Wednesday June 27th, 2001
Plans are afoot to build a motor racing circuit in central Beirut to host Formula One races, Lebanese company Solidere said on Wednesday. The property company said talks had been held with the sport's governing body, the FIA, about constructing a 4.1 kilometre ring on the coast of the Mediterranean, but final approval to stage a Grand Prix had not yet been granted.
"I do not expect racing to begin for four years. The FIA is keen on the Middle East. Beirut has a better climate than Dubai and less congestion than Cairo," said Oussama Kabbani, head of urban management at Solidere.
Kabbani, who declined to estimate the cost of the project, said a delegation would travel to Europe to meet with the FIA to show updated designs for the ring.
"The expense would be minimal compared to the revenue from bringing Formula One to the city," Kabbani said.
Solidere - whose founder and biggest shareholder is Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik a-Hariri - controls most of the property in the centre of Beirut, which it rebuilt after the 1975-1990 civil war. Reports earlier this year said that Hariri was in negotiations with Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone about bringing the race to Beirut.
The circuit, said Kabbani, would be constructed on land reclaimed from the sea and linked to an existing road around Saint Georges Bay. Lebanon already hosts the fifth stage of the Middle East Rally Championship, which starts on Friday.
Published at 17:16:41 GMT