2010.10.25 - WROOOOOM

Korean GRAND Prix!

The big event this week was not the Gwangalli International Fire Works Festival - not for us at least. We decided not to go as we don't really like fire works and we don't like being among hundreds of thousands of people on the beach. Instead we watched it on the telly and spent the Sunday doing another thing which we don't really enjoy, but which has to be done at least once - go see a Formula 1 race!

We got up at 6 in the morning to make sandwiches for the road and met my colleagues Saikat and Serhiy downstairs at 7. The weather was a bit depressing with light rain. As it happened it kept raining all the way to the race course, 4½ hours down the road in Mokpo ! We didn't really run into too much traffic before hitting Mokpo as we arrived almost 3 hours before the race was scheduled to kick off. So the the trip there went pretty smooth, except for depleting our food reserves already at this early stage. Here I have to take time off to explain you how Korean road trips work .... The lack of what we would call decent food makes it imperative to bring your own food. When you are out of food all that is left for you is to stop at a roadside restaurant where you understand zilch and undoubtedly will end up with spicier than spicy fermented cabbage to fill your stomach.

But how bad could it be ? We were going to a F1 race, so surely there would be loads of international food stalls and entertainment, right ? All we had to do was to get tickets - because we chanced it and hoped we could buy tickets at the race - and we would be set. Tickets we got but all the rumors we had heard about the state of the race track soon turned out to be completely true. Basically, only the race tarmac was ready. Or should I say inspected and accepted. Up until the last minute there had been doubts whether this the first Korean F1 race ever would take place at all. A German automotive-professional who I met at Thursdays squash game told me that the race tarmac normally needs 2 months to settle before it can be used for racing but in Korea's case it had only been laid a few weeks before the race. The poor planning seems familiar !

The sight which met us was a huge empty parking lot (no tarmac). OK - that's the parking lot... the first thing you see, but still only a parking lot. Surely it would be more exciting once we got in. The Ticket Box as they call it was a small white tent. No need for that as we bought out tickets from the touts. Once inside we had to more or less cross the rice fields to make it to the stands. The poor organizers obviously hadn't planned with a slight drizzle but still .....

So - installed in some good seats in the stand just after the slow corner, we had a couple of hours to kill. Food ! But unfortunately there was only a small stall selling drinks, chips and crackers and a very crowded Family Mart truck. Wrong again - no international food stalls. So chips and crackers it was - better than kimchi! At least we could sit in the rain and enjoy our snacks while we watched the air show and the low-flying jets as announced in the program.

Wrong again again! Of all the planned entertainment we only got the drivers' parade and the Korean national anthem.

Gave us time to notice all the loose assembly bolts lying around, the loose seats and the rocking floor boards. Wonder if the empty stands in front of us were empty because they weren't needed (my squash friend had bought tickets for one of those stands but obviously he had been moved to another, because they were completely empty) or because they weren't completed.

But then 3 o'clock came around and the race was set to start. Finally some action. The 10 minute delay we were willing to accept as what's another 10 minutes after a couple of hours in the rain? And we were willing to accept the unusual start behind the safety car, when the race officials decided that it was too wet to make a normal start. By the way, this heavy rain which was reported in the Danish newspapers afterward was more of a light drizzle (4mm rain in the forecast). Revolt was in out minds when the race was stopped after 3 rounds. How the hell is it possible that a light drizzle is too wet for the worlds best race drivers. We must have been the worlds best spectators because we were sticking it out several hours in this "heavy" rain without getting soaked! I suspect that the tarmac could be to blame - I can't think of any other plausible reason.

We were about to head off but then at 16:00 the race was resumed ... behind the safety car again. And the safety car stayed there until round 17. Finally the race was given free ! JIHAAAA!!!!!!!!!! After one round the leading driver in the championships and the driver in the second position at the time, Mark Webber, drove off the course, spun and was hit by the driver behind him. Enter the safety car! This was becoming repetitive.

Our spot was right at the slow corner, as I have already told you. This made for some cool spin offs and we almost saw Mark Webber's crash. Almost - but in fact we only saw the crane remove the car in the distance. Two things I need to mention here would be that F1 is noisy - even when you are wearing ear plugs - and that in Korea people have no consideration for their children! Is there any other place in the world where you can see so many babies at a F1 race ? Is this really a suitable family excursion ?

We stuck it out until round 47 when we decided to beat the crowd and head home early. I guess we could have stayed till the end, but the end wasn't really that important to us. We would only be able to see the finish on the screen anyway. And considering that it took us almost 6 hours to return to Busan, I think we made the right decision, arriving at 23:30. We had had a good day out. It was interesting to see a F1 race live - even though the race itself was rather chaotic and the race track facilities were ridiculous. It would have been nice to see one of the established races, but I don't think we will return to F1. One was good but one was also enough for people like us who are not fanatics!