Doubts about the inaugural Korean Grand Prix have been refuted by Formula 1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone. With the rumors now dispelled, Korean GP boss Yung Cho Chung is focusing on turning his country's first F1 race into a success. AUTOSPORT talked to him about Asia's new grand prix.
Q. You had Bernie Ecclestone visit your new track last week. How was that?
Yung Cho Chung: He flew down to Seoul for a big sponsor's meeting with the top five companies in Korea, who are interesting in becoming sponsors. He then met government ministers, and got a promise 100 percent for government support. We then flew down to the new airport near the circuit, and it was the first private plane to land there. Bernie then traveled to the circuit to check on the progress, and he was very happy with how things were. I don't think we have a problem at all.
Q. You said last week that the track was 71 percent finished. Is that still correct?
YCC: It is now 79 percent.
Q. So what's the circuit looking like at the moment?
YCC: Well Korea is very strong on telecommunications, with companies like LG and Samsung. Our circuit and grandstands will have beacons like old style signals [transmitters]. Around the world it is sad that so many circuits look similar, but when you come to Korea you will recognize it as being the Korean track.
Q. So are you promising something really unique then?
YCC: Yes. Our design is very Koreanized, so you will see the difference.
Q. In recent months there have been a lot of questions about whether the infrastructure around the venue is ready for an F1 race – like hotels. How is all that coming on?
YCC: I always say that people will have to bring their own tents! No seriously, there is no problem. We have the new airport and you can fly right down there. We also have express railways that are only three hours from Seoul.
Mr. Ecclestone was at our circuit and we were having lunch in the hotel, and Mr. Ecclestone turned around and could see that the circuit was only three minutes away! There are lots of rooms around there, and enough hotels.
Q. There was even talk at one point about people needing to stay on cruise ships. Is that not necessary now?
YCC: No. Koreans are happy to stay on cruise ships, but I know western people would not be so happy. Still, we have reserved another 16,000 rooms around the circuit, so you should easily find something.
Q. In terms of getting all the team freight and personnel in, is that all under control?
YCC: Yes. Actually we just finished a meeting with Alan Woollard, who organizes all the F1 cargo. He visited Korea and checked out all the facilities, and he is very happy.
Q. Do you understand what happened with the recent quotes attributed to Hermann Tilke suggesting that he had doubts the track would not be finished in time?
YCC: I have no idea. As soon as those quotes appeared, Hermann Tilke rang me and he said he did not make any interviews like that. I was surprised, because Hermann was in Korea at the end of last month and we had a ticket sales launch there, too. He was there, and he did interviews with the press and said he was happy with the progress there. He told us he never met the German magazine and never made an interview like that. Maybe the quotes were from last year or November. I don't know – maybe the magazine doesn't like me!
Q. Why do you think there have been so many doubts about the Korean race happening?
YCC: I remember when Turkey was new, exactly the same thing happened. And now, like last year, when there was Abu Dhabi, exactly the same stories came around. This week we have heard these stories about us, and I am actually now quite thankful, because in the last week everybody is now interested in the race and it has switched back that it is definitely happening. Bernie Ecclestone was there and he clarified everything, so I have to thank him!
Q. When the track is finished, is there are a plan for a race before the grand prix weekend?
YCC: We have already contracted an international event. At the GP, we will have some Korean support races and in November we will have an F3 race as well.
Q. What is your message to the skeptics then who doubt the event will happen?
YCC: I received about one thousand telephone calls from all around the world last week, and it reminded me and encouraged me that I have done a pretty good job.
Q. Do you think you can make this event one of the more popular on the calendar?
YCC: Yes. This area is totally different – it is totally natural, with very fresh air, mountains, the sea and rivers. There are 2,500 islands around there. The food is fantastic and the accommodation is beautiful. The countryside is very Korean and only two and a half hours' drive from Seoul.
Q. And no volcanoes?
YCC: No, we don't have that! It's beautiful there.
Q. What will the weather be like in October?
YCC: It will be between 60 and 68 degrees. It is autumn in Korea, and is beautiful then.