Formula One preparations on track, local organizers say

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Formula One preparations on track, local organizers say

Korea will be ready to host its first Formula One race next month despite concerns about a delayed inspection by the sport’s world governing body, organizers said yesterday.

“We will have no problem in hosting the race on Oct. 24, as we have almost completed all the work” on the 5.6 kilometer (3.5 mile) track, Korea Auto Valley Operation (KAVO) spokesman Kim Jae-ho told the AFP.

A final inspection from the sport’s world governing body - originally set for last week - has been delayed, sparking worries that the circuit won’t be ready in time. F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone cast doubt Sunday as to whether Korea can host the race.

“Well, it’s not good. The track should have been inspected maybe six weeks ago,” he told the BBC. “We normally have a 90-day check before a race, and now we are sort of putting this off.

“It’s quite dangerous what we’ve done actually, but I mean it’s a case of ‘do we cancel the race or not?’ They say it is all going to be O.K., so we hope they are right.”

The circuit has been constructed on reclaimed land by KAVO - a joint venture between a private firm and the provincial government - at Yeongam, 320 kilometers (200 miles) south of Seoul. KAVO officials said the inspection from the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) was delayed only because of Korea’s three-day autumn harvest holiday last week.

“We will rush to complete work, and FIA officials will see a complete circuit when they conduct a final inspection in two weeks,” Kim said. “We take Ecclestone’s remarks seriously as a message that we have to step up preparations for the race.”

The Korean Grand Prix will be the 17th event of this year’s 19-race season. KAVO will host the race for seven years with an option to extend for five years if arrangements with the FIA are satisfactory.

Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso stormed back into contention with his second win in a row at the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday.

The Spaniard put himself back in the hunt with an emotional victory for Ferrari at Monza two weeks ago and reinforced his credentials with a composed drive to hold off a charging Sebastian Vettel in Singapore.

Red Bull’s Mark Webber currently sits at 202 points after finishing third ahead of Alonso, who has 191 points.

Alonso said the title race is an open competition at this point.

“The championship remains very tight with five contenders. Obviously Mark has a margin, but we will do our best. I don’t know if it will be enough, but we will give 100 percent,” he said.

Pushed on his chances, he replied: “There are five drivers and I have around a 20 percent chance. We have seen now after two races that I’m second and anything can happen.

“In these four races, any of us can win two or three consecutive races and be in a good position, but if you make mistakes you can be off the championship. We need to keep our concentration. Hopefully we will make no mistakes and hopefully it will be that way in Japan as well.”

The Spaniard, who won his 25th race on Sunday, added that it was inevitable that Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren would have ups and downs between now and the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

“Having a championship that is nine months doesn’t happen in many other sports,” he said. “This is a sport where you can’t be 100 percent fit and focused for all races; we go up and down and that’s normal. But I can say now that I am at a peak in terms of motivation and concentration. This year it feels like the championship is starting now.”

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