China hopes new circuit can speed up search for F1 driver

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

China has a development programme in place that could produce a Formula 1 driver within five years, the head of mainland motorsports said yesterday.

And the newly christened Shanghai International Circuit will play an important role in grooming the potential F1 stars, Shi Tianshu said.

'We are trying to train a Chinese citizen to be a Formula 1 driver,' he said. 'We already a have 10-year development programme in place and we are training drivers in the hope one or more can make it into the Formula 1 world. Maybe within five years we will have a candidate.'

Shi said there were a lot of youngsters training very hard but there were many hurdles to overcome, including experience, exposure, fitness, and sponsorship to name a few. 'We have many youngsters who like motorsports. For F1, you have to choose the right person. In co-operation with many motorsport clubs we will find the youngsters with potential. We will also organise special events for beginners.'

Shi said a new drivers' school would be opened at the Shanghai circuit to complement a school already operating in Beijing.

'There will be a driver's training school and a motorsports museum. We will also have a motorsports education school and a safety driving school.

'Like every sport you must a have a star from your own country. Once you have a famous sportsman it has more influence among the people.' Shi allayed fears the 2.64 billion yuan facility would sit idle for most of the year. 'The Shanghai International Circuit is the best in the world. Befitting such a complex, we will have many kinds of important activities.'

He mentioned all the formula racing on the Asian circuits, the Australian V-8 Super Car Series, possibly the Japanese GT and a motorcycling Grand Prix.

'We also have our National Touring Car Championship. This year we will have six rounds and two will be at this circuit.'

Being in the heart of the 'International Automobile City', the circuit was perfectly placed to host all manner of motorsport promotions and activities by the big car companies.

'I think this circuit is going to be very busy,' Shi said. 'There may be activities all-year round.

'The Shanghai Sports Bureau and Shanghai Motorcycle Sports Association will also be organising events,' said Shi, who believes the circuit will enhance tourism.