So, they finally “finished” the circuit, or least opened enough of it for a race to take place. The “F1 Zone” hotels in Mokpo were fairly well marked, although provided misinformation (“no vacancy Mokpo, go Gwangju”) said one hotel, although we found a vacancy in a hotel directly opposite.
The shuttle buses TO the circuit were fine – a line of buses departing regularly from Mokpo bus terminal with a travel time of approximately 25 minutes. On Saturday, the buses back were terrible – my friends boarded a shuttle bus after qualifying, which first went the wrong way, then back to the circuit, then tried to drop them off in the middle of nowhere, before finally dumping them in a car park on the outside of Mokpo (much to the protestations of Koreans and foreigners alike) which required a taxi ride back.
Upon arrival at the circuit on Sunday, I found a mass of muddy gravel, a few stalls selling F1 merchandise, very little in the way of food (and certainly no traditional Korean food) and a lot of confusion. I went to collect my ticket from the ticket box, only to be pulled to one side and asked to wait. A few minutes later someone asked me “can I help you?” I explained that they had taken my receipt and told me to wait, I was then informed that my ticket had “not arrived in Korea” yet and that my grandstand (J) had not yet been built. I was advised to walk through a certain gate, and then tell each person who queried me that I had “given my receipt number to the main gate” and that they should let me through, into the grandstand that I had apparently been moved to (F, although this alternative grandstand changed depending on who I asked, usually alternating between F, G, B, E and H).
Some of the temporary grandstands were actually closed during Sunday, and spectators were moved due to safety concerns. Certain parts of barriers hadn’t been attached, it was suddenly noticed The underside of them was a muddy mess, with a muddy carpet laid down on top of it.
Toilets were sparse and dirty, with large queues throughout. One that I used had no running water to watch hands. One of the marshals actually relieved himself in front of us onto the grass next to a portaloo.
Korean news reports seemed to suggest also that some people with tickets were being turned away – presumably because they didn’t have enough grandstands completed. The race itself was marred by a constant stream of Koreans leaving the grandstands to go home – presumably because they sick of waiting for a race that just refused to start. We too were sick of this, especially as it did not seem very wet. I’ve seen races started in far worse conditions than this. It was not a good first introduction to F1 for many Koreans.
Finally, after the race, we emerged into a dark, muddy, floodlit car-park to find no shuttle buses. First sent one way, and then another, we set off through the puddles to find a shuttle bus, hopefully back to Gwangju, although we had had no confirmation about whether this bus actually existed. The backup plan was to get a bus to Mokpo, then a bus to Gwangju and then finally the bus home to Ulsan. Before we found the shuttle buses however, a Korean man called us over and waved us onto a bus to Gwangju. We had spoken to him earlier and explained our plight, and when we found a bus to Gwangju he came running over to tell us. An absolute life-saver!
The rain was not their fault. The mud could have been better managed. The toilets, the grandstands, the organisation, the information, the communication and the traffic management needs to be improved MASSIVELY before next year, because this weekend’s event was a shambles, and not what is expected of new additions to the Formula One calendar.
Some pics here: http://koreanadventures.posterous.com/the-korean-gp
What did everyone else who went think of it?