After a sabbatical of more than 12-months, sporting competition in China is finally starting to return to venues all across the country despite the ongoing effects of the pandemic which continues to impact international competitors, many of whom made a significant contribution to the many Chinese motorsport championships contested prior to the virus.
With many provinces now opening up around China, the opportunity for drivers and teams to return to competition was welcomed with strong numbers entered in every returning championship, importantly, led by significant numbers of local drivers who relished the chance to both return to the wheel, and accept leadership roles within their teams with the absence of experienced international team-mates.
The first major championship to begin its 2021 campaign, was the popular China Touring Car Championship [CTCC] at Shanghai International Circuit over the May 8-9 weekend. Attracting significant support from manufacturers and corporate partners, CTCC has long led the Chinese motorsport market as the elite championship in the country, attracting some of the best professional drivers China has produced.
The tight aggressive racing that CTCC is renowned for was once again on display, however the addition of a new GT entity for China, and the popular Porsche Carrera Cup Asia field, gave fans and media plenty of cause to celebrate – the emerging TCR Asia Series also buoying what was a real celebration of Chinese motorsport to open up season 2021.
Like much of the world, China’s passion for supercars is well recognised, that market internationally also providing cars in arguably the fastest growing motorsport category of the last 15-years – GT3. Based around supercar manufacturers like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Aston Martin, Mercedes and Audi, GT3 competition has attracted competitors who enjoy the pleasures of driving these elite marques on the road, into joining like-minded people on the race track.
Not surprisingly, the emergence of this market in China has led to significant numbers of drivers wanting to contest GT style competition, something which had been slow to take hold over past years, however the introduction of the new GT Super Sprint Challenge [GTSSC] at Shanghai last week has shown that there is still significant interest in the concept within China,.
Run by experienced motorsport promoters – Shanghai-based Top Speed – who have had a significant stakeholding in some of China’s leading motorsport events over many years – the opening event attracted one of the largest GT fields ever assembled in China. That result saw significant interest from the many supercar manufacturers who were in attendance, whilst the entry of music icon Kris Wu as a competitor attracted immense interest from fans across China, following his every step on social media.
Alongside Porsche Carrera Cup Asia – with whom Top Speed are also involved – the event showcased GT competition at its best, promising a big return season ahead for teams around the country as many Asian championships concede that 2021 will see either a condensed program outside China, or a full season of competition within Chinese borders under the current pandemic limitations.
For China Television Service Co. Ltd. [CTVS] who were responsible for the television services associated with the season-opener of CTCC, Porsche Carrera Cup Asia, TCR Asia and GT Super Sprint Challenge at Shanghai, the event signalled a new beginning for motorsport in China.
“Having been involved in the many GT and Touring Car events that have been on the Chinese motorsport calendar in past seasons, we had regular contact with the leading teams in each major championship,” Feline Wang, the Executive Producer of GTSSC for CTVS explained.
“Even during 2020, when it appeared we would be able to see more competition return to the many circuits around the country, we kept in close contact with teams and promoters, so we knew that once we were allowed to start competing again, that teams would come out in force, however we didn’t quite expect the numbers that arrived at Shanghai – it promises for a big return to competition across China this year.”
Having been a significant part of the behind-the-scenes operation of Asia’s leading GT championships over more than ten years, Davide de Gobbi from Top Speed explained more about the inception of GTSSC.
“GTSSC was conceived to cater for amateur racing car drivers who want to participate in a professionally managed GT racing series – the format of the racing has been tailor-made for them using a unique sprint format.
“The opening event surpassed any expectations we had, with a lineup of 30 GT cars in the different classes – a clear sign that after one year of limited motorsport activities due to the pandemic, that there is a strong desire from team and drivers to come back racing. Besides the sporting and organizational results, the media feedback about GTSSC was remarkable, the presence of Kris Wu has skyrocketed the attention we received with millions of viewers for our live-streaming programs creating unprecedent attention for a local motorsport event”
The new concept continues with back-to-back events at the Zhuzhou circuit near Shanghai with events across mid-June and early July, whilst the Shanghai season opener also signalled the start of many championships across the country in what promises to be a big return to competition in China.
- 2021 GT Super Sprint Challenge – calendar
Rnd#1, 07-09 May – Shanghai International Circuit (China)
Rnd#2, 11-13 June – Zhuzhou International Circuit (China)
Rnd#3, 03-04 July – Zhuzhou International Circuit (China)
Rnd#4, 27-29 August – Ninbgo Speedpark, Ningbo (China)
Rnd#5, 10-12 September – Shanghai International Circuit (China)