The owners of the Sepang International Circuit has installed night lights for increased bookings, but they affirm that Formula 1 remains a non-priority event for now.
The SIC hosted the Malaysian Grand Prix for 19 years between 1999 and 2017 before it called it an end to their contract early due to the increased costs of staging the race. They shifted their focus to MotoGP and other forms of racing.
The promoters have taken first step towards reaching their renewed goal after installing floodlights at the circuit by the help of the same company which added lights to Yas Marina Circuit, Losail Circuit, Jukasa Speedway and Bahrain International Circuit.
The lights can help them to stage smaller night races but not the level of F1. Chief guest Malaysia’s Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad insisted that F1 is not on their agenda and that the focus is on MotoGP and other two-wheeled competitions.
“Cabinet has decided to move away from F1 and focus on two-wheeled sports instead, including MotoGP and other superbike races,” said Youth and Sports Minister, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, to the reporters.
“F1 is costly, and we know it has diminishing marginal returns. We will continue to discuss the transformation of Sepang and how it can be further boosted as a motorsports hub.” The circuit is scheduled to host the 2018 MotoGP round during November 2-4 weekend.
It remains to be seen if the promoters decide to stage the MotoGP races under the floodlights in future like Qatar does. As per Mohamad, the lights installed currently are not bright enough for a F1 race – which could be a similar case for MotoGP.
The launch event also revealed some of the future projects that SIC is involved in, which includes developing a motocross and drift racing circuit along with a motorsport-based theme park around the venue.
The circuit owners will have an increased involvement in MotoGP next year though, as it will run the Yamaha’s satellite outfit, the SIC Racing Team, which graduates to the premier class after years of competing in Moto2 and Moto3.