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CHINESE GRAND PRIX - 01/05/05 SHANGHAI

Author: Camel Media Service
Posted on: Thursday, Apr 28 2005



However, the feature clearly illustrated how China is changing. Too fast for it's enemies and commercial rivals and too slow for many of it's inhabitants and especially young people. The country of 1.3 billion inhabitants, the largest population in the World, is exploding onto World markets and motorcycle production and sales are leading the charge.

It's the perfect time for MotoGP to arrive, joining sporting giants Formula One and the Olympics in the new Asia. Other new MotoGP venues have been criticised by sections of the media for having no motorcycle heritage or interest. That is certainly not the case in China. If you stepped off the kerb without looking in Shanghai, there is every chance you'd be knocked down by a motorcycle, almost certainly a small one.

So what can MotoGP expect when it arrive in Shanghai. A space age city, more akin to New York, on one side of the river. A colonial style city on the other bank from a by gone age and which was known as the Paris of the Orient. A race track that cost a fortune to build and could have been on the set of star wars and a public who probably ride a motorcycle, but are crazy about Formula One.

Shanghai spearheads China's new found wealth and power. It is a truly enormous city stretching 120 kms from North to South and 100 kilometres from East to West. It has a population of over 17 million and is China's leading industrial,commercial and financial centre.

The weather over the weekend should be more like Jerez than Estoril. It promises to be comparatively warm but be warned, the spring rains start in May. Hopefully May 1 is just a bit early and the rain will stay away as we still wait for the first rider to come into the pits to change machines when the white rain flag is shown. For the first time it was waved at Estoril, but no rider came in because of tyre problems in the wet and the race distance was completed on slick tyres by winner Alex Barros. Perhaps Shanghai may not only stage the first Chinese MotoGP race but also be the first track to witness the new rule, allowing riders to change machinery in pit lane.

While you can speculate about the weather and the outcome of the race, one thing for certain you will see thousands of motorcycles. Last year more motorcycles where sold in China than any other country in the World. A staggering 12 million machines were sold in 2004. Ninety nine per cent of those built where commuter machines and the traffic in Shanghai will illustrate just why sales are at such a high. Motorcycle or bicycles are regarded as the perfect jam busters and with a population of 17 million, they have have plenty of jams on which to test the theory.

Honda alone built around one million three hundred thousand machines in China last year. They not only sold them on the booming home market but also exported to 36 other countries which included the export of Chinese built Honda scooters to Japan.

So plenty of Motorcycle production and sales but what about the sport in China. Two years ago Shi Zao Huang and Zi Xian He appeared in the 250cc race at the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang. Huang did complete the race, riding the Yamaha in last place while He failed to qualify.

Both return to compete this weekend to join no less than eight Chinese wild card entries in the 125 and 250cc classes.

Last year history was made when the second round of the World Endurance Championship was held at the 4.300 kms Zhuhai circuit for the first time and by all accounts the six hour race was a success.

Until then the closest the international riders got to actually competing in China was around the armco - lined streets of the Portuguese colony of Macau. in the annual grand prix at the end of the season. Macau like its neighbour Hong Kong is now part of China.

It's a important chapter in the 56 year history of grand prix motorcycle racing on Sunday. The first ever grand prix to be held in China. Shanghai is regarded as the City of opportunity by international
companies throughout the World. Who will take that opportunity among the space age surroundings of aerofoils and giant canopies in the MotoGP race on Sunday and will there be plenty of hip and hop to get excited about?


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