Posted by: daradoodle | June 15, 2009

To The Extreme

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F1 fans in Shanghai

When I open up a newspaper, the last section I glance over is the sports. I didn’t know much about the popularity of sports in China until I got here. More specifically, when an editor from the Shanghai Daily dropped by one of my classes last semester and was asked by a student to list the top sports in China. She said…

1. Ping Pong

2. Basketball

3. F1

F1? “What the heck is F1,” I asked myself? In a whisper to the person next to me, I inquired about this mystery letter/number code. I was told that F1 is short for Formula One. OK, great… I still have no idea what that means. Then I discovered they’re super turbo race cars. All I could think about was the hilarious Will Ferrell film “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” where mockery of the race car industry could not have been portrayed better. The bash factor is taken to such a level that any fan of this sport (NASCAR in particular) would be slightly ashamed.

Shortly after I learned about the popularity of these speed of light cars, I started noticing F1 advertisements in magazines and on ICS (the TV station that I worked at briefly last year). One night, I had the TV on as background noise when a program came on that profiled F1 drivers. I distinctly remember the story of a young guy named Lewis Hamilton who had shattered world records. This F1 thing sounded kind of cool after all.

F1 is popular in Shanghai mainly because in Jiading, a district in Shanghai county located an hour from the city center, a Shanghai leg of the F1 season takes place. During the Chinese Grand Prix Shanghai, thousands of people flock to the racetrack with their picnic baskets, professional cameras and earplugs.

The Fudan International Student Association organized a group trip to the April race and my friend Alejandra and I both bought student discounted tickets for RMB 200 a pop, which allowed entrance to the races on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The ticket put us in the ‘J’ section of the course that did not provide a seat, but a spot of your choice on a grassy hill. The student organization arranged for a bus to take us from Fudan to the venue on Sunday for RMB 35. However, a free shuttle was also available for ticket holders from the Shanghai Stadium, just south of the city center, each day of the event. Since Alejandra and I both had work to do, we opted to go with the students on Sunday.

When we stepped off the bus, we were welcome with strong gusts of wind and gray skies. A mob of people slinging ear plugs surrounded us. Ben, president of FISA, suggested that we buy the RMB 3 earplugs from the slingers because the price inside of the venue goes up to about RMB 20. My friend and classmate Francios (guess which country he’s from) who is a massive F1 fan had warned me the night before about the loud screeching sound of the race cars. He said that the sound level is so loud at times that if your ear drums are not protected, they could possibly be damaged. When he bought his RMB 600 ticket to the Sunday race, he scored a pair of heavy duty looking headphones with the purchase. Aside from having a sound minimizing function on them, they also had a radio dial that would transmit the race commentators discussion. AND they had the Shanghai Circuit logo on them, which makes for a good souvenir. I had to have a pair.

A few of us bought these headphones for RMB 100 and were bummed out when we learned that the radio reception was terrible. Ehhh… at least they came with an adapter so they’re useable with any audio player.

Before the races began, some of the drivers made an appearance on a stage near the venue’s main entrance to greet fans and sign autographs. I managed to shoot a little video without getting crushed by the super excited crowd.

Shortly after the meet and greet, the races began and everything was going great until it started to rain. By the end of the day, equipped with umbrellas and plastic ponchos, we were completely soaked. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it was well worth it though. Here are few more videos and some photos from the day.

Porsche Carrera Cup Asia

First Lap of the Formula 1 Grand Prix Final

Formula 1 Grand Prix Final

A car that didn’t quite make it to the finish line

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