SHANGHAI, China -- Shanghai inaugurated its Formula One circuit Sunday, marking international auto racing's arrival in China and a milestone in the nation's rise as an international sports venue.
Competition at the track, designed by
Auto racing is still a novelty to most Chinese and organizers tried hard to imbue Sunday's event with all the noise and glamour associated with professional motor sports.
During a break, the Ferrari F1 team's test driver Gerhard Berger zipped around the track in one of the team's reserve race cars and more than 60 of the company's low-slung yellow and red sports cars also did a lap.
Formula Renault racers included
"It's very hard, very exciting, especially the first turn," said Kwok, who blew a tire and failed to finish his race.
In the pit area, race cars revved engines while female models roamed the concourse in skimpy outfits emblazoned with team logos.
"Today is a huge landmark for auto racing in
Nearly two years in the making, the Shanghai International Circuit rises
out of former farmland in the
Its 3.3-mile circuit features a punishing 14 turns, some on 8 percent
grades. Seating areas can accommodate up to 200,000 people, about 1 percent
of the population of greater
"It's a very fast, very technical track," said Portuguese racer Rodolfo Avila, who won the morning's Formula Renault event.
Organizers reported no major hitches during the weekend's events, although guests had to be repeatedly shooed off of the pit lane and some drivers complained of lax officiating by the Chinese race marshals.
While the country has no tradition of auto racing, booming private car ownership has heightened interest in the sport among the urban middle class.
"With the strength of our auto industry and the large numbers of
people who now have their own cars, there's no doubt auto racing has a bright