Singaporean is just a sponsor away from signing for F3000 team

A DEAL of a lifetime. That is what four-time Formula One world champion and team boss Alain Prost is calling it as he offers to put Singapore on the prestigious Formula One map next year.

All for just US$2 million (S$3.46 million).

He is keen on signing Singapore's 20-year-old motor racing hope Christian Murchison to drive for his F3000 team next year - but only if Murchison can bring in a sponsor from Singapore who is willing to pump in that amount.

The F3000 series is seen as the main hunting ground for potential Formula One champions like Michael Schumacher.

It is like the reserve league of the English Premier League, where the next David Beckham or Paul Scholes may be found.

In exchange for US$2 million, the sponsor's name will be put on Prost's F3000 cars as well as his Formula One cars.

In an e-mail interview arranged by Murchison's manager Rainer Buchmann, Prost told Timesport that Singapore corporations should see this as "the deal of a lifetime".

"Normally," he added, "such a yearly deal in the multi-million-dollar world of motor racing would cost a sponsor at least US$10 million and above." 

Next year, the F3000 races will be held on the same circuits as the Formula One races, and will be held the day before the usual Sunday Formula One races.

They will also be telecast live to ensure maximum exposure for sponsors.

Added Prost: "When you think of the kind of exposure you will get, getting involved for just US$2 million is a real bargain."

He also said that though he is based in France, he has been very impressed by what he reads about successful Singapore corporations such as Singapore Airlines and SingTel.

"I'm looking at well-run companies in Singapore," he said.

"I prefer to see the amount as the start of a long-term investment, where they can first come in and get to see the amount of exposure they will get.

"And then, we can work out a long-term plan."

Timesport first reported on Prost meeting Murchison at the Sepang Grand Prix in October after he had recorded impressive test times in his F3000 car.

After more tests last month, Prost was convinced of Murchison's talent.

Said Murchison: "I am that close because Prost recognises my ability. I'm really crossing my fingers and hoping a company from Singapore will respond to his interest.

"If I don't get a chance, it will be a crying shame."

Prost, too, does not want to waste any time as all F3000 drivers have to be registered in mid-January, before the season starts on March 31 at Sao Paulo, Brazil.

He said: "F3000 is just a step away from Formula One. Looking at his background and his test results for our team, I think Christian has the potential to make it in motor racing.

"But first, he has to get into F3000."

Singapore Airlines' vice-president of public affairs Rick Clements was unavailable for comment yesterday.

But SingTel's director of corporate communications Ivan Tan said: "We haven't been approached by Prost but it's nice to hear that he is impressed with us. 

"We are always open to proposals and we will be interested to hear his thoughts on sponsorship in motor racing."

That may be what Prost needs to hear.

For he told Timesport earlier: "If anyone wants to get involved and discuss with me, I can be in Singapore within 24 hours."

* Murchison's Singapore-based business manager Winston Loong can be contacted on 9664-0330 (mobile phone) or 220-2033 (office).