...on how long this is going to last -- or if it even gets off the ground.
`Madman' launches new racing circuit
Canadian team among 25 national squads in A-1 Grand Prix series Sheik from Dubai promises it `will be bigger than Olympics'
THE TORONTO STAR
It sounds like auto racing meets the Olympics, but a newly-formed world circuit where drivers will represent their countries instead of their manufacturers is scheduled to go this weekend.
Racers representing 25 countries, including Canada, will gun their engines Sunday at England's Brands Hatch for the first event of the A-1 Grand Prix circuit's 12-race season, which will take place mostly when Formula One drivers are sipping margaritas on the beach.
Sheikh Maktoum-Hasher Maktoum Al Maktoum, the nephew of Dubai's crown prince, is said to have invested more than $200 million (U.S.) into the operation, which has taken three years to develop.
"It's a cross between the high profile of F1, the overtaking and excitement of LeMans and the audience interaction you get with NASCAR," Maktoum told Britain's The Guardian in a not-so-understated moment. "The difference is it will be bigger than the Olympic Games, bigger even than the football World Cup."
But there were early signs of trouble this week when the owner of the Canadian team had to be replaced at the last minute. The deal with Toronto businessman J. Jay Jaski fell through, officials said and businessman Wade Cherwayko has jumped in. Cherwayko, who is said to be Canadian but appears to do most of his business overseas, was already the co-owner of the British entry.
The drivers are mostly unknown. Canada will be represented by Vancouver's Sean McIntosh, 20, who will jump from the 200-horsepower cars of Formula Renault to the 520 horsepower of A-1 Grand Prix.
McIntosh said the Canadian squad didn't come together until the last minute after the sudden change in ownership, but he sees a lot of promise.
"It'll take a bit of time for people to figure out what it is," he told the Star. "But the cars are designed so drivers can overtake each other, and if it provides exciting racing and people can get behind their country it'll be great."
McIntosh will be driving a bright white car with several red maple leafs.
"The flags look really cool," he said. "It's a real honour to hop in and represent your country."
A-1 spokesperson Nikki Rooke said the newcomer isn't aiming to rival F1.
"We run in the winter and they run mostly in the summer so we're not trying to compete. The sponsors will be different. But in F1 it's all about how well developed the cars are and how much money is put into them. Here, all the cars will be equal. And the emphasis is on countries. We have cars representing India, Pakistan, Lebanon and other places that usually haven't been involved in motor sports."
Organizers say the Austrian car will be run by former F1 champions Niki Lauda and Keke Rosberg and that the car will be driven by Lauda's son, Mathias. Soccer star Ronaldo and former F1 champ Emerson Fittipaldi are said to be fronting the Brazilian team.
The only North American race is slated for Laguna Seca, California next year.
McIntosh said organizers are expecting 40,000 fans at Brands Hatch.
"Only a madman like me can come up with an idea like this," Maktoum told The Guardian. "But I've gone from being called a madman to dreamer to visionary in a very short time."