China has become the latest addition to the IndyCar calendar, as series officials announced the series will visit the seaside port of Qingdao on August 19, joining Brazil and Canada among the international line-up of events taking place in the 2012 season.
The event will coincide with the Qingdao International Beer Festival, a popular local event and will initially take place on a 3.87-mile (6.2km) street circuit – a long circuit by usual standards – although a 500,000 seat oval facility is rumoured to be in the pipeline as part of a dedicated racing and entertainment precinct.
Sometimes referred to as “China’s Switzerland”, the coastal region located between Beijing and Shanghai has a rather European feel to it, and is home to 8.7 million people. The city played host to the sailing competition in the 2008 Olympic Games.
At the announcement, IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard said the decision to go to China made good business sense as the series looks to expand into new markets.
"As the world global economy continues to grow and evolve, China, the world’s second-largest economy, has become a top priority with most American businesses and the sponsors that are committed to IndyCar. Last year, at our sponsorship summit, China was the No. 1 place our sponsors wanted to go outside of the United States” Bernard said.
This year, Ho-Pin Tung became the first Chinese driver to compete in the IZOD IndyCar series. Although failing to qualify for the Indy 500 after crashing on Pole Day, Tung was classified 27th in his only other appearance of the season at Sonoma, crashing out late in the race.
The championship’s sole ventures to Asia have all been at Japan’s Motegi circuit, which was dropped from next year’s calendar, ostensibly on the grounds of being incompatible with North American TV audiences.
[Article text via Matt Lennon]