Feature: Declining coal cities in northwest China revived by auto racing
YINCHUAN, Oct. 12 (Xinhua) -- With engines roaring at the foot of Helan mountain in Shizuishan city in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, dust mixed with coal cinder veils a yellow racing car, and the once coal-rich city is populated with car fans and 670 racing drivers from all over China.
"Pits on the tracks are beautiful, and making use of them to make the race more challenging for green hands and interesting for our old hands is really a wonderful idea," said top-class racer Han Wei, who has led his team here from east China's Zhejiang province for the rally. In the Dakar Rally which finished in January of this year, Han and his navigator Liao Min ranked No. 10.
Shizuishan was a coal-rich city, one of the 10 coal bases authorized by the Chinese government during the 1950s, when large-scale coal mines were built at the foot of Helan Mountain. However, over-exploitation resulted in ecological deterioration, and all mines within Helanshan ecological preservation area were shut down in 2017 for ecological restoration.
With coalmines shut down, many people lost their jobs and left the city. In recent years, China has advocated the combination of environmental protection and high-quality development. Following this path, Shizuishan has begun to find its lost glory in industrial ruins and developed industrial tourism, just like many other old industrial cities in China.
According to He Binghai, deputy head of Dawukou district, Shizuishan, the rally has combined environmental protection, industrial tourism and sports. "We make full use of mine relics to set the track, and racers can enjoy the special view of factory ruins along the road, which can help improve the city's attractions and popularity," He said.
Lin Dewei, a 29-year-old racing driver from the Taiwan region, is deeply attracted by the beautiful natural landscape and challenging tracks in northwest China. "It's my first time to race in China's northwest, and the complicated track demanding extremely accurate control excites me so much," Lin said.
Lin is now a professional racing driver and also a coach. Since age three, Lin has gone to many places with his father, also a racing driver, who takes part in competitions. In his schooldays, all his weekends and holidays were passed by practicing car racing in mountains.
"There were no comic books or cartoons in my childhood; all my life is about car racing," Lin said.
At present, Lin's parents are doing metal fabricating in Ningxia, and he occasionally comes here for travel. "Northwest China is a wonderful place for car-racing training, because there are many landforms here such as deserts, mountains and gravel roads," Lin said, adding that he is going to make this place his training base and popularize car-racing culture for local children.
Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 this year, there are few rallies, but Lin has taken part in all kinds of racing to improve his skills.
Lin said in the first few years when he started racing, Chinese local racing cars and drivers were far behind with those in America and European countries, but the situation has greatly changed in recent years.
"Chinese racers and teams have ranked higher in many international competitions these years. You can see so many top-class racers and racing cars, even in northwest China, and this means you can see much better ones in large cities," Lin concluded. Enditem