Leaking and Creaking Sepang Circuit Needs a $56m Face-Lift, Boss Says
Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia’s 12-year-old Formula One venue is in need of “a major overhaul and refurbishment” to the tune of 180 million ringgit ($56 million), circuit boss Razlan Razali said on Tuesday.
Sepang is a favorite among many drivers and the track, which features several high-speed corners and two long straights connected by wide hairpins, is considered one of Hermann Tilke’s most interesting designs.
However, the circuit is starting to show its age.
“Unfortunately, after three to four years, the track was not very well-maintained,” said Razlan, the chief executive of Sepang International Circuit. “There are areas of the grandstand and the paddock where it leaks during a storm. We experience power trips and mechanical and electrical woes. We need a major overhaul and refurbishment.”
Razlan, 37, took over Sepang in 2008, shortly after Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone criticized the “tired” looking circuit.
“It’s starting to get a little shabby and looks a bit tired. There is rubbish all over the place and it’s not really a good sign for Malaysia,” Ecclestone said at the time.
The Briton, F1’s commercial power broker, likened the circuit to “an old house that needs a bit of redecorating.”
Razlan said Sepang’s soaring roof shelter, inspired by the hibiscus, the national flower of Malaysia, needed to be replaced since the grandstand canopy leaked and had outlived its life span.
“The flat roof above the paddock is also leaking. We are fighting a losing battle to repair the leaks,” he said.
Razlan added that “we need to bring back Sepang’s glory days.”
He said Malaysia had the rights to host Formula One events until 2015.
“I hope we can secure about 180 million ringgit over the next five years from the government to carry out a major overhaul and refurbishment,” he said.
Razlan’s remarks come as new circuits, including Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, emerge in the world championship calendar.
Asia-Pacific countries that host races include neighboring Singapore, Australia, China and South Korea. India plans to hold its first race next year.
“Our track needs to be on par with Bahrain and Shanghai,” Razlan said. “I am not afraid of Malaysia losing Formula One spectators. I am more concerned about providing better hospitality services and how to generate additional revenue.”
Razlan said that since Malaysia aspired to become a major motorsports hub for Southeast Asia, there was a need to build new infrastructure.
“Drivers and riders are presently housed behind the paddock building in temporary marquees,” he said. “We need to upgrade. We are quite far behind the new circuits.”
He said the government had been briefed about the need for upgrades and the possible construction of new facilities like a hotel, an academy for drivers, a technical and composite-making automotive center and covered parking garages for high-end sports cars, which could be rented out.
“We have a huge land bank covering 286 hectares,” he said. “We are seeking investors. We are open to joint venture partners.”