GP2 veteran Ho-Pin Tung tests at Sebring, but a full-time drive may be next
Back in 2009, rumors emerged about the possibility of IndyCar staging a race in China for 2012. I remember chatting with IndyCar commercial division president Terry Angstadt about it that year at Richmond International Raceway and he mentioned the potential for a 400,000-seat racing stadium at Qingdao Bay, as well as how a race would fit into that region's economic development.
Since that time, the China rumors have died down a bit. But perhaps, we may need to keep them in the back of our minds again.
Here's why: FAZZT Race Team is aiming to expand to a two-car operation next season and it looks like they're targeting Chinese driver Ho-Pin Tung, a veteran of the GP2 series and current test/reserve driver for Renault's Formula One squad.
Tung recently tested for the team at Sebring International Raceway, and in a statement released today, the team revealed that they're teaming up with Luxembourg-based Gravity Sport Management to try and nail down "the proper commercial partnerships necessary to ensure [Tung] a competitive full season in 2011."
Tung's test at Sebring made him the first licensed driver from China to take the wheel of an IndyCar. If Marshall Pruett's piece on the test is any indication, it sounds like Tung enjoyed himself and the FAZZT team has been impressed with him for some time now.
With that said, here's a few bits of background on Tung in case he does join the grid in 2011: He's 28, he can speak seven languages to varying degrees (Chinese, Dutch, fluent English, good French and German, iffy Greek and Latin), and has driven in a variety of feeder series -- Formula Ford, Formula BMW, and Formula 3.
In late 2007, he joined F1's Sauber as a tester (that year, he also joined the GP2 ranks) and in 2009, he migrated to Renault to become their third driver. Tung also has driving stints in A1 Grand Prix and Superleague Formula to his credit.
This past July, Tung sustained a fractured vertebra in a crash during a GP2 event at Hungary. After recovering, he re-emerged for the season finale at Abu Dhabi earlier this month.
Sounds like an intriguing choice for FAZZT if they indeed go with Tung as a teammate to Canada's Alex Tagliani. It sounds like Tung can hack it as a driver and his potential ability to unlock a rising market for IndyCar goes without saying. He'd be the definite hook for the series and promoters if an IndyCar event ever came to China, much like Takuma Sato was the hook this past season at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan.