Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Weekend of Champions; le Mans 24 Hours and Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Weekend of Champions; le Mans 24 Hours and Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Article excerpt

Iain Curry

NOT up to much this weekend? Good. Settle down for what should be a superb mixed bag of motor sport entertainment.

A date clash between the 84th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the first Formula 1 race held in Azerbaijan has met with some criticism, but for we wintered Aussies it simply gives us fair excuse to rug up and enjoy the action on television or live stream.

So a quick geography lesson for you. Our own Dan Ricciardo and the rest of the F1 circus are off to the former Soviet republic for what's being called the European Grand Prix.

Loose term as Azerbaijan and its capital city Baku - where the street circuit Grand Prix will be held - are at the crossroads between Asia and Europe. Check your map and you'll see the country borders Iran.

World's fastest street circuit

So why here then? Quite simply, oil money. Baku is one of the world's wealthiest cities thanks to its valuable black gold reserves, and Bernie Ecclestone and his money men have few qualms about heading where the dollars are, even places with a history of questionable human rights.

Despite such negatives the Baku track itself should make for a fascinating F1 race. It will be the fastest street circuit in the world, and the second longest circuit on the F1 calendar (behind Spa in Belgium) at six kilometres in length.

The track features a 2.2km straight which should make overtaking easier than, say, Monaco, and it winds its way through the very tight old part of Baku town, past a castle and some stunning architecture.

It will make for compelling viewing, not least with Australia's Ricciardo and his Red Bull proving quickest around the previous street circuit at Monte Carlo, taking pole position and only missing victory due to a poor pit stop.

While places like Azerbaijan are on the 2016 F1 calendar, countries with proper Grand Prix heritage are shamefully overlooked. France - the birthplace of Grands Prix - hasn't held an F1 race since 2008, but our garlic-munching friends arguably have something far better: Le Mans. …

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