Copycats

17 Oct, '05

A commentor suggested that I was a bit harsh telling Dubai to kiss my ass for their announcement of building a $360 million F1 theme park. I’m not too concerned however, as the Emirates, particularly Dubai, have demonstrated time and again that they only pay lip service to “Gulf Cohesion” and go off on their own merry way and to hell with the rest. But it’s true what The Joker said, Dubai is in denial. Big time.

Consider these examples: we had the first dry dock, they went and built one, we had the first aluminium smelter, they went a built one, we have the banking and insurance industries and they are trying very hard to grab that market too, so it is no surprise to find them once again trying to grab the F1 circus as well? Of course not.

But it’s good. From a business point of view, NOTHING gets your juices flowing and force you to excel other than competition, and competition here is heavy so we have to do much better than we have done so far in cementing the progress we have done for motorsports and we should take other industries we already have which has competed not only with Dubai but the rest of the world and has come out supreme. We shouldn’t even consider Dubai as a role model as far as I’m concerned. Our competition is far bigger and better countries in the world. For instance, did they better ALBA? Or our banking and insurance industries? Not a snowball’s chance in hell. Because we have done those right and have established the correct infrastructure and the appropriate rules and regulations to ensure they have the creative and competitive environments they need to not only survive but prosper.

Going back to motorsports, the GP2 was a major event, yet not many people attended it. The F1 was a struggle with the hundreds of free tickets given away. The only thing that is wildly successful at the track so far seems to be the drag racing! We love that! The first one I attended was absolutely packed, there wasn’t a place to stand on the grandstand and the atmosphere was electric. Had it not been for Silly Bahraini Girl I wouldn’t have gotten in (thanks SBG, you WILL be missed! :()

So we need to translate that passion into action, we need to get more people to attend and be interested in motorsports, and the best way of doing that in the absense of a long motorsporting culture like that available in the UK or Europe for instance, is to build a grassroots movement and that could only be done with proper marketing and PR. That is sorely lacking at the circuit now and should immediately be improved. And no, PR is not just a few press releases now and then, it should include activities, school visits, sponsorships and a lot of passion to enthuse not only Bahrainis about this sport, but even more importantly to bring the internationals to start their motorsports related industries here. We already have RUF committed to start their factory close to the circuit which is excellent news but we need more, much more to infuse this new passion deep within the Bahraini culture.

Part of that effort also must be to give TV stations access to the events at the BIC whenever possible, or at least negotiate to ease their access in order to popularise the circuit not only in Bahrain, but world-wide, and the BIC itself should have a dedicated television and radio channels to broadcast these activities specifically, and motorsports events in general. If these stations could just reach the immediate Bahrain Surrounding Region then it would have paid for itself many times over.

We should have many more open days at good rates to get people to go and race, even between themselves, say a bunch of employees in a company ponying it up and renting a day to drive. The current rate if I’m not mistaken is between BD 4,000 – 6,000 a day. Sounds a lot, but if you got 50 people, that’s just BD 80 per person. Not too bad and quite affordable for quite a number of people.

I was extremely chuffed in the many drag racing events I have attended to see some normal Bahrainis with that universal platform, the Nissan 140J souped up and doing well in their categories! That proves that we have a nucleus of a motorsports industry going on. These are just kids who probably have graduated from vocational training in mechanics and now have small garages where they can fuel their passion. Just imagine if these people were sponsored by the various businesses what they could do at the track, and how high they would fly the red and white.

And that brings me to our people. The Bahrainis. In numbers we outweigh the Emiratis at least 4:1, that means that no matter what they do, we can beat them if the field is level. But it’s not and they do have the advantage of money. Whether we like it or not, if we just compete with them on projects that require just money to succeed, they will win, but put people in the equation and we can beat the bejeezus out of them. The proof of the pudding as far as this industry is concerned are non other than Salman bin Rashid who has done us extremely proud by winning the Formula BMW Asia crown, and Hamad Al-Fardan who is another fantastic person whose father than supported him tremendously throughout his career. He spent virtually everything he can and then some in making Hamad what he is and they both deserve our support. Major corporate support should be immediately sought for Hamad to help him and Salman to go to the next level, Formula One. They are not that much younger than current world champion Fernando Alonso so why not give them the opportunity they deserve?

And I wouldn’t really mind if a Dubai-based company comes and sponsor these champions, because currently no other Arab country comes close to producing men like these. Bahrain might be the smallest country in the Middle East, it is one of the largest though when it comes to producing talented and passionate people to take on the whole world.

Rock on Bahrain! But for God’s sake don’t lose the initiative with the BIC, think of better ways to get things done there immediately and get those things done. Remember the sharks are always circling looking for a weak point to attack.

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Comments (9)

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  1. bedoon_esam says:

    Copycats

    Couldn’t have put it better myself,you have explained so much stuff lucidly, particularly relating to promoting BIC, I recently had a chat with one of the corporate banker honcho’s who is part of the management at BIC and was trying to put across more or less the same train of thought on promoting BIC for the larger benefit of Bahrain.

    The success of Bahraini Motorsports Drivers is truly amazing and stuff that dreams are made of.

  2. mahmood says:

    Re(1): Copycats

    A fair comment.

    Remember F1 is not only about racing it’s about corporate advertising and generating revenue/brand awareness, can you honestly say Bahrain can capture that audience. They know they can’t in Bahrain but sadly in Dubai they can. If the F2 race is anything to go by, no one is interested… I remember the first F1 in Bahrain and loads of events where planned over that weekend, this year we hardly had any…and the cost of the tickets again way to high….

    But the advertising market, although substantial for Bahrain’s size, is not the issue, almost all activities are done here with a firm eye on Saudi, be that business or entertainment. Without Saudi’s support almost no business would be viable in Bahrain. But if you keep in consideration that Bahrain is one of the gateways to the largest and most affluent market in the Gulf if not the Middle East, then it’s a different ball game.

    With that in mind, marketing the circuit should even not be limited to just Bahrain and its surrounding region, it should be pitched to the teams themselves for testing if not for being based here. If you’re like me you would believe that there is no smoke without a fire, therefore, there must be at least a hint of a chance that the BIC is negotiating with teams to use the facilities for testing. Another thing is manufacturer testing for the Gulf environment and various other buisiness-to-business activities. When that starts, the circuit will virtually pay for itself, and then all other activities would be icing on the cake, and that’s when the circuit can reduce its prices and work out an aggressive marketing campaign for actual activities at the circuit involving cars and motorcycles within Bahrain and the Gulf.

    As far as I know there are not one, but THREE permanent fixtures at the circuit: BMW school and performance centre, Formula Ford (ThunderArabia) and of course the Caterham Gulf 7s, these are not maximised yet and need a real helping hand from both the BIC and businesses to get them rolling. Bapco is sponsoring the Caterhams, but that’s not enough, that was a one time investment which extended into finding and sponsoring 3 drivers. Gulf Air, Alba, BAS, Banks and other businesses in Bahrain should also pitch in to make this effort a success, and not just for the Caterhams, but for the BMW centre and ThunderArabia. This is critical as it will provide the needed push to establish a momentum.

    Why are Bahrainis not enthused with motorsports? That’s not the correct question, Bahrainis love motorsport as evidenced by the attendance to the drag events. But why can’t they be bothered with the GP2 and other activities at the circuit? I have no idea, is it timing, ticket pricing, other activities which might clash with the weekend the race is on, the wrong “weekend” the activities are on (Thu/Fri rather than Fri/Sat?) so that a unified weekend will most definitely contribute to the circuit’s success? Too many questions which I’m not in a position to answer, I’m not intimate with the direction of the circuit nor its business plans. But from what I read and see, they are trying hard to achieve something. My worry, like yours, is that when are they going to drop the “working hard” and adopt the “working smart”?

    The most important phase of the circuit’s development was it’s conception and then its first year of existence. Now that that has been done and we’re approaching the third F1 race soon, they need to set in place a good business plan for its survival and longevity in the face of various competitive situations all around us, and then communicate those plans internally so everyone knows exactly what their role and contribution is, as well as externally for Bahrain at large so that Bahrainis can claim “ownership” of its continued success.

    I hear you though, if they continue as they are currently, I fear that Dubai might take it away, or even Doha with it’s fantastic circuit too!

  3. anonymous says:

    Re: Copycats

    Let’s try and put your comment “The proof of the pudding as far as this industry is concerned are non other than Salman bin Rashid who has done us extremely proud by winning the Formula BMW Asia crown, Major corporate support should be immediately sought for Hamad to help him and Salman to go to the next level, Formula One. ” into persepective.

    The BMW Asia competition is a small one at that and only held in a few countries, if Salman bin Rashid has any hopes of ever getting a place in F1 he should be racing F3 or F2 all the drivers you now see in F1 have raced in these competitions. This other competitive races also is a way to get a test drive or become a test driver for F1, that in return could, and I mean could get you a drive. I’d love to see another nationality enter into F1 but Salman bin Rashid would need to either enter and compete in the above competitons of move to the UK, Germany or Italy to acheive this; as he would need to be near any of the teams.

    All of the F1 teams are based in the UK, even Ferrai is based in the UK with the engines produced in Italy and then tested at Monza. Do you think any of the current teams or new ones would move all the personal of find the people to move to start up operations in Bahrain. I think you already know the answer to that. The problem with starting up any motorsport industry is the facilities, Bahrain has a track, but that’s not enough for a new team to get all that is required for an F1 team to operate from there.

    I have been to both the Bahrain Grand Prix’s and must say it’s the best organised I have ever been to, even if they can barely fill the stands. Having been the Barecleona track this season too, you have to park a mile away then walk, there isn’t any parking unless you have the privilage at the track!

    Remember F1 is not only about racing it’s about corporate advertising and generating revenue/brand awarness, can you honestly say Bahrain can capture that audience. They know they can’t in Bahrain but sadly in Dubai they can. If the F2 race is anything to go by, no one is interested… I remember the first F1 in Bahrain and loads of events where planned over that weekend, this year we hardly had any…and the cost of the tickets again way to high….

    Anyway enough of the rant, please tell Salman bin Rashid that he needs to get into F3 or F2, so we can keep the dream alive for Bahrain!!!

    Yours “A commentor suggested that I was a bit harsh”

  4. anonymous says:

    Copycats

    What about A1 what is that all about??? Any chances of it coming to Bahrain??? And why do I have the feeling that American Football stands a better chance of getting a bigger following in Bahrain than Motorsports, if they ever planned on marketing it… lol

    I sadly believe and I know many would not like to hear this but F1 will not catch-up to Bahrainies liking anytime soon… I wonder of all the people who had attended last year’s grand-prix, how many of them actually paid for their tickets???

  5. anonymous says:

    Copycats

    Well, having someone racing is better than none. Besides, the fastest driver in formula BMW can stand a chance in F2 or F3 can’t he? So its not really an abyss. As for the industries, with globalization, the motor industry for a while moved around to egypt, india, the us, south america, and anywhere with cheap labor and flexible laws. The support services in Bahrain are not up to par to support an industry, but Saudi Arabia sure as hell can. In a perfect world, we would have side-agreements and free trade zones. The race after the one in Bahrain, Inzo in italy I think, Kimi Raikonnin must’ve repeated “Bahrain” like more than 6 times in his interview.. he was talking about how unlucky he was back in “Bahrain” and how he’ll try to make up the points he dropped in “Bahrain.” Thats name recognition in the industry for you.

    The Joker

  6. anonymous says:

    Copycats

    Actually I’ve had an idea, why don’t they on certain days let anyone race around the circuit in their car like they do in Germany. The track they use in Germany is an old racing circuit and you just turn up pay a norminal fee and a waiver for your insurance.

    Can you imagine all the rich people from the gulf, espicially from Saudia Arabia driving around in their cars! Fantastic, I’d even pay to see the idiots crash, as we all know the standard of driving!!

    We could call it “[b]Drive Bahrain[/b]” tacky and creative I know!!!

    fz

  7. anonymous says:

    Copycats

    Cut the crap everyone!

    As long as the our fifty-years-long Prime Minister and his gang run the Country, all businesses, let that be an F1 or toys store, will find their ways everywhere but Bahrain. The Country is run as a family enterprise and the 50% share is not a secret.

  8. anonymous says:

    Copycats

    Mahmood – Just whats with u and UAE?? do u have to hate UAE and everything it has?? Just let us know

  9. mahmood says:

    Re: Copycats

    If that’s the impression that I have given, then I am really sorry. I do not “hate” the UAE or any Emirate within it. Quite the contrary in fact. What irks me is their attitude: a petulant and arrogant teenager who knows it all and has been born with a platinum spoon in its mouth and an unlimited credit line.

    Yes I am jealous of their success, particularly of Dubai, but that doesn’t make me hate it nor of course its people.

    I love my time in Dubai which always leaves me a bit poorer. But did anyone force me to go there? No. Did anyone force me to buy stuff there? No. Did anyone force me to do business there? No.

    They also are – without a shadow of a doubt – so far ahead of Bahrain that even attempting to catch them is futile. They have carved an admirable niche for themselves all by themselves. So good luck to them, what WE have to do is emulate them to try to carve our own particular niche, and we don’t have much time to do that in…

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