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April 16, 2011

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The race action starts here

ALTHOUGH it's the centerpiece, there's much more taking place this weekend than the exhilarating F1 race itself. Tan Weiyun looks at some of the off-track entertainment and facilities in and around the Shanghai International Circuit on offer to car-crazy fans.

A new tire supplier. Adjustable rear wings. The return of KERS. And new rules to encourage overtaking. These are the changes for Formula 1 Grand Prix that will have a significant impact on the race track in 2011.

And this year's race will be much more than the usual good show for Shanghai fans: this is the first time during four decades that five F1 world champions will compete at the same time.

Today and tomorrow, 24 drivers from 12 teams will be roaring along the Shanghai International Circuit's high-speed straights and through its winding turns.

The F1 spirit has been simmering in the city leading up to this weekend's race with a variety of activities arranged by Chinese Grand Prix operator Juss Event being held at the circuit.

The 2011 Formula 1 UBS Chinese Grand Prix is not only about racing cars, but also a grand gourmet gala.

A food festival is being held at the Shuijing Plaza near the Shanghai International Circuit station of Metro Line 11, featuring all sorts of cuisines from traditional Chinese dim sum, local snacks and desserts to Japanese sushi, Western fried chicken, wines and ice creams.

Race fans can also down a beer with friends at the open-air Beer Garden, while enjoying live shows. The total dining area covers about 4,000 square meters.

Today and tomorrow, music bands and troupes from Japan and South Korea will give a variety of performances, including Japanese taiko drumming, Korean folk art shows, tae kwon do fights, a 27-person symphony, Hawaiian dances and much more.

Hosts of interactive games will bond local fans and the racing feast even more closely, with lucky draws and model-car racing on a miniature Shanghai Circuit setup at the plaza.

Another highlight of this year's Shanghai F1 event is the Shanghai Auto Culture Festival opening tomorrow.

"It is the first time that we have combined the F1 race with the auto festival," said Patrick Yang, the marketing director of Juss Event.

Themed "New energy, new technology and new life," the festival will run to the end of May. A series of forums, seminars and celebrations are going to be held, including an auto design competition, a forum on the future of electric-powered cars, an exhibition of antique cars and much more.

The Shanghai International Automobile City located near the circuit in Jiading District is the city's base for auto manufacturing, trading, research and development as well as education (SAIC Motor Engineering Academy) and car exhibition.

"It is also a good opportunity for locals to get closer to automobile culture and know more about the accomplishments in its history," Yang said.

The car city boasts Shanghai Auto Museum, the first automobile-themed museum in China. It displays around 70 vehicles, covering 22 different brands and demonstrating important stages during automobile history ranging from the birth of the car to the present day.

This year's Shanghai F1 also attracts a flow of senior racing fans. The Scuderia Ferrari Club Shanghai is hosting a series of activities to celebrate the annual event and it helped the F1 organizing committee choose a batch of volunteer staff from its club members.

"It has been the club's annual routine to put its effort into F1 and it's also a great honor for us to make our contribution to automobile development in China," the club's director Zhu Yuhua said.

He also mentioned that the club will hold a Ferrari parade tomorrow and a charity party is going to be launched among the club members.

The Shanghai Circuit station of Metro Line 11 offers race-goers a quick and easy transport option.

To facilitate public transport for F1 fans, the organizing committee is providing three shuttle bus lines today and tomorrow, which will be running between the circuit and the city's downtown areas from 8am to 12pm and from 4pm to 6:30pm after the racing has finished.

The bus stops are set up in the circuit's No. 13 Parking Lot (to and from Gate 7, Shanghai Stadium), No. 14 Parking Lot (to and from the Hongkou Soccer Stadium), No. 8 Parking Lot (to and from Gate 6, Pudong Yuanshen Stadium).

A round-trip ticket is 50 yuan (US$7.6) per person.

In addition, a total of 10 free shuttle buses will run about the circuit to carry passengers to various grandstands, parking lots and the nearby plaza.

Shanghai Transport Radio FM 105.7 will also offer transport information for local fans. During the return rush after the races are over, patrons can get first-hand information about the nearby traffic conditions from updates every minute on the radio, designed to help fans choose the quickest route to return to the city center.


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