A race car at the Yeongam International Circuit in South Jeolla Province during the D-100 ceremony of the F1 Korean Grand Prix on Sunday. (Sports Plus)
Yeongam to speed up improving transport links and accommodations
YEONGAM, South Jeolla Province ― While the country is still basking in the victory of PyeongChang’s 2018 bid, Yeongam, some 320 kilometers south of Seoul, is gearing up for the Formula One Korea Grand Prix.
The South Jeolla Province city believes that its second edition of the world’s biggest motor sport event will be a success, said the head of the local organizer.
“We are working hard to make sure the event turns out a great success,” said Jeolla Province Gov. Park Joon-yung.
On Sunday, marking 100 days until the F1 Korean Grand Prix on Oct. 14-16, the organizer held a ceremony on the 5.61-kilometer circuit in Yeongam.
More than 100 amateur racers were invited to experience the circuit and 1,016 people participated in a 5.61 km marathon race to promote the upcoming F1 Korean GP.
Korea held its inaugural F1 Grand Prix in Oct 2010 on the newly built circuit in Yeongam. Although the track was finished just in time for the race, the organizer failed to complete the 80,000-seat stands.
After the inaugural race, the Korea Auto Valley Operation, the operating body of F1 Korean Grand Prix, came under fire for lax preparation and poor marketing, resulting in its chief Chung Young-cho and other top officials being dismissed from their posts.
The local organizer acknowledged that the frantic last-minute preparations badly impacted the ticket sales, and also caused a number of problems, including severe traffic congestion, during the race last year.
“We had some problems last year due to the delay of the construction. But now we’re working hard to be better prepared this time,” said Park Jong-moon, the secretary general of the local organizing committee.
The local organizer has completed to build a new bypass road as an alternate route to get to the circuit, and also installed an additional 15,000-seat stand, according to Park.
“With the new bypass road, we’re expecting nearly 40 percent reduction in traffic congestion. We’re also planning to a bus-only lane and add more shuttle buses during the race,” he added.
Park, however, admitted that there is a lot of work to be done before the October race.
And it appears that improving drainage systems and resurfacing parking lots are imminent before the race.
After heavy rain hit the region, large parts of the track and parking lots were heavily waterlogged, canceling the planned circuit run on Saturday.
“We are now working on it, and hoping to complete to upgrade the drainage systems by mid-September,” Yoon Seung-jung, the media director of F1 organizing committee told The Korea Herald.
Providing more accommodation is also a remaining big task.
Last year the organizer had to prepare accommodation for more than 80,000 spectators in the small city. And due to that lack of hotels many visitors had to stay in a tacky and rather unpleasant motel during the race.
“It’s difficult to build more hotels in short period of time, instead we have plans to expand camping sites, set up more home stays and guesthouses and also run cruise ships during the race,” Yoon said.
To attract more visitors, the local organizer has also reduced ticket prices by 30 percent from the previous season.
The average ticket price is now down to 315,000 won ($279) from 460,000 won ($407), and a three-day ticket at the main grandstand is now priced at 890,000 won, down from 1 million won with grandstand tickets reduced to 380,000 won.
“We’ve already sold nearly 30 percent tickets,” Yoon said.
Last year, the F1 Korean GP attracted more than 165,000 visitors during the three-day event, and this year the organizer expects the number will reach over 200,000.
By Oh Kyu-wook (firstname.lastname@example.org)