China will venture into new territory later this year after becoming the latest country to join the A1 Grand Prix Championship, which will be launched in September with the first round of the series scheduled for the famous Brands Hatch circuit in England. Dubbed the 'world cup of motorsport' the new championship is the brainchild of Dubai's Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum Al Maktoum, who announced more than a year ago his plans to form a brand new series. The A1 championship will have drivers racing each other for the pride of their country. Teams will be competing on a level playing field as they will be racing in identical cars fitted with the same engine, chassis and tyres. The series has already received its blessing from motorsport's governing body, the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), and will take place during Europe's winter after the completion of the Formula One season, starting in September 2005 and ending in March 2006. The championship's full calendar has yet to be released, but it is understood that China will host a round of the series next March and that Beijing's new purpose-built circuit could be the venue for the season-ending race. China is one of 23 countries which have bought a franchise for the championship, which uses identical Lola cars fitted with a 520 bhp bespoke, 3.4-litre 90-degree V8 engine. So far the series has attracted pedigree racing names, with 1980 F1 world champion Alan Jones and Formula 3 team boss Alan Docking for Australia, Regent Mercantile Bancorp chairman J. Jay Laski (Canada) and former F1 and USA ChampCar Series driver Alex Yoong (Malaysia) all expressing an interest in competing. The championship could one day rival Formula One since a large proportion of the world's population will be represented on the grid. China has announced a two-man team after holding a series of selection trials at the Zhuhai International Circuit last week. From a crop of talented drivers aged between 18 and 24, Shanghai-based youngsters Ma Qinghua and Jiang Tengyi were selected as the best drivers to represent their country in the championship. The pair will be sent to South Africa next month for training. 'The A1 Championship is a very good series for China and we hope these youngsters will perform well and learn more when they go to South Africa for high level training. They are our future,' said Shi Tianshu, president of China Autosports Federation. After their South African training stint, either Ma or Jiang will become the number one driver for China, with the other driver a reserve for the A1 Grand Prix. Ma was excited to be part of an exciting new series, which will include stopovers in Britain, South Africa, Pakistan, Portugal, Lebanon, Canada, Malaysia, Australia, Mexico, South Korea, Turkey, Holland, India, Brazil, New Zealand, Bahrain and Qatar. 'Chinese drivers don't have many opportunities to take part at the top level of motor racing so I feel I have been blessed and I will certainly do my best,' said 19-year-old Ma, who posted a best lap time of one minute, 36.873 seconds in the trial. The 20-year-old Jiang finished second in the trial, only 0.115 seconds off the pace. The China A1 Team were launched last month at the 800-year-old Diaoyutai State Guest House in Beijing. The Chinese team will come under the mainland's General Administration of Sport, the Federation of Automobile Sports of China (FASC), which will be responsible for selection and training of drivers.