Holden roars at V8 Supercar event
SHANGHAI: Xie Qi doesn't have a car or know how to drive, but she still travelled for more than an hour in an expensive shuttle bus to spend a day at the races.
Her trip on Sunday to the Shanghai International Circuit for the first V8 Supercar race ever held in China was exactly the kind of thing event organizers were hoping for.
The race weekend was a first step in the push towards developing a market for motor sports on the Chinese mainland while elevating the international profile of the V8 Supercar series.
"This is the first time we've watched V8. If we have a chance, we'll come to the Formula 1 race this year," said Xie.
The Shanghai race - the fifth round of the V8 Supercar Championship Series - was an expensive experiment, with A$4 million (US$5.2 million) spent to transport 32 cars, spare parts and engines as well as hundreds of team members, officials and media to Shanghai.
With tickets far more affordable than Formula 1 - the cheapest for less than 100 yuan (US$12) - and cars that more closely resemble regular streetcars, series officials said they accomplished what they set out to do in Shanghai.
"We have something in the range of 40 to 60,000 Chinese fans today. I'm very, very happy and we look forward to coming back for many, many years," said Tony Cochrane, chairman of the Australian Vee Eight Supercar Company.
The futuristic racetrack in the outskirts of Shanghai was not full yesterday, but tens of thousands watched Todd Kelly, of the Holden Racing Team, win the Shanghai round followed by Steve Richards, who came in second.
Current series leader Marcos Ambrose kept his points lead but has yet to win a race in five rounds.
While the crowds that gathered for the F1 race last year were not in evidence yesterday, there were plenty of people around gawking at display cars or buying souvenirs ranging from 10 yuan (US$1.2) posters to toy cars in the 700 yuan (US$84) range or hats for 128 yuan (US$15).
The V8 Supercar series is similar to NASCAR in the United States. Modified stockcars manufactured by either Ford or Holden (a division of General Motors and otherwise known as Opel or Vauxhall elsewhere in the world) can hit speeds of 300 kilometres per hour.
"They have a bit more action than European touring cars," said Rami Aro, from Finland, who now lives in Shanghai. "The sound of the V8 is nicer than the Formula 1."
The V8s are Australia's third most popular sport, behind Australian Rules Football and cricket, said series media manager Cole Hitchcock.
By making the trip to the Chinese mainland, the V8 Supercar series is hoping to expand its popularity beyond Australia and New Zealand while cashing in on growing interest in the Chinese mainland.
"We carried the hopes and dreams of Australia's motor sports this week. We are here and we did it," said Cochrane.
The series has a contract to hold races in Shanghai until at least 2009 and is already looking towards the Middle East for an event next year.
(China Daily 06/13/2005 page2)