By Andy Sambidge
Bahrain International Circuit chief reports boost to advanced sales as race returns in 2012
Formula 1 ticket sales in Bahrain are 19 percent higher a month prior to the big event compared to the last time the Gulf kingdom hosted the race, a senior official said on Wednesday.
All 34 corporate boxes of the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix have also sold out for the first time in history, said Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) chief executive Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa.
The rise in sales compared favourably with the same period before the 2010 event, when over 100,000 fans flocked to the BIC for the racing weekend, Gulf Daily News reported.
The Bahrain F1 race, which was cancelled last year due to civil unrest, has become a major talking point, with one group of UK peers last month calling for a boycott of the country.
Sheikh Salman told the paper that the demand for tickets proved the event had become a major attraction for race fans across the region.
A special festival will be held in the heart of Manama in the lead up to the three-day event, from April 20-22.
"The festival will not put any financial burden on the traders and its sole purpose is to showcase Bahrain's tradition and heritage to the world," said Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman Dr Essam Fakhro in comments published by the paper.
F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone denied earlier this month that his support of this year's Bahrain Grand Prix has anything to do with money.
In comments published by the UK's Telegraph, he said the estimated $40m race fee for April’s Bahrain race had already been banked the money and would be retained even if the event was cancelled.
Egyptian-American human rights lawyer Cherif Bassiouni, who headed an independent commission of inquiry that last year found security forces had used excessive force to suppress protests and tortured detainees to extract confessions, has also endorsed the race going ahead.
He congratulated the Bahrain circuit organisers for the decision to hold the race under the slogan of 'UniF1ed - One Nation in Celebration".For all the latest sports news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.