Despite a strong turn-out for its inaugural venture into the world of F1, national motorsport chiefs are warning that Korea needs greater involvement in the sport if it is to enjoy a long-term relationship.
Despite having little motorsport heritage to speak off, the first race at the $220m Yeongam circuit attracted a near capacity crowd for Sunday's rain-soaked race, but Korea Auto Valley Association chief executive Chung Yung-cho claimed that there needed to be local drivers, a team and more sponsors from the country to make his investment worthwhile.
"This is something we really must have - a team and a driver in F1," Chung told Reuters
, "I really believe this nation, the corporations and our association must work together to find a way. I know there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes, but it's really time for everyone to come out and make this effort a public one. Let's not be afraid that we might fall short. If anyone finds they are just short of what they need, we'll help."
While China, Bahrain and Malaysia are all gradually pushing drivers towards F1, Korea has some way to go, with few recognised competitors even at the lowest levels, and Chung recognises that there is a vicious circle that needs to be broken if success is to be achieved, with sponsors needed to back development but not wanting to be involved until international recognition can be achieved.
South Korea is home to some of the world's most prolific car manufacturers, including Hyundai, but many of the countries biggest companies have been deterred from entering F1 by a combination of the economic downturn and the exit of Japanese rivals Toyota
and Honda from the top flight in the past couple of seasons. Only electronics giant LG has a notable presence in F1, as a partner both of Red Bull
Racing and the sport as a whole.
Despite the appalling conditions, and the delays that they provoked on race day, more than 80,000 spectators turned out for the first Korean Grand Prix, leading to the event being hailed as 'a resounding success' and providing what KAVO described as 'the perfect start to plans to develop the sport in the country'.
“We are delighted at the success of the grand prix, and the enormous, enthusiastic crowd has proved the sport already has a strong fan base here," Chung claimed, "We have overcome several challenges over the last few months, but our work is just beginning. The KIC is an important new facility for regional and international competition, but also one from which we will both develop the sport from the grass roots, and build a motorsport business and tourism hub.”
Next up for the Korea International Circuit is the international Korea F3 Superprix, which will see competitors transfer from Macau to race in Yeongam over 26-28 November.
“The KIC will continue to host international, regional and domestic events all year round," Chung confirmed, "It's fantastic for us and for the fans to open the facility with a round of the F1 world championship, and then to follow just a month later with a prestigious international junior single-seater shoot-out.”