ambassadorial figures from the region, track officials and company directors from the private sector were on-hand to witness the unveiling of a plaque commemorating the occasion.
During the ceremony, the Bahrain Order was awarded to those who have made a significant contribution to the construction of the circuit and the overall awareness of the Grand Prix and the region. Among them, circuit designer Hermann Tilke, former Formula One World Champion Sir Jackie Stewart and 14-times FIA Middle East Rally Champion Mohammed bin Sulayem received the award for their services.
The assembled guests were treated to a dazzling display of spectacular Formula One machinery. A BMW WilliamsF1 FW25 became the first Formula One car representing the latest technology to lap the circuit in the hands of Spanish test driver Marc Gene, before former Ferrari Grand Prix driver Jean Alesi lapped in the unique and magnificent 1954 Mercedes Benz 196 Streamliner, originally driven by the legendary five-times World Champion, Juan Manuel Fangio.
Other cars at the event included the Saudia Williams FW07, pedalled by Australian World Champion Alan Jones in 1981, today driven by Mohammed bin Sulayem and a Formula BMW single-seater race car driven by Middle Eastern driver Karim Samy Pascha.
The first Grand Prix of Bahrain, the third round of the 2004 FIA Formula One World Championship, takes place on April 4.