No guts, no glory for young gun Cao (2)

09:09, April 21, 2010      

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"That is the end of their career," said Ma, whose company also helped develop Formula BMW Asia star Marchy Lee, and Franky Chang.

Ma said he finds it a struggle to generate interest in the sport among the Chinese public.

When he started training a battalion of drivers in 1997, he had to pull 98 percent of them from Hong Kong. Seven years later, at the launch of his training school in Shanghai, "not only did the mainland Chinese not know what motor sports were, they didn't know how to drive," he said.

But with China now ranking as the world's biggest automobile market - it eclipsed the United States last year - interest in the internal combustion engine is heating up. This trend is likely to trickle into the world of motor sports sooner or later.

The country already has three top circuits in Shanghai, Beijing (Goldenport) and Zhuhai, an island next to Hong Kong. Copycat tracks are starting to spring up in other cities like Chengdu, provincial capital of Sichuan.

Meanwhile, Beijing held its inaugural Race of Champions last November at the "Bird's Nest" National Stadium - the same venue where Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt shocked the world 15 months earlier at the Beijing Olympic Games.

Now the scouts will be watching to see if Cao and his peers can continue their fledgling success. Cao had an outstanding season in the China Touring Car Championship (CTCC) last year alongside two other prodigies: Jiang Tengyi and Andy Yan.

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