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Heavyweight execs seek $100m to put World Cup of Motorsport on starting grid

Heavyweight execs seek $100m to put World Cup of Motorsport on starting grid

Sir Keith Mills, the architect of London's 2012 Olympics bid, is part of a group plotting the revival of A1GP after a 15-year absence.
Executives including a former director of world motorsport's governing body and the Nectar loyalty scheme founder Sir Keith Mills are in talks to raise $100m (£80m) to finance the rebirth of A1GP, the motor racing series contested by national teams from around the globe.

Sky News has learnt that heavyweight names from the sporting and business arenas are pitching to investors to secure the financing in order to relaunch the series - which was last staged in 2008-09 - by the end of next year.

If the fundraising is successful, 20 teams representing countries from around the world would compete for the World Cup of Motorsport, with every driver competing in a single specification of car.

The open-cockpit vehicles would have a top speed of approximately 350kph, potentially making A1GP the second-fastest motor racing series in the world, behind F1.

In a nod to growing concerns about the environmental impact of elite motorsport, the cars would be designed to run on sustainable fuel.

Sources said a number of deep-pocketed investment funds and individuals had already expressed interest in financing the project.

The project is being spearheaded by a team including Marcin Budkowski, a former team principal at the Alpine F1 team and previously a director of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA).

Its commercial operations will be led by an as-yet unnamed executive, according to one insider.

The plot is being put together in collaboration with Origin Sports Group, a sports investment firm which has played a key role in globally renowned events including the America's Cup World Series and the Invictus Games.

Origin's founder, Sir Keith, who led London's successful bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games and is now a director of Allwyn, the next operator of the National Lottery, is acting as a senior adviser to the venture.

David White, a former global president of the French media giant Lagardere, is also involved in the project, while Mike Gascoyne, the F1 technical veteran, has been enlisted as an adviser.

Prospective investors who have been approached about backing A1GP said it was envisaged that the series could feature teams from countries including Britain, China, Italy, Saudi Arabia and the USA.

Talks with car and engine manufacturers are underway, according to insiders, with a working prototype already built.

A1GP would not seek to compete directly with F1, they added, but would instead stage a number of its races during the F1 off-season.

"There is strong appetite for nation vs nation competition in sport, and motorsport is no exception," said one industry executive.

The revamped series would take place across 12 races, spread across Europe, North America, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia-Pacific.

A1GP's season would run from December to July, with the organisers expected to place a strong emphasis on fan accessibility through low-cost general admission pricing.

Its schedule would be designed to minimise air freight costs for both financial and environmental reasons, one potential investor said.

Each national team would feature one experienced racing driver, and one younger competitor who would be selected through an annual talent competition that could itself be televised.

One source said the prospective revival of A1GP represented a bet that growing international TV audiences could be sustained.

The Netflix fly-on-the-wall documentary series Drive To Survive has been credited with opening up F1 to demographic groups which had previously shown little interest in the sport.

F1 is broadcast in markets including the UK, Italy and Germany by Sky Sports, which shares a parent company with Sky News.

In its original incarnation, A1GP's final race took place in May 2009, with the global financial crisis putting paid to hopes of raising sufficient funding to keep it going.

The executives behind the new version are said to have devised a financial model which would see the World Cup of Motorsport's teams centrally owned and managed, with the potential to raise funds from the sale of individual franchises at a later date.

None of those involved in A1GP could be reached for comment this weekend.

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