The series announced today that IndyCar will race in Qingdao, China next Aug. 19 on a street course through the downtown of the city, with hopes that a permanent road course will be built sometime in the future. According to the Indy Star, Randy Bernard said that racing in China was a priority with sponsors, which was why the event is happening.
I get that from a business standpoint. A race in China is good for the sponsors involved, as well as for further raising the awareness of the series in that region of the world. Plus, it gives the drivers exposure to a large fanbase that has never seen them before...which actually may work out very well.
I just hope that they learned some lessons from the Japan race this year in the way it is presented back to us in the States. I know that the situation in Motegi was different due to the move to the road course because of the earthquake, as well as the knowledge beforehand that it was the series' final race at the venue. But the racing was bad, there were lots of empty seats and the TV ratings were horrible, which to many added to the running joke that some people perceive the series.
If they are going to take the series so far from home, they have to do it right. They need to build a course that will make for some great racing, they need to promote the hell out of it so that a large crowd shows up, and lastly, the TV issue needs to be addressed and somehow fixed.
How? Hard to say. With what will probably be a 12-13 hour time difference to most of the country during the summer, it's a little difficult to work out. The only other racing series that deals with time differences like this is Formula 1, but with a global audience and a more rabid following it isn't much of an issue. People will get out of bed and tune in at 2 a.m. for an F1 race, they won't do it for IndyCar. Motegi proved that when just 112,000 of us stayed up past midnight to watch it.
Someone is going to have to come up with a solution because the series can't afford to have throwaway races like this when it comes to TV viewership. In and around Qingdao, the race may be a total success, and it is very important for IndyCar to have as much of a global cover as it can. But if they put on a race and no one watches, does anyone care?