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South Korea readies 'Asia's best track' for F1

YEONGAM, South Korea
: At a spectacular seaside venue, South Korea is spending tens of millions of dollars on its latest foray into world sport -- a Formula One motor racing track billed as Asia's best.

The country has hosted the Olympics, the Asian Games and a football World Cup, but Formula One will be a novelty despite a major domestic auto industry.

Officials, however, are confident the Korean Grand Prix will quickly make its mark after its expected debut next year.

During a recent tour of the site in Yeongam county, 320 kilometers (200 miles) south of Seoul, a giant crane lifted huge concrete blocks as work progressed on a 13,000-seat grandstand.

More seating to accommodate a total of 135,000 spectators will also be built along a 5.6-kilometre (3.5 mile) circuit being constructed on 172 hectares (425 acres) of reclaimed land alongside an artificial seaside lake.

After the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) designated South Korea in 2006 as a host country, contractors installed more than 800,000 drainpipes and shifted six million tons of earth to form the site.

Renowned German track designer Hermann Tilke is supervising the project launched by the Korea Auto Valley Operation (KAVO), a joint venture between private firm M-Bridge Holdings and the South Jeolla provincial government.

‘Construction is half-completed. We will do our best to build a 'speed mecca' both in name and reality when the track opens in July next year,’ said KAVO chief Chung Yung-Cho.

The province is providing 176 billion won (146 million dollars) to build the country's first international racetrack plus up to 60 billion won for infrastructure.

Organizers say the main circuit will include Asia's longest straight stretch of 1.2 kilometers which will allow speeds of up to 320 kilometers per hour. A separate three-kilometer circuit will be used for domestic events.

Chung's office announced this month it has secured agreements for bank loans totaling 198 billion won, enough to cover about 46 percent of the total cost.

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