Swap streets for racetracks, Fasc official tells 'speed freaks'

China's notorious illegal street racers are a rich source of talent that need to be drawn into mainstream motorsport, says a senior Federation of Automobile Sports China (Fasc) official.

Street racing, made famous through the late James Dean's 1950s movie Rebel Without a Cause, is becoming increasingly popular among the younger generation from well-heeled families in China's major cities. The high-octane trend was brought into the media spotlight earlier this year when Beijing police arrested two 20-year-old men for racing around the city's Second Ring Road.

One of them, dubbed 'Sir 13 of the Second Ring', is said to have lapped the 32.7km ring road, which teems with traffic even at night, in 13 minutes, averaging 150km/h.

'In fact, Shenzhen has a stronger culture of illicit street racing than Beijing, as far as I know,' said Chen Xuezhong, vice-chairman of Fasc, the sport's domestic governing body.

'I understand how the police feel about it and the harm illicit street racing can cause to ordinary people on the road, but if we put it in a different perspective, it shows the potential interest and talent pool out there for motorsport in China.'

Chen and his organisation are already working on harnessing this misdirected talent.

'We have established a programme, mainly targeting driver's licence holders in their 20s, which combines road safety education with auto-racing instruction,' said Chen. 'We are also working closely with circuits around the country to make sure the speed freaks have places other than the streets to unleash their velocity prowess.'

China has three racetracks, the Zhuhai International Circuit, the Shanghai International Circuit and Beijing Golden Port, with a fourth under construction in the southwest city of Chengdu. Further track construction plans are in the pipeline for governments in Xiamen, Fujian province, and Hainan Island.

'These new tracks will not be along the grand lines of circuits such as in Shanghai,' said Chen. 'We will concentrate more on making them accessible to the public and friendlier to junior and grass-roots racing events.'