SIC injects changes in 2011 races

Published on December 2nd, 2010

With a mission to take Malaysian motorsports to a new level in 2011, Sepang International Circuit (SIC) will be introducing changes including some massive ones to its racing events that included rescheduling of the 12-hour endurance race and the Sepang 1000 Kilometer Endurance (S1K).

Traditionally run in August in conjunction with Malaysia’s Independence Month, the 12th edition of the endurance race will be held from September 15 to 17 next year to coincide with Malaysia Day and re-named to Malaysia Merdeka Endurance Race (MMER) to mark the changes. S1K, which has had its first two editions in the first week of June, will be held in December.

“The main reason for the change in S1K is to provide more time for participants to prepare their cars and encourage them to participate in the MSS for a whole season rather than just one or two races,” SIC Chief Executive Officer Datuk Ahmad Razlan Ahmad Razali said in a media statement today.

He added: “Scheduling it to the end of the year will also be a highlight for the year; and also to finish off the year with a big event. We would also like new racers to have more practice by participating in the MSS rounds before venturing into more challenging S1K immediately.”

“We also want the S1K to be a platform for teams and individual racers to promote to MMER in the following year, SIK will also be positioned as the finale for SEA Asia Championship for the year and will be expecting participants from around the region and emulating the historic Macau GP,” said Razlan, adding that the new dates for the 12-hour endurance race was primarily due the whole of August next year coinciding with the holy month of Ramadan.”

“Because of the fasting month, we actually have no choice; but to change the dates and, with Malaysia Day is now a public holiday and a key celebrations for the nation beginning this year, we decided that it was only appropriate to have it in conjunction with Malaysia Day,” he said.

Along with the new racing dates, the third edition of the S1K, which was created as a spin-off the MMER in 2009 and competed by production cars under 1900cc, would also see major changes in its race regulations.

“A major change in the S1K next year is on the cars’ eligibility; in which only cars from 2006 models and newer will be allowed to participate. This is to move forward for Malaysian Motorsports in terms of development, progress and safety. The race cars will be eligible to race in SIC for a minimum for five years to justify the investment by the teams and drivers.

“It was also decided as we want to see more variety of manufacturers and have received positive feedback from Honda, Toyota, Renault, Peugeot and even Proton.”

“We may see a decline at first as teams and drivers are still either selling their old race cars or still in the midst of acquiring the right race cars. Some may also take a wait and see attitude… after many discussions, we decided that we need to move forward and move on onto newer cars.”

There would, however, be no major changes in the MMER, which was introduced by SIC at the turn of the new millennium to provide more competitive races for Malaysian drivers and also as a tribute to Malaysia in celebration of its independence.

“For 2011, however, we would revert back to midday start. We have decided that we will be alternating it with midnight start,” said Razlan.

“Other main changes are basically strict safety enforcement especially when it comes to refueling and mechanics safety gear in which due to the incident this year in MMER, we need to introduce new measures to ensure it does not happen again,” he said.

Razlan was referring to the horrific incident at this year’s race when the Lotus 2Eleven of Team Empire Motorsports caught fire during refueling; causing severe burns to three of its crew members who were not wearing fire-proof overalls when carrying out their duties.

The Malaysian Super Series (MSS), which is hailed as Malaysia’s national championship for track racing and celebrating its 10th edition next year, would also undergo massive changes.

“For MSS cars, we have scrapped the Supersixteen Championship; and we have introduced the Malaysian Touring Car class, which is essentially adopting regulations from the S1K. After 10 years, I sincerely believe it is time for us to introduce a series that attracts newer cars from 2006 onwards.”

“We need to progress and not to be stuck in the 90s. It is a risky move as the number of competitors could drop. But, I’m confident that it will pick up… at least in 2012. I have received good feedback from a number of manufacturers and the MAM 100 percent tax exemption scheme on race cars and parts also helps tremendously in reducing the cost for teams.

“We have also brought back the Supercars category back into the GT class as the number of GT class participation this year was not too encouraging. There will be some difference though; in which we will not allow space frame race cars,” he said, adding that the move was in line with efforts to have national competitions complying with the major series in the world.

For the MSS Bikes, Razlan said that the Superbike and Superstock championships would remain the same; but would have tighter enforcement in the scrutineering exercise.

“As for the Supersports Championship, we have made some changes. This is due to the high level of competitiveness and the attraction of the Moto2 wildcard ticket. It had become too competitive that it shied away the regular racers who raced for fun.”

“Therefore in 2011, we will grade each riders into two classes – Class A and Class B;  and those with a time that is imposed by us, will go to either A or B. Class A being the fastest group; and Class B being the gentlemen racers and true novices,” he said.

Having secured the commitment from Dorna – the worldwide rights holders for MotoGP – SIC has offered the top finisher in this year’s MSS Supersports Championship a seat in the final selection group for a wildcard ticket to compete in the 2011 Malaysian GP Moto2 race.

In the overall perspective, Razlan said that the biggest challenge for SIC in the New Year would be efforts in drawing in spectators to the races especially for the MMER, MSS and the S1K.

“Wooing the fans for MMER and MSS seems to be a big problem. Then, there’s also this mission entrusted in us at SIC to raise standard of racing for MMER and MSS.”

“To raise the standard of racing in terms of streamlined regulations with other championships in the region and global; and essentially to attract more regional participants is key to ensure that the local talents are competitive.”

“With regards to attracting spectators, this is always a huge challenge. We can organise many activities and do all kinds of promo but still the numbers are not very high and it is risky. Hence, from 2011, our strategy is all about TV, TV and TV both domestic and regional.”

“We will see our races broadcast delayed in 2011. We will maintain it until we see that it will attract the crowd and the following. TV is also a critical factor for teams to attract sponsors as there are many companies out there who is interested in the TV exposure rather than live spectators,” Razlan added.

He also said that SIC would also continue to give emphasis on development of young talents; saying that the circuit was currently working on a programme similar to the hugely successful European Red Bull Rookies for young riders.

“It will not be easy as we will need the support of the factory to provide us bikes at a competitive cost. We will also need a title sponsor similar to the Red Bull’s involvement and endorsement by FIM and Dorna to recognize this programme is competitive and well run.”

“The target will be to ensure riders that come out of this rookies series will be as good as from the European Red Bull programme. This is my ultimate objective… to develop not only Malaysian riders; but regional racers and position SIC as the South East Asia Home of Motorsports,” said the former team owner of Pineapple Motorsports Racing Team.

Following is the list of events organized and promoted by SIC in 2011

Formula 1 PETRONAS Malaysian Grand Prix (8 – 10 April 2011) – Sepang hosts Round 3 of an expanded 20-leg Formula 1 World Championship in 2011. The new season the world’s most prestigious motorsport event will open this year with the Bahrain Grand Prix in the second week of March before proceeding to Melbourne Australia for Round 2 at the end of March. It will a Lucky 13 for SIC as Malaysia hosts the 13th edition of the Formula 1 Malaysian GP – an event that traced back to 1999.

Malaysia Merdeka Millennium Endurance Race (15 – 17 September 2011) – In an unprecedented move, the 12th edition of the prestigious Sepang’s 12-hour endurance race will be run in September to coincide with the Malaysian Day celebrations on September 16. Introduced at the turn of the millennium, the MMER has been an instant hit with international teams and drivers from world renowned endurance series including the LeMans 24 Hours, Nurburgring 24 Hours and Dubai 24 Hours make their way to Sepang to conquer what is regarded as Asia’s Biggest Race.

Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix (21 – 23 October 2011) – The year 2011 marks the 21st edition of the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix and it returns as the penultimate round of the FIM MotoGP World Championship, which will open with the Qatar Grand Prix in Losail on March 20 and close in Valencia on November 6. It’s a battle to be the world’s King of Two Wheelers with defending champion Jorge Lorenzo facing a tricky challenge from the unknown forces of Valentino Rossi in a Ducati and Casey Stoner on a Repsol Honda.

Sepang 1000 Kilometer Endurance Race (1 – 3 December 2011) – The third edition of the increasingly popular S1K takes a new date in December and a new role as SIC’s year-ender extravaganza. A spin-off event from the hugely successful MMER, S1K pits production cars below 1900cc and has already attracted international entries from as far as Australia and Japan.

Malaysian Super Series (6 rounds in 2011) – Hailed as the country’s national championship for track racing, the Malaysian Super Series celebrates its 10th edition in 2011 as the best of Malaysian drivers and riders compete against the best racers in the region.

Round 1          7 – 8 May 2011 (Bikes & Cars)

Round 2          25 – 26 June 2011 (Bikes & Cars)

Round 3          30 – 31 July 2011 (Bikes & Cars)

Round 4          24 – 25 September 2011 (Bikes & Cars)

Round 5          21 – 23 October 2011 (Bikes Only)

Round 6          19 – 20 November 2011 (Cars Only)

Sepang Drag Battle (5 rounds in 2011) – Sanctioned by the national sporting authority in motorsports – AAM, Sepang Drag Battle is a showcase of speed and acceleration as Malaysia’s top racing teams and prominent workshops put to test their modified mean machines as they light up the Saturday nights in Sepang.

Round 1          19 March 2011

Round 2          21 May 2011

Round 3          16 July 2011

Round 4          10 September 2011

Round 5          1 October 2011

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