Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Crowds Wait in Vain For Korean Formula One Driver to Lap Circuit

Korea International Circuit, Yeongam
Korean racing fans waited in vain on Sunday at the new Grand Prix track in Yeongam as a Korean racing driver apparently failed to make a lap of the circuit. “Maybe he’s so fast we just can’t see him”, offered a confused 30-year old Kim from Seoul. Later, when it became clear that there actually are no Korean Formula One drivers at the moment, angry members of the crowd demanded to know why the event had been held within the country. “What’s the point? Why should we be interested in this?” asked an irritated man who’d brought his girlfriend out for the day to flaunt his racing knowledge. Despite this, attendance was only significantly below estimates, as many local government and company employees were forced to buy tickets.

The circuit, which was designed in the shape of a sun hat and high heel shoe, reflecting the relentless heat of this country’s summers and Korean women’s obsessive shopping habits, runs along Yeongam’s coastal road where almost 80% of local traffic tickets were issued last year for speeds that were often in excess of those reached on Sunday by Formula 1’s top drivers. Many disappointed fans leaving after the race hoped that before next year’s Grand Prix one of the teams will consider employing a Korean taxi driver, who would surely win. However, the last up-and-coming Korean racing driver quit the sport before reaching the top after admitting that the smell of kimchi-breath in his helmet had finally become “unbearable”.

But there are doubts that the event will be held next year. The race was delayed for almost an hour in heavy rain when it was discovered that many drivers of the open-cockpit racers had left their umbrellas at home. The Korean organizers were also shocked to discover that the men who are supposedly best drivers in the world were apparently unable to drive in wet weather, despite the fact that even Korean women have no trouble driving during the monsoon season, although this is mainly to shopping districts so they may be more motivated. One senior figure told us that had they known this beforehand, they wouldn't have built the circuit in a coastal region well-known for its high rainfall, and they would have held the event in the summer when it is generally dry, rather than the much wetter fall. It's thought to be unlikely the Formula 1’s governing body, the FIA, would sanction this however, as modern Grand Prix racing is so tedious the weather is often the most interesting part of a race.

It has also emerged that in the rush to complete the circuit on time after numerous delays, the track and supporting stadiums have been built to Korean construction standards, rather than the international ones originally stipulated under contract to the FIA, which means the track is expected to break apart and the buildings fall down before the Formula 1 circus in scheduled to return in twelve months. Several temporary audience stands were not completed in time for the event, but circuit owners say they hope they will be finished within the next week, after which they will be taken down.

Shortage of accommodation in Yeongam meant that some of the foreign team members had to turn to motels in Mokpo and Gwangju. Although there were some favorable reports about the facilities - staff from several F1 teams were given accommodation in "sex motels", which are called love hotels in Korea as a way of pretending that prostitution and extra-marital affairs don't exist within the country. However, some reported having to sleep on beds filled with used condoms, and the world championship leader, who crashed out of the race early on, was said to have been kept awake all night by the noise of the bed in the next room banging on his wall. Generally though, the sex motels were a big hit, and may encourage Government plans to develop the area as part of the proposed 'Asian WhoreHub' project.

A further potential issue also emerged when the teams arrived in the Korea. Korean Customs Chief Kim, who is 59 years old, explained that protectionist laws imposing a minimum 8% tax on imported vehicles had to be applied to all cars, irrespective of their intended use or duration in the country. The high value of Grand Prix cars made this extra cost prohibitive for many of the smaller teams, with the tiny Espania team failing to start the race after hitting their credit card limits, and failing to understand the mechanism for paying the cheaper bribe. However, Formula 1 fans failed to notice the team’s absence until the official results were posted the next day.

Related Links
Slip-ups, rain, mar Korean Grand Prix
Korea's 1st Grand Prix Roars Ahead Despite Rain
F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone worries for Korean Grand Prix
What are these Korean non-tariff barriers to U.S. cars and trucks?
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