UPDATE 1-Motor racing-F1 sponsors show limited appetite for Bahrain GP

Fri Apr 12, 2013 10:07am EDT
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* Abu Dhabi overtakes Bahrain as destination for F1 sponsors

* Bahrain is big payday for the sport

* Local organisers say ticket sales up on last year

By Keith Weir

LONDON, April 12 (Reuters) - Companies who help to bankroll Formula One motor racing are limiting their involvement in the Bahrain Grand Prix this month, saving some of their marketing dollars for less politically sensitive races.

The grand prix was cancelled in 2011 following a bloody crackdown on a pro-democracy uprising, but sponsors were left squirming last year when the sport's rulers ignored calls by campaigners in Bahrain and abroad for teams not to race, while police and youths staged nightly clashes with teargas and petrol bombs.

The race on April 21 will again draw attention to the human rights situation in the Gulf island kingdom. Taking a pragmatic approach, many sponsors will make the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November the focus for their Formula One promotional activities in the Middle East this year.

"Abu Dhabi has taken a lot away from Bahrain. Notwithstanding the trouble in Bahrain, the Abu Dhabi race is more interesting for sponsors," said Jim Wright, a sponsorship consultant who worked in the sport for 18 years.

Bahrain was the first Middle East country to host a grand prix in 2004, but Abu Dhabi joined the calendar in 2009 with the Yas Marina circuit, lavish even by Formula One standards.   Continued...