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AutoRacing1 Exclusive - Is Shanghai in CART's future

 by Mark Cipolloni
September 7, 2001

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The proposed 2.5-mile Shanghai street circuit is like no other on the CART circuit

Make no mistake about it, I feel very strongly that CART's future is best served by taking on a more international flair.  Anyone who reads AutoRacing1 regularly knows where we stand.  Recently I have been pushing for CART to take a serious look at China, and in this report we bring you the details, as we now know them, regarding a possible CART race in Shanghai, China.

Norman Lee, President of Auto Racing Legends (ARL) recently returned from Shanghai with a 10-year contract with the government to put on two races per year in the streets of Pudong, a province of Shanghai.  ARL, a California Corporation, has been contracted by the Shanghai City Government to co-organize this event. 

The goals of the venture are to bring motor sports entertainment to the vast Chinese audience. The race circuit will be on the streets of Shanghai, a modern city with a population of 18 million. While the business section of Shanghai is a forest of skyscrapers, the race will be held in the open and park-like area of Pudong, the fastest growing financial and business district in China. The first activity, "Introduction to the Shanghai Super Prix", will be held November 30 to December 2, 2001. It will be largely a demonstration of different forms of motorsports.

AutoRacing1.com has learned that at least one CART team (Walker Racing), possibly more, will take some Champ cars to that event.  It's likely that the first official race will be in October, 2002, an ALMS event, with CART possibly following with a May 2003 race as a back-to-back event with Motegi, Japan.  The intention is to hold a race every May and every October.  Today I got wind that there is an outside chance we could see CART there as early as 2002, however, that is just hearsay at this point, but the source of the information was pretty reliable.  CART's official position at this time is that "we have spoken to Mr. Norman Lee and we are aware of the 10-year contract his firm has in place."  From what I could gather, CART is taking a cautious, but very serious look at China, and in particular, Shanghai.  They have had several proposals on the table by at least three different entities, but my sources tell me that Shanghai is the only venue that has the blessings of the Shanghai government and Beijing as well.

The Shanghai government has given their blessings on the basic circuit layout (see above).  An Australian engineering firm (the same one that did Surfers) is now doing the detailed engineering design and safety drawings.  They are expected to be completed within a month or two.

The majority of the streets the race will be held on are 100 feet wide, but in a couple of places they neck down to around 36 feet.  You can tell by observing the width of the green line in the layout above.  We spoke with Bill Marcel, who works for Norman Lee, and urged him to make the track as wide as possible.  We reminded him to keep in mind that perhaps the best street circuit ever, Adelaide Australia, was very wide.  The wider it is, the more opportunity for overtaking, ala Cleveland.  Mr. Marcel said they were initially thinking about not having a 100 foot wide racing circuit, and were going to move the barriers in to make it narrower.  Although I didn't tell him, I almost jumped through the roof when I heard that!  Let's hope they decide on nothing less than 70 feet wide.

The government expects a Friday crowd of 100,000 to 150,000, and a Saturday and Sunday crowd of 150,000 to 200,000 each day if CART comes to race there.  That is what they are planning for in year #1.  That being the case, a 500,000+ weekend crowd is likely.  A similar number is expected in Mexico City, a race that was announced today.  Interestingly, an investor on today's Mexico City press conference urged CART to dump some of the less successful events and add more 'Mexico City's.'    Well it appears CART has one staring them right in the face, all the more reason why Shanghai is looking better by the day.

A lot of American readers don't know much about Shanghai, thinking China is just a bunch of Rickshaw's and slums.  I have to admit, I didn't either.  However, after reading an article about Shanghai by Jamie James called "Shanghai Sizzles" in the May 2001 issue of Conde Nast Traveler (I urge you to read it), I learned nothing could be further from the truth.  

Shanghai has gone through a swift and stunning transformation and is expected to soon overtake Hong Kong as China's financial gateway to the world.  Every big city is changing, but that hardly describes what's happening in Shanghai.  The city is a time machine with the gas pedal stuck to the floor, hurtling into the future.  The city has attracted some $40 billion in direct foreign investment over the last decade, more than any other city in the world.  In addition, the China government has invested $185 billion of its own to make Shanghai not only China's leading commercial center (which it already is), but a world-class cultural center as well.

The next five years will be even more interesting as China's leaders have every intention to raise Shanghai to the status of a Tokyo, Paris or even NY City.  New deals are announced almost weekly.  With a German firm, the City will build the world's first magnetic levitation train line at a cost of over $1 billion to tie into its new $2 billion airport.  Perhaps this will put it in better perspective for you - 25% of all the construction cranes now in operation in the world are in Shanghai!  Stop and think about that for a moment.  The pace of change is so rapid, it's said the locals sometimes get disoriented.

The race itself will be in Pudong proper, just across the river from downtown Shanghai.  The development of the Pudong New Area is the world's most grandiose building project since the Great Wall of China was built (yes, you read that right!).  This special economic zone is a sprawling new city, a financial center planned to rival not only Hong Kong, but Wall Street.  The architecture of Pudong is extraordinarily sophisticated, from the bizarre to the ridiculous.  And Shanghai people keep their city spic-n-span clean.

On a more cautious note, political corruption is a serious problem for Western business throughout most of China, however, the government in Shanghai is relatively clean, so if CART is going to race in China, Shanghai is likely the best place.

Shanghai is a great club scene, as one resident put it - "the whole City is a buzz, and a very cosmopolitan way of life."  We bring you the rest of our story in these incredible photos of Shanghai, hopefully a future destination for one of CART's most grandiose races.

Central Green of Lujiazui.jpg

Central Green of Lujiazui, 
a section of Pudong

Link to Yan' an and Chengdo.jpg

Link to Yan' an and 
Chengdou Viaducts

International Conference Ce.jpg

International Conference Center

Peoples Square, Spring.jpg

Peoples Square, Spring

Peoples Square.jpg

Peoples Square

Shanghai Grand Theater.jpg

Shanghai Grand Theater

Shanghai Circus Town.jpg

Shanghai Grand Theater

Shanghai Museum, displays t.jpg

Shanghai Museum, displays
 treasures of the east

Shanghai Stadium.jpg

Shanghai Stadium

Skyscrapers in Lujiazui.jpg

Skyscrapers in Lujiazui

TV Pearl Tower & Huangpu Ri.jpg

TV Pearl Tower 
& Huangpu River

Xujiahui under construction.jpg

Shanghai under construction

Yang Pu Bridge.jpg

Yang Pu Bridge

Yu Yuan (Garden of Happines.jpg

Yu Yuan (Garden of Happiness)

1.jpg 2.jpg

Pudong at night


Looking across the river where CART would race


New $2 Billion Airport

5.jpg 6.jpg

Hopping night scene


Along the HaungPu River

8.jpg 9.jpg 10.jpg


Shanghai in Pictures

The author can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

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