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Motorsports at full throttle and raises passions in China

Motorsports at full throttle and raises passions in China

Motorsports, practically absent 30 years ago, have seen a huge increase in popularity in China due to the growth of the middle class. A success that is exemplified in the passion that the Silk Road rally uncovers among the population of the Asian country.

«Sometimes I go karting. And I also like to travel the dunes with my 4 × 4 “, Yang Yulin, a 28-year-old accountant, explains to AFP as he observes the clouds of dust raised in the Gobi desert (in the north of the country) by the cars participating in this test, which is disputed between Russia and China.

Despite its popularity today, motorsports got off to a rocky start in China. The federation that regulates this discipline was not founded until 1993 and the first television broadcast of a test dates from 2004.

Later, the Asian country accelerated. Nowadays it organizes every year many competitions between rallies, motocross events or touring car championships. In addition, of course, to the Shanghai Grand Prix, which has been held continuously since – precisely – 2004.

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Another example of the ‘passion’ that the engine arouses in China is that it was in Beijing where, in 2014, the first Grand Prix in the history of Electric Formula (‘Formula E’) was held. Event that brought together 75,000 people.

Since 2016, China has organized the Silk Road together with Russia, which connects Moscow and Beijing through a route of more than 10,000 kilometers that wants to become, together with the Dakar, the great annual motor event.

“The Chinese need to organize their own events, similar to what happened in Europe a few years ago. They have become great lovers of adventure and discovery, “Frenchman Hubert Auriol, former director of the Dakar rally, told AFP.

– Money and free time –

Auriol was consulted to contribute his opinion and experience in the organization of the ‘Great Rally of China’, an event of which he was director between 2013 and 2016.

“Perhaps we had in mind the image, somewhat stereotypical, that the Chinese are very hard-working. But as in any part of the world, they too seek leisure and try to do new things, “says Auriol.

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“People have more and more means and more free time,” said Wang Xudong, general director of the Zhongshi Huanqiu, a group dedicated to organizing motor racing in the country.

“And in parallel, the Chinese car market is expanding,” which familiarizes citizens with driving pleasure, he adds.

Passenger cars were an exception on the country’s streets only 30 years ago, but China, with 24.38 million sales in 2016 (15% more than in the previous year), is the first world market in the sector.

A popularity that has also been influenced by public figures such as Han Han -34 years old-, writer, blogger, film director and rally champion in 2012. A celebrity among the youngest.

– Since childhood –

The Chinese government, in addition, has been committed since 2016 to “perfect the organization of motor sports”, favoring the creation of new circuits and facilities in which to welcome spectators, as well as the launch of new tests.

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“There is political will so everything is easily organized,” adds Hubert Auriol, who sees “enormous potential” in the Asian giant to develop motor sports.

“China is very populated and we tend to think that there are only big cities, but in the north (of the country) there are giant regions with magnificent deserts that, with their dunes and magical sands, lend themselves to organizing rallies,” he says.

A whole process that is also endorsed by the arrival of a new generation of pilots, such as Han Wei, who occupies a surprising third place in the general classification of the Silk Road.

«Before they started racing when they were adults, but now they start from when they are children, with karting. The future is promising, ”predicts Wang Xudong. “Little by little we are going to get closer to the international level.” AFP

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