Thu, Jul 01, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Champion hunts local sponsors

PASSION Hanss Lin overcame a lack of sponsorship money, an old car and disruptive officials to triumph in Shanghai, and hopes the feat will attract Taiwanese benefactors

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Government officials and sponsors yesterday celebrated the achievement of Taiwanese racing driver Hanss Lin (林帛亨), who won the championship in the New Racer Division of the Asian Formula Renault Challenge at the Shanghai International Circuit on June 17.

Lin, 24, overcame a lack of sponsorship funds to prevail in his category. He also drove a four-year-old vehicle, while his rivals' cars were mostly manufactured this year.

Hanss Lin has had a passion for cars since he was 8. When he decided to pursue a career in car racing at the age of 15, he told his father that apart from soccer, car racing was the most watched sport in the world.

"My son said that by becoming a car racer, he can bring honor to our country. I was so touched that I couldn't turn him down," said Lin Chen-ting (林振廷), who then sent his son to Vancouver for training. Since then, Lin Chen-ting has spent US$1 million on his son's training and other expenses.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Hsieh Ming-yuan (謝明源), who hosted the celebratory press conference, said Lin Chen-ting's desire to see the word "Taiwan" appearing as often as possible on international occasions partly motivated him to support his son's expensive career.

Lin Chen-ting insisted on painting the words "Naruwan, Welcome to Taiwan" -- the Tourism Bureau's slogan for this year -- on his son's car.

Predictably, the word "Taiwan" on Hanss Lin's car caused a stir among Chinese officials supervising the event.

"During the race, we found that a number of other competitors were breaking the rules. We tried to tell the officials about their violations," Lin Chen-ting said. "We were told our complaints would not go anywhere unless we erased the word "Taiwan" from my son's car first. We argued with them a lot."

Lin Chen-ting said they refused to comply with the racing officials' demand.

Choosing a racing career was a bold decision, said Wu Chun-che (吳俊哲), secretary of the National Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

"A car racer is usually sponsored by a big car company. Compared with other car racers, Hanss Lin's sponsorship group was very weak," Wu said. "His achievement in Shanghai therefore is precious -- with so many disadvantages he still managed to win the championship."

Thus far Taiwan has not established an international-standard racing circuit. Previous plans to build racing facilities have fallen through. The council did not have enough money to support even a promising racer like Hanss Lin, Wu said.

Officials from the state-run Chinese Petroleum Corp (CPC), which provided NT$2 million for Hanss Lin's Shanghai bid, said they were proud of Hanss Lin's performance.

"Supporting a racer costs more than NT$10 million each year. It is very difficult indeed to cultivate an auto racer. Hanss Lin's father has been seeking support from state-run enterprises to support his career, and we wish to give as much as we can," said Yen Chen (閻澄), a chief operating officer at CPC.

Hanss Lin, who also once earned a scholarship to train in France, said he knew that people in Taiwan do not regard car racing as a serious career.

"Actually, they don't respect it," he said.

Each of the next six Renault events will cost Hanss Lin NT$2 million.

"We still don't know where the money is going to come from," Lin Chen-ting said.

A number of Chinese companies have expressed interest in sponsoring Hanss Lin, but Lin Chen-ting only wants the support of Taiwanese companies.

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