Sepang International Circuit - one of the world's top racing venues
Sepang International Circuit, or simply Sepang Circuit, is a modern racing track in Sepang, state of Selangor, some 50 kilometers south of the country’s capital Kuala Lumpur. It is best known as the home of Formula 1 Malaysian Grand Prix.
Sepang was a template for many racing tracks
This venue, probably the best racing facility in Asia and one of the best in the world, was designed by Hermann Tilke, a German designer who is the ’father’ of many new racing circuits all over the world, like the ones in Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Turkey, or Circuit of the Americas. It could be said that this fast flowing circuit was used as the template for the aforementioned ones. The Sepang circuit is surrounded by thriving greenery and boasts a magnificent view of the nearby Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
After 14 months of work, costing around 12 million dollars, the new Sepang International Circuit was officially opened on March 7th, 1999, and the first race held there was Moto GP Malaysian Grand Prix, which came in April of the same year. In October 1999, first Formula 1 championship Grand Prix was held at Sepang, ending with a victory of the Ferrari driver Eddie Irvine.
A fast and wide lap layout
The track is 5.543 km long and has 15 turns, which is a relatively small number considering the length of the track; the straights are wide, with enough place for overtaking. Races are going in a clockwise direction. The layout of the Sepang circuit is quite unusual, with a very long back straight, almost 1 km long, separated from the pit straight by just one very tight hairpin. There are two DRS zones – pit straight and final straight.
Even before the end of the construction, Sepang circuit was hailed as one of the best in the world, mostly thanks to the massive government investment and class-leading facilities. The Malaysian Prime minister wanted to add the final touch of modernization to the Sepang circuit as a proof of Malaysia’s abilities. That investment paid off very quickly, with the track licensed almost instantly for top level racing by both the FIA and FIM.
Dual nature of Sepang International Circuit
Sepang can be split on the northern and southern circuits, both raced in a clockwise direction. The northern one, which is basically the first half of the main circuit, is 2.71 km long, while the southern one is the second half of the main circuit, with a length of 2.61 km. The capacity of the stands is around 130.000 people, with 30.000 in the unique double-fronted main grandstand. The circuit has a Media Center with 430 seats and a Press Conference room attached to it. There are also exclusive luxurious suites and a mall area with the Hibiscus Tower as the icon of Sepang International Circuit.
Grand Prix of Malaysia is the main event
The main event at Sepang International Circuit is definitely the Formula 1 Malaysian Grand Prix, but there are plenty of other racing competitions including 12 Hours of Sepang, a 1000 km endurance race organized by Stephane Ratel Organisation, as well as motorcycle and superbike races.
Weather conditions at Sepang Circuit could be extremely harsh
The humidity of 80% is a constant feature of the area frequently resulting in heavy rain, and although the track tends to dry up quite quickly, it does not drain particularly well. This leads to plenty of standing water that can catch drivers out even when there appears to be a dry line on the track which often reaches a temperature of 60 Celsius degrees, making things difficult for both the driver and the car. The unpredictability and harshness of the weather was seen in 2009 when the race was stopped after 31 laps due to monsoon rains. As the race did not reach the required 75% distance (42 laps) needed for full points to be awarded, half-points were given instead for the fifth time in Formula One history.
Video : A lap around Sepang with Sebastian Vettel
One of the drivers’ favorite tracks
However, drivers like the circuit a lot. Three-times world champion Lewis Hamilton once said: “Sepang is a very special place – it is not a stop-start circuit. It is a flowing, high-speed track which is all about getting the car to flow from one corner to the next.”
Record lap time holder is, as you probably might have guessed, Juan Pablo Montoya. The Colombian set the lap time of 1:34.223, driving Williams at the 2004 Malaysian Grand Prix, while the fastest lap time was set the next year by Fernando Alonso – 1:32.582.
Getting there and accommodation
Kuala Lumpur International Airport is located only 12 km from the circuit, so it is easy to get there in only 10 minutes or so. Sepang International Circuit has good road and train connections with both the airport and the city of Kuala Lumpur.
Accommodation shouldn’t be a problem as there is available more than 100 hotels of various types and categories relatively near the circuit.
Address: Jalan Pekeliling, 64000 KLIA, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia
Phone number: +603 8778 2222
Official website: sepangcircuit.com