A1 Grand Prix UK race under threat

Motor racing championship A1 Grand Prix could face a UK ban should the sport continue with plans to carry tobacco sponsorship on its racing cars.

No tobacco sponsorship will be allowed in European countries, including the UK, following an EU ban expected next summer. But A1 Grand Prix broadcast director Richard Dorfman predicted at the European Sponsorship Association Conference last week that tobacco sponsorship will not be rejected by A1.

A spokesman for A1 confirms that tobacco sponsorship “won’t be rejected” under current plans. The grand prix is rumoured to be talking to Brands Hatch as a potential UK host for the competition, which launches in September 2005, although such a move would be in doubt unless the cars drop tobacco sponsorship for the race.

Other A1 races will be staged in countries with no tobacco restrictions, including Bahrain, China, Dubai, India and Qatar. A spokeswoman for anti-smoking campaigners ASH says that she is disappointed the grand prix could use tobacco money, but admits the races are likely to be broadcast in Europe despite the ban.

The self-styled “world cup” of motorsport has been billed as a competitor to global sporting giant Formula One. The 26 individual teams in the grand prix are searching for sponsorship, with Aer Lingus and Ryanair already said to be in talks to back a team.

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