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Shanghai circuit nearing completion 05 Feb 2004

Jenson Button (GBR) BAR visits the new Shanghai International Circuit. BAR Team Visit China, Shanghai, China, October 2003.

The Shanghai International Circuit - the first track in China to be included on the FIA Formula One World Championship calendar - is nearing completion and organisers of the inaugural Grand Prix of China say all key installations should be in place by the end of March.

The first Chinese Grand Prix, which is scheduled for September 26, 2004, will be the 16th of this season's 18 races and will mark the fulfilment of a project that began at the end of 2002, when initial preparation of the site began. Extensive underpinning commenced that September, to counter the soft local terrain, and the official groundbreaking ceremony took place on October 17. Since then, the workforce - 3,000 people per day, on average - has operated round-the-clock in rotational shifts to make sure the circuit will be ready to take its place in motorsport's history books.

The distinctive circuit, which in sheer size will overshadow every other circuit in the world championship, incorporates 14 wide-ranging corners - an equal blend of left and right-handers that combine to form a 5.45-kilometre (3.39-mile) lap. Viewed from overhead, the circuit's shape is resembles the Chinese symbol "Shang", which translates as "high" or "above". According to computer simulations, current-generation Formula One cars will lap the track in about 1m 34s at an average speed close to 205 km/h (127.4 mph). On the longest, 1175-metre straight, which links Turns 13 and 14, cars should reach a maximum speed of 327 km/h (203mph).

There will be room for 200,000 spectators - and those in the massive 29,500-seat grandstand opposite the pits will enjoy a "wide screen" view that allows them to see 80 per cent of the racetrack. This grandstand is unique in the world of Formula One in having two "wing-like" structures that link the spectator seating to the pit complex and house both a media centre and the circuit's hospitality suites.

The circuit's design and layout should provide the drivers with that crucial ingredient - overtaking opportunities - and those that have seen the circuit are convinced that the new Shanghai International Circuit will provide spectators and television viewers alike with a great spectacle and a great race.