Renewed Formula 1 interest in Kenya peaks ahead of Chinese Grand Prix

2019-04-04 02:22:23 GMT2019-04-04 10:22:23(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

NAIROBI, April 3 (Xinhua) -- Ahead of the April 14 Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, the appetite for Formula 1 has grown in Kenya with the country's capital acting as the cradle of local supporters of the most prestigious motor sport competition in the world.

Held at the Shanghai International Circuit, Jiading, the third round of the 2019 Formula 1 season has remained a key event for lovers of the sport worldwide but as far as the East African nation is concerned, the entry of a team sponsored by betting firm SportPesa to the fray has reignited the passion among Kenyan supporters.

Last Sunday during the Bahrain Grand Prix in Manama, a joint partnership between technology and entertainment business SportPesa and video entertainment provider MultiChoice Kenya through their DStv brand is done at a country with a huge number of petrol heads.

Following the success of the first live public screening of a Formula 1 Grand Prix at a Nairobi restaurant last Sunday, organizers of the event are expected a bigger crowd for the climax of the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday.

"We find and develop the right mix of content for our sporting fans. This time we are activating F1 since we realize there is a thriving local audience in search of the motor sport thrill and we thank SportPesa for the fruitful partnership," Simon Kariithi, the GOtv Kenya General Manager Simon Kariithi from DStv noted.

Renewed passion for Formula 1 in Kenya peaked in February. When it was announced the Indian-owned, Canada-based Force India team would compete this season under the SportPesa Racing Point Formula 1 team banner.

Betting company SportPesa was established in Kenya five years ago before expanding to include a global sporting partnership portfolio that includes football teams in England, Tanzania, South Africa, Italy and its country of origin, boxing and now Formula 1.

"Our fans and journalists need to understand other sports. SportPesa should have launched this event a long time ago to introduce Kenyans to sports they have never watched," Mike Okinyi, a senior sports editor and anchor at leading local station Citizen TV said having attended the screening event.

"Of course, Kenyans are aware of motor sports and such events will go a long way in bringing fans to the sport," five-time Kenya National Rally Championship (KNRC) Formula 2 champion, Leo Varese added.

Apart from notables involved in local sport, entertainment figures joined Formula 1 fans to witness the spectacle unfold where action beamed from large television screens was supplemented by music and trivia questions where those who answered were rewarded with merchandise from the companies involved.

After going through a cocktail of high and low emotions, Mercedes super fan and famous local dance hall artiste, Kevin 'Love Child' Wyre, hailed the initiative.

"I was a bit stressed but they came through in the end. It was exciting watching Formula 1 with the crowd not in the digz (home) alone.

"This should happen more often most people don't know about F1 and it could be a thing with the right crowd. It was amazing and historic to see the SportPesa brand up there," the 'Nakupenda Pia' and 'Kingston Girl' hit maker remarked.

Apart from those thrilled by speed, the event also attracted leaders from other sporting disciplines among them Jack Oguda, the CEO of the Kenyan Premier League - the body that manages the local football top flight competition - and former Kenya Rugby Union vice-chairman, Sasha Mutai.

"Having witnessed what happened in our opening activation, we are in the process of planning an even bigger event for the Chinese Grand Prix where we will target more fans of Formula 1 and sports.

"Shanghai stands out in the Formula 1 calender since when the circuit was completed in 2004, it was the most expensive in the world at a cost USD240m," Patricia Munyororo, the Chief Operating Officer at SportPesa under pined.

The sizzling Bahrain action that saw Formula 1 champion, Lewis Hamilton - much to the delight of his and Mercedes AMG Petronas fans - lead teammate Valteri Bottas to the 1-2 at the expense of Ferrari youngster, Charles Leclerc created a cracking atmosphere and great spectacle.

Away from the big boys, the crowd wildly cheered whenever they caught sight of the pink and blue SportPesa Racing Point Formula 1 Team cars in celebrating the fact a business with roots in Kenya could plant its name on the mast of the most prestigious motor racing competition in the world.

They will be hoping the team that scored a point in Bahrain when Mexican Lucas Perez finished 10th after working his way up from the bottom of the grid can perform better in Shanghai. Canadian-Belgian, Lance Stroll is the other driver in the SportPesa roster.

"I can't wait for Shanghai. It remains one of the most prestigious legs in the circuit and I'm hoping in future, this partnership that has brought Formula 1 alive in this country can also offer devoted fans a chance to travel to China and watch the action live. It would be a dream come true," Mike Kiruburi, a Formula 1 diehard said.