By Cheranka Mendis
Sri Lanka got its fair share of Formula 1 racing yesterday as duty free operator Autogrill Lanka Ltd unveiled the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 racing car used by former World Champions Lewis Hamilton and Jensen Button at the Bandaranaike International Airport.
|F1 car first, next Grand Prix?
Airport and Aviation Services Chairman Prassanna Wickremasuriya and Autogrill Lanka CEO Dimantha Kinigama unveil the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 Racing Car at the BIA Duty Free area
– Pic by Daminda Harsha Perera
The sleek red and grey car is being exhibited at the Duty Free area of the BIA and will be on display for two months. Being the first time an F1 car is being displayed outside a F1 hosting nation, it is also the first time Sri Lanka is hosting a F1 vehicle.
Autogrill Lanka CEO Dimantha Kinigama told the Daily FT that the car is usually displayed in countries such as London and Spain. “Autogrill, being the world’s largest travel retail organisation, managed to bring the car down to Sri Lanka with Diageo Worldwide, which will use the exhibition as part of a promotion to endorse F1 in Asia,” Kinigama said.
With this promotion, travellers spending US$ 60 on selected items will be eligible for a draw from which three winners will be picked to experience the Malaysian F1 Grand Prix in March next year. The winners will get free air tickets, accommodation facilities and a Silver Pass to watch the Grand Prix from a Grandstand seat.
Others spending US$ 60 will be entered into daily, monthly and mega grand prize draws. Six daily scratch card winners will stand the chance to walk away with premium branded T-shirts and other gifts.
“A team from F1 came to Sri Lanka three months ago to check out the layout of the airport, etc. They were highly impressed with the airport and the world class service we provide at Autogrill. Such opportunities to exhibit F1 cars are seldom given and rarely so for countries that have never hosted the F1 series. This marks a first time for F1,” Kinigama said.
The car has been brought to Sri Lanka after the Delhi F1 races, he acknowledged. After two months of display, it will then be air freighted to Australia in time for the next season. The investment to bring down and maintain the car is being borne by the suppliers (Diageo) and McLarens, he said.
“This is part of Diageo’s plans to promote F1 in Asia in countries other than Malaysia, Singapore and Australia. We hope that this would be a stepping stone to actually host the race in Sri Lanka soon.”
The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 racing car on display at the BIA is said to be the second fastest car in the F1 grid, valued at Euro 2 million. It boasts a speed of 400km per hour and is able to overtake a Kfir jet on a runway.
“Many people believe Formula One is the best competition in motor sport. It has attracted a fan base of more than a billion worldwide and the number is growing rapidly. Out of 19 F1 Grand Prix venues of the 2011 season, seven were in Asia and this is testament not only to the growing economic importance of the region, but also the passion Asians share for the fastest circuit racing cars in the world,” Kinigama added.