Force India team car delayed by firebomb in Manama

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By CHRIS LEHOURITES, Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — A firebomb in Bahrain briefly delayed a Force India team vehicle returning to the hotel from the Grand Prix circuit Wednesday night. No one in the vehicle was injured.

The bomb exploded in Bahrain's capital Manama, causing traffic that held up the Force India van carrying four team members but no Formula One drivers.

"We were not the target. We just happened upon an incident that was ahead of us, a disruption in the road," Force India spokesman Will Hings told The Associated Press by telephone from Manama on Thursday. "Nobody was hurt from our team. We were not targeted directly by Molotov cocktails."

Demonstrators in Bahrain have increasingly used firebombs against security forces during the near daily clashes.

The Bahrain GP was canceled last year due to anti-government protests that left nearly 50 dead. But last week, Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone declared the Gulf kingdom safe and decided to go ahead with this year's race.

On Wednesday, security forces fired stun grenades at anti-government protesters who swarmed into a cultural exhibition for the race, setting off street battles and sending visitors fleeing for cover. The demonstration was the most direct attempt by Shiite-led protesters to use events linked to Sunday's race to further their demands for an end to the near monopoly on power by the island nation's Sunni monarchy.

Hings said the four team members were back at the track Thursday, but declined to comment on whether the team was worried about safety.

"We've always taken our direction from the FIA, the sport's governing body. I'm sure they're continuing to monitor the situation in Bahrain," Hings said. "We take our guidance from them."

Although last year's race was called off because of the unrest in the country, organizers have insisted that this year's race will be safe, and blamed extremist groups using "scare-mongering tactics" for raising doubts about the race.

But protesters argue that F1's decision to return to Bahrain gives greater international legitimacy to the monarchy and its crackdowns, which rights activists claim have included waves of arrests in the past week.

On the track, teams will be practicing Friday and Saturday before qualifying later Saturday. The race is scheduled for Sunday.

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