Mainland China has quite a few race tracks, with new ones opening each year. They are scattered throughout this huge country; one even opened up in Inner Mongolia this past year!
The most popular circuits are the Zhuhai International Circuit and the Shanghai F1 Track (former home of a Moto GP round). Zhuhai is by far the most active course, with the famous Le Mans car series, Pan Delta Series, and numerous other events including the FIM Asia GP round. It is an hour ferry ride from Hong Kong and a 20-minute taxi ride from Macau. It draws thousands of spectators for every event and its title sponsors are Audi and Red Bull.
Riders from around the world participate in the Pan Delta Series. It consists of six races – three rounds, two races per round. It is a real show. Countries including Spain, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Japan, India, Macau, China and, of course, Canada are represented. I am the only North American that has raced the Pan Delta Series in the last four years. There are former World 250 GP riders in the field, and some pretty fast company all round. Riders also use this series as a stepping stone to World Supersport, like Gino Rhea, and also Moto2. In between races, the spectators enjoy drift car shows and world class motorbike stunt riders that sometimes take their show to the street – which is a whole different story, and perhaps a future blog!
You want to be in Zhuhai during one of the Pan Delta events. The city is alive and aching to party. The events are heavily promoted and entire streets are dedicated to the race, with celebrations taking place nightly. The riders join the spectators come Sunday night… assuming, of course, they made it through the weekend unscathed and with results that made their teams proud.
The Pan Delta was originally based on the Porsche Cup and Ferrari Challenge, but the spectators are on their feet when the Superbikes are on the grid. We have become the fan favourites. The autograph sessions will have hundreds waiting in line at all times, with security stepping in when a session is over – locals often refuse to leave without a signed poster. The adrenalin and excitement is something I wish the rest of the world could see.
I have been fortunate enough to have tremendous support racing in China. Kawasaki is my backbone, and they are the reason that all of this has happened to me. We have a direct line to Japan and get all the cool kit parts, which makes our team bikes very competitive. With China being an emerging market, bike manufactures, tire manufactures, aftermarket parts makers and everyone associated with motorbikes is trying to penetrate the Chinese market. It will become the number one market at some point. The government will decide when this will happen, but believe me, it will happen.
Too bad hiding four sets of tires each flight is virtually impossible. For 2012, we have decided to send over a container of tires from Pirelli and reduce our stress level by a lot!