Editorial

Will CART get Shanghaied?
by Steven N. Levinson
December 9, 2001

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As these planning models of Shanghai depict, when construction is complete, it will soon make other cities in this world seem miniscule.
Milwaukee or Shanghai, you decide!
Photos copyright Steve Levinson & AutoRacing1

During my last visit to Shanghai on a cold and blustery day in March of 1998, I remember standing on the BUND waterfront (Puxi side of the city) looking across the Huang Po River at the new TV Tower and the enormous number of giant construction cranes in operation on the Pudong section of Shanghai.  On December 1, 2001 I returned to Shanghai for AutoRacing1 to evaluate the feasibility of running a CART race there, and marveled at the (partial) results of those efforts.

Don't misunderstand. Construction all over Shanghai is going full force, with jackhammers pounding 24 hours a day. China's "Modernization" is going forward and Shanghai is preparing for the future with a non-stop fury. The "PUDONG FINANCIAL DISTRICT" (proposed site of a CART or F1 race) is nothing less than a space age marvel. 

The only way to describe it, is that it is a futuristic city with massive skyscrapers, wide boulevards, access roads, with open spaces, parks and walkways. The new 263 meter high TV Tower is the landmark symbol of modern Shanghai. The buildings are so ultra modern as to appear right out of a Buck Rodgers novel.  

The principal idea in Pudong is to create the preeminent financial center in all of Asia, even eclipsing those in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore. In 1998 the thought of presenting a CART race in Shanghai would have been an interesting thought, but a little far-fetched. Today, however, I believe the area has all of the requisite ingredients that will make it an ideal location for an extremely successful event on what could be one of the very best temporary circuits in the world. 


2.6-mile Pudong track layout approved by Shanghai


Looking toward eastern end of track on a cloudy rainy day


Looking south from the prominent TV tower needle


Looking out over the SW end of the track.  Note 100' wide streets

 



By day (top) or by night (bottom) the Pudong district of Shanghai looks spectacular Photos copyright Steve Levinson & AutoRacing1

To begin with, the Pudong Financial District has been designed for the future with controlled and limited land use. There will be no (1) Urban Clutter; (2) High Density Construction, ala Hong Kong; (3) Gerry-Built Housing and Shops. Much like Century City in Los Angeles, land use will be limited to promote a feeling of openness and freedom of movement. 

The area is totally flat, has wide boulevards and access roads; many walkways along the riverfront; parks and open spaces; a near-by subway station; the Shanghai Exhibition center with the adjoining Oriental Riverside Hotel. The 100-foot wide streets will facilitate the creation of a "racy circuit with numerous over-taking opportunities". There will be plenty of room for grandstands, pit areas, promotional activities, vendors, food concessions, race team preparations, race attendee facilities, medical facilities and auxiliary worker and staff maintenance areas. 

Some more details about a possible Shanghai race can be found in this AutoRacing1 article by Mark Cipolloni.  Organizers and teams will not be faced with the cramped pit areas that we find in Monte Carlo, Long Beach or Surfer's Paradise. There will be no angry "local residents or businesses" that will have to be displaced for 4 days during the race. Since the area is primarily a financial and office complex, weekend crowd control and general security matters will be relatively simple. 

The only way to compare it to anything "American" would be to say it is comparable to a "Suburban Business Park", which is virtually deserted after work and on week-ends, except for visitors to the TV Tower and the Shanghai Exhibition Center. The subway stop, near the TV Tower, is another key element in moving thousands of fans to and from the circuit. Unlike Twin Ring Motegi, transportation will be easy and convenient for fans. 

I am sure by now, many are asking..."Why should CART race in Shanghai, China?"  Despite the recent successfully hosted APEC (Asian Pacific Economic Conference) China still conjures up images of a backward country with millions peasants running around in blue Mao suits with padded pants carrying pitch forks and pulling rickshaws, who can't drive cars! Yes, there are few people like that in the country-side, and believe me traffic is sometimes chaotic, especially at intersections with the confluence of trucks, taxis, busses, bicyclists, cars and pedestrians all moving in the same direction at the same time (somehow, it all works out).  But in the major cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, you have a very educated, urbane and fashionable element who very much look to the future, a future in which they believe China will have a very prominent place. 


The Bund waterfront at night Photos copyright Steve Levinson & AutoRacing1

Shanghai, especially, has always been extremely urbane and cosmopolitan. It was always the business capital of China (Note: Beijing was the governmental, administrative and bureaucratic capital) and home for most European and American ex-patriots during the 1920's and '30's. The Bund waterfront area, with it's neo-classical architecture was the financial district for the colonial powers. So Shanghainese have always been exposed to "foreigners and western ideas and customs."  In fact, they even speak a different dialect than "Mandarin". 

Mandarin (Putonghua) is the official language spoken by some 70% of the population, but in the regions, Cantonese, Wu, and an infinite number of dialects are spoken. The Shanghai dialect is called Shanghaihua.

English is widely understood and many Chinese who aspire to speak the language fluently often engage visitors in conversation. Other languages currently being taught include: Japanese, French, Russian, German and Spanish.

The city is full of KFC's and McDonald's that are always jammed with Chinese patrons. Starbucks are as prevalent as any city in the USA. They even have Subway and Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream franchises. It is my belief that the Chinese are very pro-American and easily accept "things American". My belief was cemented in 1998 when I watched Chinese Television and saw the Chinese NBA, with the teams having names like the "Rockets" and "Sonics", each with two American players. But when I saw the cheerleaders come onto the floor during time-outs, it really occurred to me that the "Cold War...America is a Paper Tiger" was over!!


Looking at this climate chart for Shanghai with an eye toward picking a good race date, back-to-back weekends in Motegi and Shanghai the last weekend in April and the first weekend in May before heading for Indy look good.

Shanghai has every major hotel chain from the Hilton, Mandarin, Ritz-Carlton, Westin, Holiday Inn Crown Plaza, Nikko, Radisson, Sofitel, Inter-Continental, Shangri-La, and the magnificent Grand Hyatt Hotel in Pudong. Both the Grand Hyatt, which would make an ideal track side CART headquarters, and the Oriental Riverside Hotel, which is part of the Shanghai Exhibition Center are more than enough to handle the CART contingent. 

On Nan Jing Road, the most fashionable and exclusive business address in Shanghai, there is the Shanghai Center. In this building alone, are housed some of the largest multi-national companies in the world; Sony, Toshiba, Allianz, Eli Lilly, Anheuser-Busch, Barclays, Bechtel, BellSouth, Dupont, Ericsson, Ford, Hitachi, HSBC, Hormel, Johns-Manville, Johnson & Johnson, Mitsubishi, New York Times, Phillips, Vcikers, Xerox and Volvo just to name some. Nearly every famous fashion designer has a shop in Shanghai including, Boss, Givenchy, Dior, Ferragamo, Vuitton, Prada and Lauren to name just a few. 

Although many European and American companies canceled their rented apartments and office rooms in high buildings after attacks September 11 in the US, China's financial center Shanghai still shows a great interest in the construction of high-rise buildings. As is known from the Economic and Trade Office of Pudong New District, Shanghai is determined to build a 466-meter-high global financial center despite the "9/11 attacks".


The race track area at night Photos copyright Steve Levinson & AutoRacing1

The tower, designed to rewrite the world record for the tallest building in the world, is located in the financial area of Lujiazui, Pudong Road, with a total floor space of 335,420 square meters. It will have 3 floors underground and 94 floors above the ground, near the World Third Jinmao Mansion. When finished, it will rise 466 meters high, 14 meters over the current world top, the 95-storied Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpar.

It was during a visit to the Shanghai Museum, that my view of Modern China was finally set in stone. As I observed an exhibit of ancient Chinese coins, I learned that the Chinese invented "MONEY as a medium of exchange. Now that makes sense. Who else but the most entrepreneurial people on earth could have done this? 


A future CART fan or, if CART procrastinates again, a future F1 fan.
 
Photos copyright Steve Levinson & AutoRacing1

China is already an economic powerhouse destined to become even more influential. They have just been accepted into the World Trade Organization (WTO). They have been awarded the 2008 Olympics. They will succeed. 

Already, it has been reported that Mr. Bernard Charles Ecclestone is interested in Shanghai as an F1 venue.  CART must commit itself to getting to Shanghai first. Otherwise, F1 and its lackeys could very well poison the atmosphere for CART.  Don Panoz is also negotiating with the Shanghai promoter to hold an ALMS race there.  A doubleheader ALMS/CART weekend in Shanghai, similar to what is being proposed in Miami, would be sensational.

As I have set forth above, Shanghai has all the elements necessary to stage a hugely successful event. It has all the amenities of a world-class city. The one thing I have not mentioned is the polite and friendly nature of it's citizens. I am convinced that Shanghai and its people are ready for CART, but is CART ready for Shanghai?  

What is certain, if CART is not ready, and procrastinates much longer on deciding whether to do this race, it will be "Shanghaied" by one Mr. Bernie Eccelstone right out of THE opportunity of its lifetime.

Related article on China (1995)


Shanghai in the news - China Mulls Beijing-Shanghai High-speed Rail Link 

China may build a high-speed magnetic levitation (maglev) rail link from Beijing to Shanghai if a proposed German-built maglev line from Pudong International Airport to the Oriental Pearl TV Tower is successful, the Shanghai Daily reported a few months ago.

"The 40-kilometer (25-mile) magnetic levitation train in Pudong will not only provide fast transport to and from the airport, but also serve as a litmus test for subsequent rail projects," said Wu Wenqi, a professor at Shangahi Tongji University.

German Thyssen Krupp AG signed an agreement with Shanghai Mayor Xu Kuangdi Saturday to conduct a feasibility study on the airport rail project and outlined the city's intention to import German magnetic levitation technology, the paper reported.

Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji took a ride on an experimental maglev train while visiting Germany on his European tour.

Wu said a maglev line between Beijing and Shanghai would take only three hours in contrast to a conventional rail express link which would take around six hours, the paper added.

Government officials and engineers are still debating whether to build a high-speed rail link and what kind of line to construct, the paper said.

"If the Pudong line operates well for two or three years, the country will likely opt for the maglev, which would be more convenient for long-distance travel," Wu said.

If the deal goes ahead, Thyssen Krupp would provide the city with an electromagnetic suspension (EMS) maglev line, which uses electromagnets mounted under the train on a guideway that allows the train to glide one centimeter above the guideway. Construction of the Pudong line would be completed about 2005.

Wu said the construction of the maglev line is estimated to cost 150 million yuan (US $18.1 million) a kilometer, far less that a subway line which costs an estimated 700 million yuan (US $84.34 million) per kilometer.

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