First impressions of Korea

The view from the main grandstand © Sutton Images

It’s been a very long trip to get here, but from my first impressions of the circuit it was worth it.

After a ten-hour flight to Seoul, a first class train journey to Mokpo and a quick taxi ride to our ‘Love Hotel’, we’ve arrived. The accommodation is a bit bizarre and there are easily 30 of these ‘Love Hotels’ in the area – the one down the road is called the Hotel Feel, but we steered clear of that. Ours, The Washington, is actually very nice. It’s still a ‘Love Hotel’ but it’s clean, has a 42″ TV and free internet access. They wanted the media to stay an hour away in the city of Gwangju, which is much bigger and has more luxurious hotels, but it’s far more important to be close to the action so we’re happy where we are.

Reports that this place is in the middle of nowhere were wide of the mark. There are loads of hotels and restaurants and Mokpo is actually a small city with everything you could want. There’s a full blown concert going on by the coast at the moment and then on Friday and Saturday there are going to be raves going on until 2am – I’m not saying I’ve got the time to attend them, but it gives you an idea of the atmosphere.


The pit and paddock complex in Korea © Sutton Images

The circuit is also impressive and much more advanced than a lot of the reports leading up to the weekend suggested. I first came here a year ago to take some photos and there was a single track leading up to the entrance, now there is a three-lane highway. The investment they have made is impressive and the basic infrastructure is all there.The paddock looks up to scratch and the team buildings are huge, so they aren’t even using the top floors of them. The media centre and the photographers’ area is all complete, although the internet is a bit temperamental, but I’m sure that will be sorted in time for the action.


The grandstands still need to be completed © Sutton Images

The main grandstand is also very impressive and you get a completely unobstructed view of the circuit and pits, which is quite unusual. Everybody is sat close to the action at that part of the circuit so I just hope they can fill it to capacity on race day. Some of the other grandstands aren’t finished yet, which is why you can see a lot of construction work in the photos, but they are working flat-out and it’s all taking very shape very quickly.The track itself is finished. I walked it in full on Wednesday and everything looks as you would expect. Around the back of the circuit there are some very fast sweeping corners and, from a photographer’s point of view, we’re going to be a bit further away from the action out there, but it looks like a good sequence of turns. All the kerbs are laid and there is no weeping from the tarmac, as far as I’m concerned the track is finished. The only question mark I have is over the pit lane entrance and exit that seem to be a little bit too tight to the racing line for comfort.


The view of the pit straight on Wednesday © Sutton Images

In some parts the concrete barriers make it look like Valencia, but it’s a nice mix that draws characteristics from all the other Hermann Tilke-designed venues we’ve seen before. You can also see where they are going to build the city part because they have laid out all the pipes and underground wiring ready to be put in place. They’re due to start that next year, so it will be interesting to see it develop.Overall I would say hats off to the organisers. It’s been difficult for them in recent weeks and they’ve produced what looks like a great circuit in a great part of the world.


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