'It won't be like Le Mans the first year, but we'll build it up' In another first for China, the Zhuhai International Circuit will host the mainland's inaugural 24-hour race in October, hoping to one day rival the famous Le Mans, say race organisers. The 4.3km Zhuhai circuit has spluttered back to life after losing its Formula 1 status in 1999 and having to live in the shadow of Shanghai, which successfully hosted a round of the F1 championship last September. The 24-hour race is one of several activities Zhuhai is planning as it tries to live up to its billing as a modern racing facility. Zhuhai circuit manager Joe Lim was confident that a 24-hour race would be held with some of the world's best drivers taking part. Announcing Zhuhai's ambitious plans at a news conference yesterday, Lim said: 'We are looking at a 24-hour event, the first race of its kind in China. We are looking to run it on China National Day on October 1, 2005. We are still working very hard on it. There are a lot of technical things we have to resolve, but it's going ahead. 'The race won't be like Le Mans in the first year. We need a few years. But we will build it up. For the first year, it will be mostly local participants with a few international invitations. We want to get the local manufacturers and some foreign teams to come in as well. 'There's very good potential to have a 24-hour race in China,' he added. The 24-hour race is being co-organised by the Hong Kong Automobile Association (HKAA) in conjunction with FASC (Federation of Automobile Sports of the People's Republic Of China). 'The event is confirmed and is on the FIA calendar. We're still in the planning stages right up to the day of the race. We also plan to send 10 officials to attend a 24-hour race at Silverstone in late June to gather information and to see how they manage the teams,' said HKAA chief executive Andrew Windebank. The 24-hour race would also provide the perfect opportunity for Hong Kong's Charles Kwan and Briton Matthew Marsh to shine after the pair took turns steering a Ferrari 360 GTC in the China round of the FIA GT Championship in Zhuhai last November. Kwan announced his retirement from 'sprint' racing at the Macau Grand Prix last November and would dearly love the opportunity to race in another endurance race with Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia series title winner Marsh. A total of 68 starters are being planned for the 24-hour race, one of two major international events Zhuhai are planning to host this year, with the circuit confirmed to host another round of the FIA GT Championship on October 23. Last November, more than 80,000 spectators crammed the circuit to watch the weekend's racing. The FIA GT Championship has been Europe's major sportscar series since its inception in 1997 and a round in China, for the first time since 1999, was part of the circuit's return to the world stage. The high-profile race was the second FIA championship event to be held in China last year after the first Chinese Grand Prix. The race on the Zhuhai International Circuit was one of only two rounds outside Europe in 2004, but Lim said that number could double in future. Lim said he was doing everything he could to make the Zhuhai as 'active as possible' since losing its F1 status to Shanghai. 'We have shifted our focus away from F1 and concentrated on GT racing, But we have not ruled ourselves from landing an F1 race in future,' he said.