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Go back a few years and the prospect of political unrest in a host country was seldom a factor in determining where to hold a motor race. But that age of innocence appears to be behind us.
We got our first taste of things to come when the world-famous Dakar rally was forced to cancel in 2008 and later relocate from North Africa to South America due to threats from al-Qaeda. But what we hoped would have been an isolated occurrence is re-emerging as a serious consideration for racing series the world over.

The start of the 2011 Formula One season was due to get underway in Bahrain on March 13, but protests in the gulf state forced its cancellation and the delay of the season's start, which only took place this past weekend in Australia. (The GP2 Asia series was also forced to cancel its Bahrain races in February and March.) The question is, will the cancellations in Bahrain emerge as an exception, or the new rule? Follow the jump to read on....

[Image: Adam Jan/AFP]
Bahrain's isn't the only F1 Grand Prix held in the Middle East, where citizens have been taking to the streets in revolution against their rulers. The other race in the region, however, is in Abu Dhabi, which has been largely exempt from the political upheaval. Protests there have been limited to petitions and letter-writing campaigns – which didn't prove to be an obstacle for the FIA GT1 World Championship that held its season-opener there without incident just this past weekend.

Most of the other major international racing series – including IndyCars, DTM, the Le Mans Series and the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup – don't have Middle Eastern or North African races on their calendars. The World Touring Car Championship raced in Morocco the past two years, where some protests have been taking place, however, the race was dropped earlier this month by the FIA's World Motor Sport Council when the promoter failed to secure sufficient financial backing.

Political unrest in the region is perhaps taking its largest toll – in the context of motor racing, at least – in Jordan, where a stage in the World Rally Championship is scheduled to take place in April. Protests there against the Hashemite royal family have been largely peaceful. However, to get there, teams have traditionally gone through Syria, where clashes between protesters and military forces have turned violent – even lethal. While the Jordan Rally is likely to go ahead (at least as a round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship), reports indicate that international teams may opt to sit it out – if not for security reasons, then as a measure of solidarity with the protesters.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      As a rabid F1 fan, I don't care if they cancel Formula 1 in the mid-east forever, I wish the best for the people of the region.
        • 4 Years Ago

        Don't forget Austin, even though it hasn't even been opened yet.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yes. B.E. is turning even more gray.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I second your opinion
        • 4 Years Ago
        Awesome schedule, RX, just awesome. I'd probably watch every race in a season like that.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Lol, when I read the title, the first thing that came to mind with regards to "cancellation of additional races" was race, as in, a certain race of people. I was like possible -- but wtf?
      • 4 Years Ago
      This is the first outfit I've seen suggesting the Abu Dhabi GP could be in jeopardy. If you're a student of the region you would question that assertion. Abu Dhabi is not Bahrain or Syria or Jordan.

      Also, Suzuka will almost certainly not be cancelled as the circuit is in southern Japan well away from the reactor situation at Fukushima.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'm so sick of the Middle East with their wars and their protests. It like just relax! Its funny to see movies that portray extraterrestrials, such as myself, invading the earth as one alien race..united. Yet, it is only then that humans set aside their differences, for a moment, and come together as one planet to fight. Its like college career paths in the Middle East include being a professional protester, suicide bomber, and let's not forget screaming incomprehensible things into a camera on Al Jezeera. I'm sure those jobs pay real well.

      End rant...almost. F1 needs to be completely overhauled. Too many rules.
        • 4 Years Ago
        If I were stuck living in that "desert hellhole" known as the Middle East, where all but a very small minority have any real rights, I would probably want to blow myself up too.

        I say that as an outsider, but I do agree that they need to get out of the dark ages and chill out.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The Marzal seats are no longer metallic!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Man, I sure hope millions of oppressed people fighting tyranny doesn't interfere with my chance to watch cars driving.