On track for a rival to F1

A UK motorsport group will build the engine for a new rival to Formula One racing due to launch in the Middle East next year.

Zytek Engineering of Derbyshire was selected from a final bidding group of six manufacturers to supply engines to A1 Grand Prix, which pits drivers against each other in a standard ‘one-make’ car.

The contract – Zytek’s largest single engine order and worth an undisclosed sum – was apparently awarded to the company on the basis of its 15-year involvement in the Formula 3000 single-makeracing series.

The A1 car will run on an aluminium 520bhp, 3.4 litre V8 engine, which was selected in favour of a V6 model used in earlier prototypes. ‘It made sense to use a V8 at reduced power level to obtain the required 520bhp as opposed to taking a V6 to its limits and compromising reliability,’ said a spokesman for the new series.

A1 Grand Prix is the brainchild of Sheik Maktoum, a member of Dubai’s ruling family. He is a motor sport enthusiast, but is currently better known in the UK for his involvement with horse racing.

The new competition, due to begin in the winter of 2005, will run in the warm climates of the Middle East, Asia and the rest of thesouthern hemisphere during the Formula One off-season.

Drivers will race the standard A1 cars on behalf of themselves and their countries, rather than racing teams, in a bid to win what its organisers claim will be the ‘world cup of motorsport.’ Companies from each competing nation will be invited to sponsor the car andfranchises will be offered to stage the races around the world.

Maktoum hopes the driver and nation-led nature of the racing will capture the imagination of TV audiences. It is sometimes claimed that viewers are bored with the over-reliance of F1 drivers on their cars’ technical credentials rather than their own skill – a situation the world-leading race series is already attempting to address with restrictions on technological aids.

The money behind A1 Grand Prix may be coming from theMiddle East, but the Zytek engine contract confirmed that the car itself will be a UK affair.

Earlier this year Lola, the UK racing car manufacturer, agreed a deal to supply 30 vehicles for the new series.

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