Education the next step, says Mao

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 September, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 September, 2004, 12:00am

Mao Xiaohan looked down the home straight from his seventh-floor office overlooking the circuit and smiled.

The main grandstand was empty and the pitlane almost deserted, the teams having loaded all their parts for the next stop in Japan.

China's entry in the Grand Prix world was an overwhelming success and Mao could afford to relax ... but only for a moment.

'This is only the beginning,' said Mao, the general manager of the Shanghai International Circuit Co Ltd. 'We have lots of things to do and achieve.

'Today's Grand Prix has set a new milestone for motorsport in China and has propelled its whole development. Motorsport development is in its infancy and a lot of people are not familiar with the sport.'

Mao estimated there were more than 150,000 fans at the circuit, which would mean a healthy profit. But he said the monetary benefit could not compare to the Grand Prix's 'social impact'.

'We will make a profit - that will be calculated later - but the greater value is the impact on the people,' he said.

Mao said the fans, many of them uninitiated in the Formula 1 world, had shown a great appreciation of the sport.

'The Chinese spectators are not that knowledgeable but their reaction was good. We have to encourage them more and keep the momentum going.'

China has a Grand Prix - now all it needs is a driver. A boy who was in the stands with his parents a few hours earlier, or watching from the grassy banks around the track, may well be China's answer to Michael Schumacher. Mao went home last night believing they had lit the spark.