They will support the Malaysian and Bahrain Grands Prix in March and April respectively next year.
The new Formula BMW Europe series has already been confirmed as supporting many of the European F1 rounds.
Having brought Formula One to new Eastern venues including Bahrain and Malaysia, Bernie Ecclestone now wants a hand in building up a motorsport following in those nations.
Speedcar attempts to do just that. Outwardly the cars are highly reminiscent of NASCAR machines – they may seem basic to European eyes, but as billboards on wheels go they can’t be faulted.
An eight round series is being lined up for 24 of these cars, some of which will be piloted by former F1 drivers. They include race winners Johnny Herbert and Jean Alesi, plus Stefan Johansson and Gianni Morbidelli. There are also two more local drivers: India’s Narain Karthikeyan and Japan’s Ukyo Katayama.
Unlike NASCAR, the cars will race entirely on ordinary road courses and not ovals. They will make three visits to the Dubai Autodrome, two to the Bahrain International Circuit (including the Grand Prix date), one to the Sentul circuit in Indonesia, one to an as-yet-unnamed venue, and they will also support the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang International Circuit.
It’s too early to tell what to make of this brand new series, but the presence of several ex-F1 drivers is encouraging and as the series will hosts its first race in Novemeber this year they’ve got plenty of time to iron out any bugs.
When Sheikh Maktoum decided to create the A1 Grand Prix Series – which begins its third season at the end of this month – Bernie Ecclestone allegedly encouraged him to use the GP2 chassis for the cars. Maktoum declined, and had his own design of cars created for a series that principally runs in the F1 off-season.
There have therefore been suggestions that GP2 Asia is Ecclestone’s way at hitting back at A1 (now run by Tony Teixeira). Perhaps there is some truth in that, but there seems to be business sense in the decision as well.
An Asian GP2 series could be an ideal way of bringing up promising young Asian drivers. The cars will be the same as those used in the final round of this year’s GP2 championship at Valencia next week – the main GP2 series will have a new chassis for 2008.
As most of the teams will also be the same ones from the original GP2 championship the races should run fairly smoothly, providing the problems with the current car’s starting systems and gearboxes are fixed.
GP2 Asia will also support F1 at the Bahrain and Malaysian Grands Prix.