Racing makes gradual rise in Chinese sports

Updated 2017-04-17 09:31:12 China Daily

A race car designed and built by students of Hefei University of Technology in Anhui province is put on display in 2016. ZHANG DUAN / XINHUA

Growing sales of performance street cars are one sign of inroads being made

The Chinese Formula One Grand Prix 2017 this month, a premier racing event, elicited decidedly different reactions among those in the stands in Shanghai.

Zhang Luyang, 35, shivered when Lewis Hamilton from the Mercedes-AMG team, the winner of the race, finished his last lap at the Shanghai International Circuit on the afternoon of April 9.

The shiver came from chilly weather, instead of excitement, after two hours of watching the race on an overcast day. "At long last," Zhang said, standing up and rubbing his hands. "I really could not find any excitement in their running in laps." He said he would not have traveled about 100 km from his home in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, had the 2,760 yuan (0) ticket not been a gift from a friend.

Zhang's reaction was a sign of the newness of motor sports in China, where fast cars and the piles of money they cost are a relatively recent phenomenon.

Others, however, have caught the fever, and are helping push the sport and the sales of performance cars ever higher, Zhang said.

Wang Fushi, a businessman from Tianjin who has become technical director of DOPE Racing, also attended the race, called himself a "die-hard racing fan".

Wang noted that despite the bad weather, the race attracted almost twice the number of people as qualifying rounds held the day before, indicating that the number of real racing enthusiasts in China is growing.

The three-day event attracted 145,000 spectators, Chinese Grand Prix organizer Juss Event said.

Yet, the development of the sport is uneven, considering the car industry's short history in China: The first domestic production vehicle was rolled out in 1956, and for years, production was small and devoid of racing machines. Many people have little knowledge of car racing or think it's like scenes from Hollywood blockbusters, like the illegal street racing depicted in The Fast and the Furious movie series.

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