Korea only recently threw its hat into the Formula One ring, hosting its first Grand Prix in October 2010. Following in the tyre tracks of Singapore and China, both of whom have launched highly successful F1 projects in the region in recent years, it was an exciting proposition for the sport and for fans.
Having already hosted the Olympics (1988) and the World Cup (2002, co-hosted with Japan), Korea is no stranger to the pressures of staging major sporting events. After announcing its Formula One deal, race organizers Korea Auto Valley Operation (KAVO) and local and national government agencies threw themselves into preparations and the circuit was just finished in time for the debut race.
The track is to be found in the South Jeolla region, in the southwestern part of the Korean peninsula. It is around 370 km from the Korean capital, Seoul. It's a fairly rural location, full of stunning natural scenery, with magnificent mountains such as Mt Jirisan and Mt Wolchulsan, and a number of beautiful islands such as Hongdo, Baekdo and Geomundo.
The city of Jeollanam-do, however, is developing around the circuit, which will serve as its focal point and in the future expect a cityscape backdrop to rival Singapore. The region is also a growing centre for tourism and culture in Northeast Asia, and organizers are following Abu Dhabi's lead and developing the area surrounding the circuit with a high-tech business park, residential and leisure facilities.
The 5.615-km Yeongam track has been designed by celebrated circuit architect Hermann Tilke and boasts a stunning waterside location. It is made up of a temporary 'street circuit' section, which is included for the Grand Prix, and a 3.045-km permanent track, which will be used all year round.
It features a mammoth 1.2-km straight (one of three high-speed stretches), the longest straight of any current Asian Formula One circuit. And is also one of the calendar's few anti-clockwise tracks, featuring five slow turns and two obvious spots for overtaking.
There is seating for up to 130,000 spectators, including 16,000 in the main grandstand, the roof of which resembles the eaves of a traditional Korean 'hanok' house. The teams have also been treated to purpose-built pit and paddock buildings.