Zhuhai back in race to host GP

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 January, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 January, 1999, 12:00am

CHINA is back in the running to host a leg of the 1999 Formula One Championship after Argentina pulled out of the provisional calendar yesterday.

The Argentine Grand Prix, provisionally scheduled for March 28, will not be held this year, the Argentine Ministry of Sport said in a statement released in Buenos Aires.

The race organisers failed to reach agreement with Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone on financial matters, opening the possibility that a replacement race could be scheduled in China, which is on standby.

Argentina pipped China to the vote in December last year, with Buenos Aires getting the nod ahead of Zhuhai. But with the South American city's bid being labelled as 'not financially viable', Zhuhai has come back into strong contention.

However, Zhuhai International Circuit director Joe Lim stressed that a March date would be out of the question for China.

'We are not ready. We still have a lot of work to do on our facilities, from pit garages to control tower and a press centre. We have put in the basic facilities but a lot of additional work has to be done.

'March is out of the question,' said Lim yesterday. 'We are waiting to hear from the FIA . . . but I would think that a late 1999 date would be more appropriate for Zhuhai.' A November date in the 1999 provisional calendar is apparently still open.

The 1999 Formula One season begins with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 7.

Alvin Sallay