Waiting for drivers' seat

Updated: 2011-04-08 11:07

By Lei Lei (China Daily European Weekly)

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 Waiting for drivers' seat

Cheng Congfu, a promising native Chinese driver, expects sponsorship from local companies.

Besides Tung, other Chinese drivers are pursuing their racing dream, with 26-year-old Cheng Congfu considered as a promising native-born Chinese driver.

Cheng, who started racing go-karts at the age of 10, was fortunate to go to Europe, where he was known as Franky Cheng, to train when he was young.

In 1996, Cheng won his first championship title at the Beijing Shunxiang Cup Karting Competition after a stint in Japan. He defended the title the following year.

In 1998, Cheng claimed the Beijing Karting Championships title and also won the award for best new driver. He defended his title in 1999 and 2000.

After his successes in go-karts, Cheng moved to the UK in 2000 where he studied and trained.

He emerged as a gifted driver in a series of formula races. At the 2002 Asian Formula Challenge, he finished second in the championships, securing six victories and four podium finishes in 10 races.

But as for joining the Formula 1 circuit, Cheng knows he still lacks sponsorship from Chinese companies.

"I think I'm capable enough to be an F1 racer right now, but the time is not that right," Cheng says.

"In China, motor sport still lags far behind those of other countries and we still lack a good racing atmosphere.

"I hope more Chinese companies and brands will realize the value of supporting a racing team and I'm very glad to be the idol of China's racing to attract more racers as well as more financial support for the sport."

FASC's Zhan says having a local F1 driver would need a team sponsored by local companies.

At present, some Chinese companies have latched onto F1, such as IT companies Aigo and Lenovo, whose logos appear on F1 cars. But none of them has decided to field a team.

"Holding the event in Shanghai has drawn more attention to motor sports," Zhan says.

"During the first event, in 2004, 120 of the world's top 500 companies were involved either directly or indirectly.

"At that time, China held about 30 motor sport events a year; now the number is about 100 a year."

Zhan says he knows that many companies are considering being more involved in F1.

"But it's hard to say when this will be realized."

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