SEPANG: The record number of fans attending the just-concluded Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix has vindicated Sepang International Circuit’s decision to let go off the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix.
Despite the rain, a record 166,486 fans turned out in the three-day event at the Sepang circuit. The previous mark was 161,533 at last year’s race.
About 22,794 fans turned out for the practice sessions on Friday while 46,235 attended the final qualifying sessions on Saturday. In the race on Sunday, a total of 97,457 came to watch Italian Andrea Dovizioso clinch victory to take the MotoGP world championship fight to the final round in Valencia, Spain, from Nov 10-12.
Shell, an oil and gas company, has also agreed to be the main sponsor up to 2020.
SIC chief executive officer Datuk Razlan Razali was pleased as punch with the record turnout.
“It goes to show there’s a big following for MotoGP in the country. We thank Dorna for the honour of allowing us to stage the championships at the tailend of the season. It’s the time of the season where the fight for the titles reaches its climax.
“A lot also has to do with having Malaysian riders in the field. They are competitive now and not just there to make up the numbers.
“Adam (Norrodin of SIC Racing Team) was in a position to win a podium until he fell in Moto3. He was fourth at that time but he showed true grit to come back to finish 11th.
“Hafizh (Syahrin Abdullah) also did well to finish sixth in Moto2 and we expect him to perform better next year,” said Razlan.
As such, Razlan expects the fan turnout to be even better next season.
“The figures have been rising over the last few years compared to the attendance for Formula One. We will work hard to meet the expectations,” said Razlan.
Meanwhile, world championship leader Marc Marquez of Spain was unperturbed by his fourth-place finish at Sepang. The 24-year-old has a 21-point lead over Dovizioso and only needs to finish inside the top 11 in Valencia to clinch his fourth world title. Marquez, who was seventh on the starting grid, said he decided not to risk it all for a podium finish.
“I tried to find the pace but I saw that both the Ducatis (of Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo) were very fast. So I decided not to take too many risks. I just stayed calm to get some points for the championship.
“I am happy because after a difficult weekend at a track where we always struggle, we still managed to finish fourth. We need to keep focused now, to train well and be at 100% in Valencia in two weeks’ time,” said the defending world champion.