Motor racing shifts into even higher gear on ESPN STAR Sports as Asia's number one sports broadcaster concluded a multi-year broadcast agreement for the new 'World Cup of Motor Sport', the A1 Grand Prix.

A1 Grand Prix is the FIA (Federation Internationale Del'Automobile) approved international racing series that is all set to add a new dimension to the world of motor sport. The competition will see drivers racing for the pride of their countries. In true motor racing fashion, the A1 championship promises fans a parade of first-rate cars and skilled drivers and teams - but with a twist. This Grand Prix series will see drivers racing in identical cars, bringing with them a spin to a competition where the drivers and their support teams determine the results rather than the technical quality of the cars. Positioned as the 'World Cup of Motor sport', A1 Grand Prix is also expected to create a new level of nationalistic pride and passion among sports fans, particularly as each participating A1 team must have owners, drivers and sponsors representing that country.

Asian countries will be well represented with teams from China, Malaysia, India and Pakistan. The A1 championship will take place at various locations around the world between September and March. Asia will play host three races during the A1 season with races planned in China, Indonesia and Malaysia. Points will be awarded for each race going to the teams rather than the drivers, and the winner at the end of the season will be determined by the combined performance in the two races on Sundays - the 25 minute sprint and a 60 minute race. On offer is prize money of US$1 million per race weekend for the top 10 finishers.

Adding further glitz and glamour to A1 Grand Prix is its list of franchise owners, which reads like a who's who of celebrities from the worlds of show business and sport. Among these include superstar football players Ronaldo and Figo who own the Brazilian and Portuguese franchises respectively; Alex Yoong, the former F1 driver who holds the Malaysian franchise and Bollywood heart-throb Anil Kapoor who fronts the franchise from India.

This latest acquisition puts ESPN STAR Sports firmly in the driver's seat as the network with the most comprehensive coverage of motor sports in Asia. Under the terms of the agreement, ESPN STAR Sports will deliver complete coverage of all races. Each weekend's coverage will consist of a one-hour qualifying race (Saturday), a 25-minute sprint race (Sunday) and an hour-long main race (Sunday). The A1 racing calendar will feature up to 12 races during its initial launch with more races expected as the series takes off.

Said Rik Dovey, Managing Director, ESPN STAR Sports, "The conclusion of this partnership is of vital strategic importance as we continue to deliver top-flight programming to viewers across the ESPN STAR Sports network. We are optimistic about the potential of A1 - particularly as it has unprecedented Asian involvement in terms of the teams and the race venues. This partnership underlines the strong confidence the A1 Grand Prix has in our distribution network in Asia and the value they know that we will bring to their new sport. No other sports network in Asia has the viewership of ESPN STAR Sports. This along with the Formula One makes ESPN STAR Sports must have for all fans of motor racing."

Acquiring 'fresh' sport and growing its appeal is not unfamiliar territory for ESPN STAR Sports. In recent months, the network's acquisition and packaging of the Premier Hockey League for the India Sub-Continent as well as the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup contributed to a re-birth of the sport in the region.

Added Dovey, "We have already exposed millions of viewers to a variety of sports and now aim to popularise A1 and build it as a key sports property. With our expertise in covering the world's biggest sporting events, we are confident our standards will impact positively on the growth of this new racing series."

"We are delighted to be entering into a relationship with ESPN STAR Sports, to carry throughout the sub-continent and Asia, the inaugural A1 Grand Prix Series. ESPN STAR Sports will ensure that the excitement and spectacle of nation versus nation, open wheel racing is conveyed to the broadest possible audience in the region," said Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum Al Maktoum, A1 Grand Prix's Founder, President and Chairman.

The inaugural A1 season roars into action on September 24 on STAR Sports. It is expected to deliver plenty of thrills particularly as traditional rivalries between powerhouses India and Pakistan take centrestage as they battle for supremacy on the circuit.