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The dream of watching the Formula One Grand Prix with their own eyes on their home circuit has been realized as the F1 Chinese Grand Prix makes its China debut here on Sunday.

"I will have another F3 race next year. It's just like going to school. You can't go from primary to the university directly." -- Tung Ho-Pin

The next goal for the fans will be cheering for their local drivers taking part in the world's top motoring events.

Some young Chinese F1 hopefuls, such as Dutch-born Chinese Tung Ho-pin, the first ethnic Chinese to drive a F1 machine and Cheng Congfu, who is now under the training of Team McLaren Mercedes, are drawing closer to becoming a F1 driver due to their European-based training and racing experience in recent years.

Starting to drive in German Formula 3 this season, 22-year-old Tung is closest to the goal.

The dominance in the 2003 Asian Formula BMW Championship rewarded the talented young driver a test session with F1 BMW Williams team and also promoted him to the Formula 3 race, usually the last step but one before entering the F1.

"The F3 is difficult to drive and I have improved much of my driving skill," said Tung during his visit to the Inaugural Chinese Grand Prix here.

"As the F3 car is much pushed on the circuit, which is more difficult to control, the season's racing has got me much better and I'm more experienced in the car."

Tung's good performance in the testing session, in which he clocked his best time of 1 minute 22.082 seconds driving an F1 BMW24, only four seconds slower than the team's first driver Juan Montoya there, has impressed the team a lot and taken him closer to the entire F1 Grand Prix.

"I will be in the garage with the team for the while weekend," said Tung during the Chinese Grand Prix. "It's a part of my development. Talking with Montoya and Ralf Schumacher has taught me a lot. I will enjoy the F1 as much as possible here."

As to his potential F1 career, Tung, who is making progress gradually is full of confidence.

"I will have another F3 race next year. It's just like going to school. You can't go from primary to the university directly. You have to improve yourself gradually as I'm doing now," he said. "When I enter the F1, I will be very competitive. I will be not only the first Chinese F1 driver, but also the first winning Chinese driver."

Cheng, standing close to Tung as the press swarmed around, is seen another big hope.

Struggling to be competitive in the prestigious British Formula Renault Championship with McLaren junior team Manor sports at present, the 20-year-old Beijinger is following the McLaren team during the Shanghai Grand Prix.

"Competing and racing in the Europe, I'm very accustomed to the racing atmosphere there," said Cheng. "I'm confident of being a test driver or even a real F1 driver in two years."


http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2004-09/25/content_377733.htm
 
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