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S Korea eyes night street race for 2016

SINGAPORE — South Korea is making another attempt at the Formula 1 world championship and this time promoters want to emulate Singapore’s success by staging a night street race in 2016 in the centre of Seoul, the country’s capital.

SINGAPORE — South Korea is making another attempt at the Formula 1 world championship and this time promoters want to emulate Singapore’s success by staging a night street race in 2016 in the centre of Seoul, the country’s capital.

A delegation from the East Asian nation was locked in discussions with F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone at the paddock throughout the Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix race weekend, and TODAY understands the Briton has warmed up to the proposal. If a deal is struck, it will be the second F1 Grand Prix held in the streets of a city under lights and will rival the iconic Marina Bay race.

The delegation to Singapore is not related to Korea Auto Valley Operation (KOVA), organisers of the ill-fated Korean Grand Prix held in Yeongam from 2010 to 2013.

That race was dropped from this year’s calendar after suffering cumulative losses of nearly US$200 million (S$253.4 million).

The team who met Ecclestone was led by Chung Yung-cho, who played a key role helping KOVA bring F1 to Yeongnam. But after failing to turn the event around in the first three races, KOVA dismissed him as its chief executive in January last year.

A source close to Chung told TODAY the Korean was proposing a night race on the streets of Seoul. “Chung showed Bernie prints of the proposed street layout and he liked it,” said the source. “They are now talking about the rights fee and have tentatively agreed to have a race in the city centre of Seoul in 2016. Singapore took less than a year to build the pit building and Chung is confident his team can build one in about the same time.”

Compared with Yeongnam, the proposed street race in Seoul would cost far less to organise and has a better chance of selling tickets, he added. The Yeongnam track cost US$260 million to build, but four years of poor attendances — the four-hour drive from Seoul was the biggest drawback for fans — made it too costly a burden to bear.

The Singapore Grand Prix costs about S$150 million to stage annually, and it has brought S$100 million in incremental tourism receipts yearly.

“The business model for the Singapore Grand Prix is attractive, and if we can do the same in our city, it makes more sense for people to buy tickets to watch the race. I think it will work for Korea this time if Bernie and Chung can reach a deal,” said the source. IAN DE COTTA

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