'We'll be back,' say fans

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

Spectators heaped praise on China's first Formula 1 race at the end of the event, with promises to return next year.

Although some fans pointed out 'growing pains' with the inaugural race, like difficulties with transport and lack of food concessions, the excitement of the event swept everyone up in a wave of good cheer.

For mainland spectators, the race represented China's new presence on the world sporting stage. 'This shows China is taking part in the world economy. We are growing closer to the international mainstream. As a Chinese, I am very proud,' Yang Guixi said. 'The event will only improve with time and experience.'

New Zealander Bruce Whittaker, who happened to be in the nearby city of Hangzhou on business, came to the event on a whim but left happy. 'I'll definitely come next year and I'll buy a better seat,' he said, adding he would bring his wife and children next time.

For the Shanghai International Circuit, the challenge will be to continue attracting fans and sponsors next year.

One way to grow the audience would be the introduction of a Chinese driver, but officials say that could take years.

Nie Shenlei, a university student, said: 'I think it will be more popular among Chinese once we have a Chinese driver.'

Many of his classmates wanted to watch the race, but they couldn't afford the ticket price. To save money, Nie brought his own food to the track to avoid the long lines and high prices.

Ticket prices of up to 3,700 yuan were more tolerable for foreign fans, though the time and cost of flying to Shanghai to watch the race involved advance planning for details like visas and reservations.

For some, it was worth the trip. German national Torsten Haasch praised the design of the US$300 million circuit, which thousands of workers built on a piece of swampland in less than two years. 'This is a great circuit with a great design. It's one of the best,' he said.

Fans and drivers alike praised German architect Hermann Tilke's design, which combines futuristic elements with Chinese tradition since the track is shaped like the character 'shang', which means 'to rise'.

Hong Kong resident Yen Wong also sounded a note of patriotism. 'I plan to go the Beijing Olympics in 2008 as well,' he said.