Lihpao International Circuit (Chinese: 麗寶國際賽車場), also known as Lihpao Racing Park, is the latest venture of a rapidly expanding theme park and resort in Taiwan. Opened in 2018, the 'G2' circuit encircles the facility's karting-circuit which opened 12 years previously and has itself been awarded the best in South-East Asia.
Located in the northern Taichung City district of Houli, Lihpao Land is on land that was originally the site of a ranch owned by the Taiwan Sugar Corporation. The theme park in which it sits opened in 1998 and is one of many to spring up across Taiwan. At 53 hectares and still growing, it claims to be the largest land and water park in the country, boasting roller coaster rides, shopping malls, the tallest Ferris wheel in Taiwan, a virtual reality gaming centre and a five-star luxury hotel.
The racing circuit endured several years of legal wranglings relating to complaints about noise nuisance before finally hosting its first racing action in 2021.
Final plans for the G2 circuit were announced by the Yue-Mei International Development Corp in August 2017, in partnership with Taiwan Audi, completing a 10 year planning process. Construction began soon after, using land on the western edge of the theme park. Construction work was completed quickly, with the circuit ready for operation by 1 November 2018.
It's an impressive venue, boasting a 23-bend main course, which can be divided into three separate circuits. Named the 'Wind', 'Fire' and 'Thunder', supposedly to sum up the characteristics of course, the three variations can be operated simultaneously. There's considerable elevation change, particularly in the challenging 'Fire' section of the course, which unwinds over a height difference of around five storeys.
What catches the eye more than anything are the extremely well-appointed facilities for fans and racers. The main "Welcome Building" has an interactive service centre, exhibition space and car brand boutiques, alongside an industrial innovation space, a children's education centre and a light food area.
The main pit building, or 'Event Centre' as it is named, features garages for 34 teams, a VIP area, podium, race control media centre and multi-purpose room, housed within a Jerez or Macau-style extension over the start-finish straight.
The aim for the circuit is to host three or four major races per year, with an eye on attracting international motorsport. However, problems emerged soon after opening, with noise complaints from neighbours forcing a temporary halt to on-track activities. A new noise-containment plan was put into place by the circuit but the continued wranglings meant the track was operating in trial operation mode for a full three years before being granted its racing certifications.
Finally, the circuit held its inaugural racing event in May 2021, a three day racing carnival which attracted more than 250 competitors.