A bold and ambitious plan to bring Formula One to Tunisia has been raised by a group of investors, looking for public support to bring their dream to reality. A company known as Bitrace Investments Ltd are aiming to build a sports compound spread across 300 hectares which will consist of an Grade 1 racing circuit, racing museum, 2000 seat exhibition centre and a whole range of other sporting and recreational activities.
Bitrace Investments Ltd have estimated that the total cost of building their circuit to be USD$270 million. They plan to raise this capital with the sale of tokens, a similar concept to that of Bitcoin. Presales of these tokens start next week and more information – including the whitepaper study on the project – can be found found at https://www.bitrace-token.com/.
This isn’t the first time that a grand prix has been held in Tunisia.
The first open-wheel motor race was held on June 3, 1928, on a street circuit at Le Bardo, west of Tunis. Algerian-based driver Marcel Lehoux crossed the line first to win the 200-mile race in his Bugatti T35C by a large margin over Marcel Joly and Guy Cloitre. In November of the following year, Italian driver Gastone Brilli-Peri won in a works Alfa Romeo P2 after the early retirements of team mates Achille Varzi and Baconin Borzacchini.
After a year off, the race returned in 1931 at a new venue, a much larger triangular highway circuit laid out between the then separate cities of Tunis and Carthage. The 1931 season-opening race was much more serious in its entry with eleven European grand prix and 16 1.5-litre cars racing. Achille Varzi in a ‘back-door’ works Bugatti T51 won on the debut, ahead of Luigi Fagioli in a works Maserati 26M and Marcel Lehoux in a Bugatti. Varzi won again the following year against Lehoux and Philippe Etancelin (Alfa Romeo). 1933 saw the Alfa Romeos sweep Bugatti aside with the Scuderia Ferrari entries of Tazio Nuvolari and Baconin Borzacchini finishing one-two ahead of the Maserati of Goffredo Zehender.
The 1934 race was cancelled and when racing returned in 1935, Varzi was back with his new team, Auto Union. The only German car in the field dominated the race and Varzi’s A Type finished four minutes clear of Jean-Pierre Wimille’s Bugatti T59 and two laps ahead of Philippe Etancelin’s Maserati 6C. The increasing dominance of German cars and the reduced status of races outside of the European championship saw entries plummet for 1936 with just eleven cars starting. Varzi had an enormous accident in his Auto Union on a terrible day for the team which saw another of its C Types destroyed by fire. Rudolf Caracciola won in his Mercedes-Benz W25 ahead of Carlo Pintacuda’s Alfa Romeo 8C and Jean-Pierre Wimille (Bugatti T59).
The 1937 race became a sportscar event held over three heats which was won by Raymond Sommer in a Talbot T-150C ahead of a fleet Delahaye 135s led by René Dreyfus and Laury Schell.
The race was not held again until 1955, again as a sports car race with a small 14-car entry in a public park as the Circuito du Belvedere. The race, held over three heats, saw a pair of Ferrari 750 Monzas take home the silverware with Luigi Piotti and Luigi Bordonaro driving with the rest of the placings filled with 2.0-litre cars.
From 2000 to 2008, a historic revival event was organised in the Circuito du Belvedere parkland circuit.
Another event called the Tunisian Grand Prix was held in 1943. This very informal event was organised by allied soldiers after the fall of Tunisia. To give lie to German claims they had left nothing usable behind in Tunisia, allied personnel utilised vehicles abandoned by the Germans to stage a motor race around an airfield. Australian officer Jack Bartle won the race, driving a Citroën.