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Formula One fever arrives in China 07 Jun 2004

(L to R): Rory Byrne (RSA) Ferrari Chief Designer talks to Gerhard Berger (AUT) Former Grand Prix driver.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, San Marino Grand Prix, Imola, Italy, 19 April 2003

The new Shanghai International Circuit was the setting for the first ever lap by a Formula One car in mainland China on Sunday. The honour of driving fell to former Ferrari star Gerhard Berger, at the wheel of Michael Schumacher’s world championship winning F2003-GA from last season.

Berger, who spent six years racing for Ferrari, thrilled the 32,000 jubilant fans that attended the inaugural race meeting at the new venue, which will host the first Chinese Grand Prix later this year. The Austrian put in four ear-splitting laps to bring the sights, sound and smells of Formula One machinery to China for the first time.

"It is great to come to the Shanghai Circuit - to see Shanghai and of course to see the circuit first!” said Berger after his run. “It is a fantastic circuit and a magnificent experience to be the first to drive a Formula One car around the circuit. It's always a nice experience to do something like this. This is a modern circuit, it is challenging and with great ambience. I think that everyone will really enjoy racing here!"

Other highlights to the day were the inaugural round of the six-race China Circuit Championship (CCC), touring cars, Formula Renault, plus a parade of 55 road-going Ferraris and Maseratis, with Ferrari test driver Luca Badoer among those at the wheel.

The 2004 Chinese Grand Prix takes place on September 26, when all ten teams will get the chance to sample the circuit’s 14 challenging turns and its high-speed, 1175m back straight.