The Korea Grand Prix roars into town this weekend with racing fans descending on the rural Yeongam district for a piece of Formula One action. This is third time F1 will heat up the tracks on the Korea International Circuit (KIC), with over 160,000 fans expected to attend this year’s events. This year’s Korea Grand Prix will take place over one fast-paced weekend (Oct. 4-6), the 14th of 19 races tearing up the roads in 2013.
Petal to the Metal: Formula One
Formula One (F1) is the highest class of single-seater, open-wheel auto racing with cars constructed by individual racing teams. Officially known as the FIA Formula One World Championship, F1 is governed by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile or FIA. The term ‘Formula’ in the race’s title refers to a strict set of rules laid out by FIA governing the dynamic motorsport, which boasts the fastest multi-turn racing cars in the world, famed for their iconic screaming engines. F1 drivers push these aerodynamic vehicles to their absolute limit, reaching speeds of up to an incredible 350 kilometres per hour (220 mph), thrilling fans around the globe. Since 1950, F1 has held a series of competitive races around the world, each race known as a ‘Grand Prix,’ French for ‘great prize’. From the wave of the starting flag, to the high-pitched roars of engines speeding off into the distance, the smell of burnt rubber, the shouting fans, and the intensity of a perfectly-timed pit stop, the Formula One has become a symbol for action, glamour around the world.
Though most races remain in Europe, F1 is gradually expanding, with eleven teams and 22 drivers competing at 19 heart-stopping races across four continents this year. The overall winning driver and team will be awarded the titles of World Drivers’ Champion and World Constructors’ Champion, calculated on a points system based on number of Grand Prix wins and racing stats. German racer Sebastian Vittel and his team Red Bull Racing (Renault) took both championship titles last year, as well as the top prizes at both the 2011 and 2012 Korean Grand Prix races. If history repeats itself, the 2013 Korea Grand Prix should prove to be another exciting race for competitors and motorsports fans alike.
Yeongam Style: Korea Grand Prix
While many F1 races are held on street circuits, the Formula One Korea Grand Prix (포뮬러원 코리아 그랑프리) will take place at the specially-constructed 5.615 km (3.48 mi) KIC course in Yeongam (영암), just outside of Mokpo in Jeollanam-do on the southwestern coast. It is the longest course in Asia, and the world’s second-longest after the Monza Circuit in Italy. Drivers will race for 55 laps, covering a total of 308.630 km at breakneck speeds. Last year, Sebastian Vittel conquered the race in just over 1.5 hours, clocking in at an astonishing 1:39.605.
The Yeongam KIC is notable as being one of only five counter-clockwise tracks in the world and it features the longest straightaway in Asia where drivers can reach speeds of over 320 km/h along the 1.2 km stretch following the track’s first turn. The track, created by prolific German designer Hermann Tilke, is a mix of fast turns and slow corners to show off both the drivers’ top speeds and their maneuvering abilities. The track’s starting and finish line is crowned by a grandstand designed to resemble a Hanok, a Korean traditional home known for its colourful, sweeping eaves.
While Korea does not yet have any of its own F1 drivers, the glamorous motorsport is expected to attract ambitious and talented drivers in years to come as the race gains traction in Korea.
Korea Grand Prix Criticisms: Why Go?
The Yeongam KIC’s location is the subject of constant debate with arguments against and for the location. Its rural position 370 km south of Seoul makes it difficult to access and leaves little in the way for tourist attractions yet it also boasts gorgeous scenery and offers plenty of room for expansion, with new facilities coming each year thanks to an ambitious tourism marketing plan in the area. Some other issues that have come up include lack of accommodations and traffic issues. As with any world event, these are challenges that must be addressed. This year, more hotels and nearby tent and trailer camping facilities have been added to ease the burden, and plenty of shuttle busses will also be in operation, making it easier for those commuting to and from the racing events. While not perfect solutions, they are a marked improvement over the previous years’ efforts.
Some other complaints are the previous series’ poor weather and low crowd attendance. The weather, unfortunately, is unavoidable, so hopefully organizers will be better prepared given the poor meteorological track record. Low crowd attendance improved vastly from the second year over the first with growth of over 4,000 spectators. If the Korea Grand Prix retains the same numbers this year or even improves them, it will go long a way to ensuring the longevity of the event and helping the profit margins move into the black. Knowing the criticisms in advance, however, will help to prepare F1 fans for the race and any preparations that they need to make, so airing such comments can only help to improve the event and spectators’ enjoyment of it. The Korea Grand Prix has a contract for seven years for 2010, so there is still time to grow and improve.
In the end, Korea’s competitively-priced F1 tickets and low travel costs for transportation, accommodation, food, and entertainment make it easier and cheaper to attend this world-class event compared with other countries. The KIC’s unique track and the growth of motorsport racing in Korea are also exciting reasons to attend the F1 in Yeongam, not to mention the area’s stunning natural beauty and upcoming tourist attractions. It’s an excellent opportunity to see high-octane racing at a fraction of the cost and with fewer of the headaches that accompany larger racing events and their oversized crowds.
Racing Schedule and Entertainment
Two practice sessions will take place on Fri. Oct 4 with a third to follow on the morning of Sat. Oct 5, followed by the qualifying round in the afternoon. The race itself will take place Sun. Oct 6 with the top ten drivers and teams receiving points toward their overall championship rankings while the top three finishers will see their flag raised and hear their national anthem played as they stand on the winners’ podium. Entertainment will include an airshow by the Black Eagles of Korean Air Force, and performances by K-pop groups 2PM and Sistar on Oct. 6. In Mokpo, visitors can catch a performance by the Korea National Opera as well as the F1 Korea Rock Festival. For further information, please check the official Formula One website here or the Korea Grand Prix website here.
I am looking forward to attending my first F1 race this year at the Korean Grand Prix in Yeongam! I’ve already visited the grounds and had a taste for the thrills of Formula One but I can’t wait to experience the real thing. Are you headed to F1 this year?