While Aussies celebrated the Bathurst 1000, I went to the Korean equivalent
BY TOM WHITE
Just getting to Inje Speedium is an experience.
After two hours of buses from Seoul, we caught a taxi for 20 minutes through the breathtaking mountain surroundings of the Inje region to get to the circuit. It’s hidden away in a valley in the middle of nowhere.
“We’re close here” our taxi driver said via interpreter “North Korea is just that way” as he pointed into the hills. It explains the military personnel that could be seen at almost every town on the way.
A strange place for a race track. But then, motorsport is a bit strange in Korea.
Inje Speedium could easily be a top-tier circuit. Short, busy, and technical, it scales its way up and down the side of the valley.
The facilities, built in 2013, are slick and clean, certainly more than most tracks in Australia, although it seems they were meant for bigger crowds. During our visit the stands looked barely 10 per cent full.
We were visiting the circuit to see the Cadillac 6000 class. It’s about as close as you’re going to get to our Supercars Championship in Korea, or indeed, most of Asia.
The cars are on control chassis and are meant to resemble Cadillac ATS-Vs. They're powered by an LS3-derived 6.2-litre V8 producing roughly 325kW.
The bodies are a bit smaller than the V8s back home, and about 100kW less powerful. It was still plenty for the curvatures of the Inje track.
The visuals on them are also far more extreme. Reflective gold and silver foil liveries were common, as well as those ridiculous gullwing doors.
The grid walk was surprisingly busy, with pretty much everyone present at the event participating, but one car drew far bigger crowds than all the others. “The driver is also a big TV star” our interpreter noted. It was hard to miss his golden foil-wrapped car.
Other classes that ran on the day included an open wheel class, known as the Super Formula Junior, a BMW M4 one make series, with cars so stock that they wore license plates, and the slightly more hardcore ‘ASA GT’ series which was made up of modified 3.6-litre V6 Hyundai Genesis Coupes. The day finished with a Japan vs Korea Toyota 86 battle.
The BMW M4s were close enough to stock that many of them simply changed tyres and drove home after the event.
We were told the Toyota 86 race was a one-off special for this event only. If nothing else, it riled up the commentators.
I told my interpreter it seemed a shame to see the stands near-empty.
“This place is too far away for a lot of people in the city” he explained, and despite some big money clearly being poured into the series, we were told “It’s not broadcast free-to-air, only enthusiasts watch it online.”
From what I learned talking to Tony Kang, these kinds of events are in response to an enthusiast culture that is only just now emerging. “Enthusiasts want to go to the track now, that’s why they’re building more circuits recently like Inje and AMG Speedway” Tony told us at the time.
AMG Circuit was built in 2017 and researching information on it was particularly difficult, it was impossible to even find a schedule. Thankfully, the Inje event was easier to find information on.
Despite a slick website for the Superrace series, big name sponsors and celebrity drivers, I was left with the impression that the Korean motorsport scene is still in its infancy. It’s a promising start, though with bespoke cars, a beautiful circuit and a strong local spin.
What do you think, would the Cadillac 6000 series work in Australia? Give us your thoughts in the comments.