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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 September, 2004, 09:01 GMT 10:01 UK
Rival GP series launched
A new series billed as the World Cup of motorsport has been launched in London as a winter alternative to Formula One.

The idea is to have up to 20 drivers competing for national teams, all of them using identical cars built to the same specifications by Lola.

A1 Grand Prix was devised by Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum al-Maktoum, a member of the Dubai royal family.

He told the BBC: "It brings the national element into it. It will be truly country versus country."

Sky Sports has secured the rights to show the races for three years, starting next autumn.

I'm looking to create new stars
Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum al-Maktoum
The Sheikh was in London's Trafalgar Square on Thursday to launch the UK franchise of the A1 series, which was originally unveiled in Dubai in March.

"Formula One is exciting in its own way. We are entering a new section of the market which hasn't been tapped, which is the winter months," he added.

"During the winter, nothing happens in motorsport.

"We are re-emphasising the skill of the driver and the ability of the team to get the best out of the car on the given day and the given track.

"It gives the opportunity to countries like India, Pakistan, Africa, Malaysia and Lebanon to compete on a level playing field against Europe."

The launch of the new series comes at a time when Formula One is trying to win back fans, having seen interest in the sport dip in recent years.

"What we are trying to do is launch a concept of single open-wheel, high-octane motorsport action and bring it to the people and the developing world," said the Sheikh.

"Instead of them just hosting races they are actually having the chance to partake.

"Most of the stars currently in F1 were not well known before. I'm looking to create new stars.

"We are going to have probably the first [black] African driver in motorsport in A1 Grand Prix. We are going to have the first Indian driver in a blue-chip event.

"It's an opportunity for these nations to shine."




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