Seoul: The Korean Grand Prix racked up substantial operating losses last month, the third year running it has finished in the red, potentially threatening its place on Formula One's calendar.
The South Korea race, first run in 2010, returned operating losses of 39.4 billion won, local media reported on Wednesday, quoting race organisers. One of nine Asian races on the 20-stop 2012 Formula One calendar, including the Asia-Pacific Australian Grand Prix, the South Korean event also lost an estimated $50 million in its first year.
The Yeongam circuit, 400 km south of Seoul, has an initial contract of seven years, with a five-year option that could keep the race there until 2021. However, it has been plagued by problems, even before opening in 2010, when construction of the circuit was only just finished in time for its maiden race.
The problems facing South Korea's fledgling race contrast sharply to the success Formula One enjoys in nearby Japan, where sellout 120,000 crowds are commonplace at Suzuka. "Compared to the boom years, things have become a little harder but we had 103,000 for race day this year," press manager Yoshihisa Ueno told Reuters. "Last year with the (tsunami and nuclear) disaster, numbers were down but this year, operation-wise was a successful year."
The Japanese Grand Prix has been held at Suzuka almost exclusively since 1987, apart from 2007 and 2008 when it was held at Fuji Speedway South Korean organisers have expressed dissatisfaction at the terms of their contract with Formula One, particularly over the cost of race-sanctioning fees.
However, their complaints have fallen on deaf ears with Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone. The last two Korean races have been won by Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, the current world champion.