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Bahrain races for speed
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By staff reporters Maverick Chen and Zhou Jing

Bahrain is a country where history and modernity intermingle. From the days of the One Thousand and One Nights, Bahrain, a small island on the tip of Saudi Arabia off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, remained virtually unknown to the rest of the world until 2005, when Formula One arrived, bringing a breath of fresh air to this open, modernizing country.

BIC- Bahrain international Circuit.

BIC- Bahrain international Circuit.

Bahrain's Grand Prix is the 4th stop on the international professional car racing circuit. Bahrain is so small that the race is tagged with the country's name, as opposed to other stops, like China, Spain, or even Monaco, where the races are known by city names, Shanghai, Valencia and Monte Carlo.

The Bahrain circuit is 5.412 km long and the race, at 57 laps, is over 308.238 kilometers. The last race was on April 26, 2009, when British driver Jenson Button from Brawn-Mercedes Team claimed a legendary 3rd victory from four races.

At first glance, a Formula One Grand Prix in the desert sounds bizarre, since the impression people have of this country is of its historical and cultural heritage, portrayed in ancient folktales, as well as oil, for sure. Life here is serene and slow, and people pay more attention to religion than anything else. Formula One, which represents the cutting-edge technology and an unchained passion for speed, doesn't seem to fit in.

However, this assumption is blown away each time the annual event takes place in the desert in the south of the small island country, including the recent Grand Prix, held amid the global crisis when the international price of crude plummeted from almost US$150 per barrel to almost US$40.

Bahrain is country where everything has its own priority, and the Grand Prix is no exception. Louise Daly, corporate sales manager of Bahrain International Circuit explains to China.org.cn: "This year, we had less people travelling from Europe and North America to watch the race, but this was offset by an increased number of fans from the region." And she said that while corporate sales declined as expected, individuals from the Gulf Region rushed to buy out the remaining tickets and in the end the races was sold out.

Bahrainis' enthusiasm for cars goes far beyond Formula One. On the streets of Manama, the capital, world class deluxe cars are everywhere – Mercedes, Rolls Royce, Porsche and even Hummers. Drivers of those top vehicles range from robed Arabians to Bikini blondes, while the lowest level urban taxies are Toyota Reiz, or Mitsubishi Lancers.

Oil exports have brought riches to the country, and the small population boosts revenue per capita. Furthermore, the country has free trade agreements with USA, Japan and other countries, making possible the unrestricted inflow of top-brand automobiles.

Bahrainis believe that the free atmosphere has penetrated to the very details of their lives and incentives keep fueling their passions. "We believe the sky is the limit," Stephen J. Daniel, director of sales & marketing with Al Safir Hotel & Tower said, expressing his confidence that freedom attracts both immigrants and visitors from the Gulf and beyond, which ensures 100 percent occupancy at his hotel throughout the year.

This passion for progress also extends to Formula One as the management believes the lap record – 1:30:252 set by Michael Schumacher – will be broken very soon, maybe the next year.

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