Eurosport Events’ François Ribeiro has explained the decision behind switching the World Touring Car Championship race of China from Shanghai to Ningbo as being about creating ‘new opportunities’ for the WTCC.
It was announced back in March that the venue for the Chinese race was to move to the brand new Ningbo International Speedpark, after five years at the Shanghai International Circuit.
The new circuit was only recently completed in September 2017, and features 22 turns and a 24-metre gradient change. The circuit is FIA Grade II licensed, just below Shanghai’s Grade I, and cost approximately 122 million euros to build.
“[The change of venue] was a discussion we had last year with our partner [CTCC promoter], Mr Xia Qing,” explained Ribeiro. “He explained to me that China was building new infrastructure for motorsport outside Shanghai.
“Shanghai was built nearly 15 years ago, mainly for Formula One. But to grow, the sport needs infrastructure and I was very, very happy to see that China was building new infrastructure.
“The new circuit in Ningbo means new opportunities to promote WTCC to a new audience and a Grade II circuit is probably the best for touring car racing.
“It was a good opportunity and I thought it was also good to see local government was involved and behind it, because on Monday morning 50 million motorsport fans around the world will know where Ningbo is.”
Ribeiro believes that the 4.015-kilometre circuit will be better suited to touring car racing than the previous Chinese venue, which was built predominantly for high-speed Formula 1 machinery.
“It will fit touring car racing quite well, probably better than Shanghai. It’s a bit slower but I’m expecting very interesting races.
“What I like is we come to this circuit with everybody on an equal footing. Nobody has tested or raced here so it will be very interesting for the drivers and journalists over the weekend.”
Ribeiro also stressed the importance of the Chinese market to the WTCC, with the Asian country having hosted WTCC events since 2011.
“China is very important to the WTCC. It’s the seventh time we come to China and the seventh time we come with our partner, the CTCC.
“It sends out a very important message to have CTCC and WTCC together on the same weekend. We share the circuit, we share the organisation and we promote touring car together in the biggest car market in the world.”