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China definite for 1999

BERNIE ECCLESTONE told The South China Morning Post newspaper last week that China will have its own Grand Prix in 1999 at the Zhuhai International racing circuit. "The FIA has been trying to move some of the races to Asia and this is something we want to see happen. It will happen in Zhuhai if everything is ready. This is guaranteed. We had some of our people from the FIA inspect the track and their response has been quite positive."

Our spies in China suggest that unless there is some dramatic change in the next few months, Zhuhai will have a very serious problem over hotel rooms as there are currently only 600 within 30 minutes of the racing circuit. There is no shortage of hotel space in Macau and Hong Kong but journeying backwards and forwards to the circuit is not easy, both trips taking about 90 minutes if there are no major hold-ups at Chinese immigration.

This will probably not present too much of a problem as the people who make the major decisions in F1 never have to stay in the far-flung hotels and do not care very much if others have a miserable time. We have, however, heard of a plan for six new hotels (an extra 10,000 hotel rooms to be built within the next few months by 200,000 members of the People's Liberation Army.

We hear that the whole project is being underwritten by the regional government in Zhuhai in association with Philip Morris, which is desperately trying to promote Marlboro cigarettes in the Chinese market. This is not surprising as there are more smokers in China than there are people in the United States.

The arrival of Grand Prix racing in China may not benefit the locals as the normal price of a ticket to a Grand Prix is around the same as six months wages to the average Chinese. Our spies in China say this will not present a problem as there will be 200,000 members of the People's Liberation Army who would be delighted to fill the grandstands...

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