It’s official, folks. After hosting the premiere racing competition since 1999, the Malaysian Formula 1 Grand Prix is now being put out to pasture with the final race at the Sepang International Circuit scheduled to take place in 2018. The announcement was made by Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz, who confirmed that Malaysia will stop hosting the race after its contract ends in two years’ time.
For hardcore racing fans, the news is a bitter pill to swallow, especially considering the epic battles we’ve bared witness throughout the 17 years that Sepang has hosted the event. But it’s not all gloom and doom for racing as Malaysia still hosts the highly-popular MotoGP championship as well as World Superbike (SBK) and the Sepang 12 Endurance race. Nevertheless, the Malaysian race calendar seems to be thinning out somewhat, which is why we think these high-octane race series should be considered to fill the void that will be left by the departing F1 circus.
Australia V8 Supercars
Image: Red Bull
Malaysians had a little taster of this highly-popular Australian touring race car championship during a demo run at last year’s inaugural Kuala Lumpur City Grand Prix. Featuring high-performance race cars that are loosely based on road-going, four-door saloon cars, V8 Supercars delivers pulsating racing action with those thunderous 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8 engines, providing a fitting soundtrack throughout each lap.
Largely manufacturer based with Ford, Holden, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz as well as Volvo, V8 Supercars is predominantly held in Australia. And having a race in Sepang could earn Malaysia the distinction of being the first flyaway race on the V8 Supercar Championship calendar.
Sepang played host to this iconic grand touring race car series from 2000 to 2013, and we dare say racing fans have missed seeing the GT cars and the accompanying gorgeous race queens. Sanctioned by the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) and sponsored by the GT Association (GTA), the championship ranks at the highest level of sports car racing in Japan with leading manufacturers such as Nissan, Toyota and Lexus leading the charge on track.
Currently, the Buriram International Circuit in Thailand hosts the only international round on the Super GT calendar. It's high time Super GT fans get another outside of Japan and Malaysia has the track (and the track record) to do it.
The Asian sports car racing endurance series has been gaining popularity in the last several years especially as it provides the perfect proving ground for teams and drivers from Asia. And according to the 2016-17 Asian Le Mans series calendar, Malaysia is already scheduled to host a round in January 2017 although the official Sepang website states otherwise. We’re hoping that the information hasn’t been updated though and we pray for better promotion from the organisers and hosts this time around because the Asian Le Mans series does provide some exciting wheel-to-wheel racing. And it also offers a good testing ground for local drivers and mechanics to gain more experience in the field of automotive racing as well.
Hosting a round of this iconic American race car series in Asia isn’t as impossible as it may seem as IndyCar has spread its wings in the past to other international markets. Australia and Japan hosted a round each in 2008 and 2011 respectively whilst Brazil and Dubai nearly hosted a round each in 2015. Currently, IndyCar only hosts events in Canada and Mexico but if the opportunity is there, it could make its way to South East Asia.
As far as race action goes, IndyCar does share some similarities with F1 with a number of former F1 stars such as Juan Pablo Montoya and Sebastien Bourdais racing in the championship alongside talents such as British female racing driver, Katherine Legge.
World Endurance Championship (WEC)
Although endurance racing has been around for over a century, the WEC however, only started in 2012. But the championship is nevertheless not short on excitement at the least with high performance racing cars as well as purpose-built aerodynamic cars that travel at speeds of 320kmh. Winning is all about speed, durability and consistency, especially as races stretch from six to 12 and 24 hours.
A total of four different classes of cars take to the track at the same time – LMP1 and LMP2 (Prototype Category) as well as GTE Pro and GTE Am – which further add flavour and mayhem to the track.