Alex Yoong and ...
Alex Yoong and #48 WPS Racing was given the honor of christening the Shanghai International Circuit in China last Monday as part of the historic signing ceremony to announce that a round of the V8 Supercar Championship Series will be held at the new track from next year.
WPS Racing's new team signing Alex Yoong became the first driver to fire up a V8 Supercar around the circuit and was joined by Queensland Premier Peter Beattie.
About 400 invited guests watched on as Yoong fired up the WPS Racing car, specially flown into Shanghai for the event, and shot Mr Beattie around the track for a series of hot laps.
Businessman and team owner Craig Gore, whose financial services company Wright Patton Shakespeare Financial Group sponsors WPS Racing, welcomed the car back to the pits and helped an elated Mr Beattie from the car.
"It was such a privilege to be part of the announcement of the Shanghai round and then to have Mr Beattie partner Alex Yoong for the first laps by a V8 Supercar was outstanding," said Mr Gore.
"Mr Beattie had a great few laps and was absolutely beaming when I got him of the car.
"It is an awesome track and it will blow all the Australian teams away when they come and see the quality and size of the facilities."
After helping Mr Beattie from the car, Mr Gore then escorted a series of Chinese dignitaries into the car for further hot laps.
Just minutes earlier the assembled guests participated in the official announcement that a round of the V8 Supercar Championship Series will be held at the track for each of the next five years.
Mr Beattie, along with Avesco Chairman Tony Cochrane, Chinese government dignitaries, track owners and local promoters, was a guest speaker during the official signing ceremony.
He said the deal to race in China was a core component of a renewed Shanghai-Brisbane sister city agreement that he had signed earlier in the day.
Mr Beattie described next year's first race, to be held in June as round five of the 2005 season, as a landmark event in terms of logistics and export dollars.
Alex at the Shanghai International Circuit with the WPS V8 Ford Falcon Alex at the Shanghai International Circuit with the WPS V8 Ford Falcon
"This will be the largest sporting contingent ever to leave Australia at one time, so we are making history with this event," said Mr Beattie.
The comments were echoed by Australian Prime Minister John Howard in a special message read during the launch ceremony.
"On behalf of the Australian Government, I congratulate AVESCO and all those who have helped secure what I understand is the biggest sporting export deal between Australia and China," Mr Howard's message read.
"Under a five year deal, V8 racing will for the first time travel outside Australasia. This is an exciting and historic event and one which will add a further dimension to one of Australia's most important relationships.
"From the home of V8 Supercar racing in Bathurst and from around Australia, Australians wish you well in the opportunities that will follow today's signing ceremony."