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Surtees links up with A1 series

October 01, 2004 12:51 IST

John Surtees, the only man to win world championships on two wheels and four, is linking up with a new winter series billed as the "World Cup of Motorsport".

The 1964 Formula One world champion, who also won seven motorcycling titles between 1956 and 1960, will oversee a British team in the Dubai-based A1 Grand Prix championship, due to start in September 2005.

Surtees, who once ran his own team in Formula One, said at the London launch of the team on Thursday that he saw the winter series as complementary to Bernie Ecclestone's championship, which runs from March to October.

A1 is the brainchild of Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum al-Maktoum, a member of Dubai's ruling family, and will involve teams from 25 countries using identical single-seater Lola cars run on a franchise basis.

Organisers will supply the cars and engines and handle transportation. Each national team must have drivers and sponsors from that country.

The first six franchises were announced in London, with teams from Britain, South Africa, China, Portugal, Pakistan and Lebanon.

"It will be country versus country, the World Cup of motorsport," declared Maktoum. "We have China, India and Pakistan. If you put those three together, you have a quarter of the world's population.

"These people have never been able to identify with motorsport before and this is going to give them their car."

Organisers said there would be $1 million in prize money per race, with the calendar likely to involve Asia, the Americas, Europe, South Africa and Australia.

South Africa's team will be led by prominent businessman Tokyo Sexwale, who served 15 years as a prisoner on Robben Island with former president Nelson Mandela.

Sexwale said the South African car would carry Mandela's prison number as well as 2010 -- a reference to the soccer World Cup to be hosted by the country.

Alan Baldwin
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