The Korean Grand Prix racked up substantial operating losses last month, the third year running it has finished in the red, but organizers say the race will bring long-term benefits to the country.
The South Korean race, first run in 2010, returned operating losses of 39.4 billion won (US$36.38 million), local media reported yesterday, quoting race organizers.
One of nine Asian races on this year’s 20-stop Formula One calendar, including the Asia-Pacific Australian Grand Prix, the South Korean event also lost an estimated US$50 million in its first year.
“It’s hard to say what kind of impact the loss has on next year,” South Korean race organizers said. “Although there are many concerns regarding the operating loss, the loss for a third straight year is only a short-term effect.”
“In the long-term the F1 event will bring more benefits to the country. It will not only pave the way for South Korean car industries in the future, but also help foster new industries,” they said.
The Korean International Circuit in Yeongam, 400km south of Seoul, has an initial contract of seven years, with a five-year option that could keep the race there until 2021.
However, it has been plagued by problems, even before opening in 2010, when construction of the circuit was only just finished in time for its maiden race.
South Korean organizers have expressed dissatisfaction at the terms of their contract with Formula One, particularly over the cost of race-sanctioning fees.
However, their complaints have fallen on deaf ears with Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone.
The last two Korean races have been won by Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, the current world champion.
The problems facing South Korea’s race contrast sharply to the success Formula One enjoys in nearby Japan, where sell-out 120,000 crowds are commonplace at Suzuka.
“Compared to the boom years, things have become a little harder, but we had 103,000 for race day this year,” Japanese Grand Prix press manager Yoshihisa Ueno said.
“Last year with the [tsunami and nuclear] disaster, numbers were down, but this year, operation-wise was a successful year,” he said.
The Japanese Grand Prix has been held at Suzuka since 1987, apart from 2007 and 2008, when it was held at Fuji Speedway.