SHIJIAZHUANG, Nov. 5 (Xinhua) -- On a racing track, a kart drifts and accelerates as its engine roars, drawing cheers from the crowd.
The driver, 45-year-old Xie Guangya, is the oldest kart instructor in a racing valley in Qinhuangdao, north China's Hebei Province.
Xie had worked in a local steel plant until 2018, when the plant was shut down and transformed into the racing valley.
Neighboring Beijing, Hebei is a leading producer of iron and steel. Facing pressure from the overcapacity of iron production as well as industrial air pollution, many steelmakers have been closed, turning to other industries for greener development.
Data show Hebei cut iron and steel production capacity by more than 68 million tonnes from 2016 to 2019, almost half of the capacity cut by the entire country during the same period.
Xie used to supply oxygen for steelmaking in the plant that produced nearly 7 million tonnes of iron and steel annually. While many of Xie's coworkers left for other steelmakers when their employer decided to transform the plant into a car racing valley, Xie decided to stay.
"I have been here since 2003 when the plant was established. It's my second home," he said.
The racing valley built on the former site of the plant currently has four racing tracks spanning 2.4 square km. Entertainment facilities such as a performance stage and sightseeing trains are also included, said Shen Yiping, chairman of the plant, which is a subsidiary of the steel giant Shougang Group.
Xie had to learn karting from scratch, no mean feat for a middle-aged man. "Luckily, my family is supportive," he said.
Zhang Mingyu, a frequent visitor to the valley, remembers how diligent Xie was.
"Every weekend I came, he was here practicing," Zhang said.
Zhang, a local resident, is impressed by the transformation of the venue.
"I like the setting and scale of the tracks, as well as the performance of the karts," he said.
Now, Xie can complete one lap of the 1,200-meter track in just 73 seconds, a speed that almost reaches the level of a professional racer. He has learned some simple skills for kart repair, rescue and track maintenance. He also serves as a referee during competitions.
To date, the valley has hosted several racing events including an international Formula Four race.
Xie felt delighted as his transition along with the plant contributed to the improved environment.
"The air is much cleaner. Wild animals such as pheasants and hares have shown up," he said.
Xie said compared with developed countries, China still has a long way to go in racing sports.
"Karting is the cradle for car racers. I hope with my efforts, China will have a high-level professional car racer someday," he said. Enditem