Korea's 1st Grand Prix Roars Ahead Despite Rain

      October 25, 2010 09:58

      Drivers race in the Formula One Korean Grand Prix in Yeongam, South Jeolla Province.

      The final race of the Formula One Korean Grand Prix in in Yeongam, South Jeolla Province on Sunday was held in the face of long odds as rain turned the course into a slippery death trap. Although 24 cars left the starting line, nine gave up the race due to various accidents, and debris littered the track.

      Spanish racer Fernando Alonso of Ferrari won the inaugural Grand Prix in Korea with a record of 2:48:20.810. The rain forced the race to a halt just six minutes after it began. All the 24 cars had tires for a rain-soaked track, but splash from the car in front obstructed the vision of many.

      The race resumed after about 50 minutes, but all racers had to follow the safety car for the first 17 out of 55 laps. When the safety car is on the track, overtaking is not allowed, meaning the race in effect did not start the real race until the 18th lap.

      The conditions made things harder for drivers but more interesting to spectators, who turned out in huge numbers. Organizers said 80,000 people watched the final on Sunday, bringing the total during the three days of the Grand Prix in Korea to over 170,000.

      Racers, team staff, and the international press were quick to point out the pros and cons of the country's first Grand Prix event. Racers gave high marks to the design of the circuit, which is made of 18 courses including a 1.2km-long straight line. Sebastien Buemi said the circuit was fun because he could experience both top speed and slow curves. Michael Schumacher of Mercedes GP said it was the optimal combination to enjoy the speed.

      But there were complaints that the organization was less than smooth. Even after the event began on Friday, the temporary audience stand was not complete, and the lack of attention to transport around the circuit caused severe traffic congestion. Shortage of accommodation in Yeongam meant that people had to turn to motels in Mokpo and Gwangju. Although there were some favorable reports about the convenience, Italy's Corriere della Sera said the F1 teams were thrown into "sex motels."

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