The IndyCar Series has a new venue to look forward to in 2012: the 3.87-mile street circuit in the coastal city of Qingdao, scheduled for Sunday, August 19.
"We are very excited and truly grateful for the full support of the Chinese Government, Qingdao City Government and related Government Bureaus in providing the opportunity to bring the IZOD IndyCar Series to China," said series CEO Randy Bernard at the announcement. "We are committed to doing our part in making this a fantastic race event weekend to be seen on the world stage."
The Qingdao street race will join Sao Paulo, Toronto and Edmonton as IndyCar's line-up of events outside the United States, after 2011 saw the final running of the Indy Japan at Motegi after Honda reduced its financial support for the race, and the oval track itself was damaged in the huge earthquake at the start of 2011.
While the 2012 China outing will be on a temporary street circuit, there are plans by the organisers to add a permanent racing facility in the coming years. Located between Shanghai and the country's capital of Beijing, Qingdao sits on the shores of the Yellow Sea and is the largest container port in China.
It hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics Sailing competition, and is sometimes dubbed "China's Switzerland" because of its mix of French and German cultures. Qingdao even hosts an international beer festival - which will coincide with the IndyCar weekend.
Race driver Ho-Pin Tung is hoping that the China race will give him an opportunity to land a regular seat in 2012, after he made history by becoming the first Chinese driver to make an IndyCar start when he ran at Infineon in August for Dragon Racing.
"Motorsports is still relatively young in China, even though it has had Formula One for a number of years," said Tung. "Racing is growing and one example is I was never into Twitter or anything and a friend said I should start a Chinese Twitter. Now I'm over 1000,000 [followers] and it shows the sport is alive and we're being followed. I get so many replies and support from there and it would be amazing to race in front of my home country in IndyCar."
While Tung is hoping to attract vital sponsorship to allow him to race in 2012 as a result of the addition of a China race, the series as a whole is also looking for financial success from the long-haul outing.
"Last year, at our sponsorship summit, China was the number 1 place our sponsors wanted to go outside of the United States," said Bernard, admitting that the primary reason the overseas event was possible was down to the commercial considerations. "As the world global economy continues to grow and evolve, China, the world's second-largest economy, has become a top priority with most American businesses and the sponsors that are committed to IndyCar."