Back in Sepang, Dr M takes Ferrari for a spin around newly lit-up circuit

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, accompanied by Tan Sri Azman Yahya, drives a red Ferrari around the Sepang International Circuit August 1, 2018. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, accompanied by Tan Sri Azman Yahya, drives a red Ferrari around the Sepang International Circuit August 1, 2018. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

SEPANG, Aug 1 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has returned to the Sepang International Circuit (SIC) tonight, one among several of the legacy from his previous term as prime minister in the 1990s.

Dr Mahathir, dubbed the father of Malaysian motorsports, seemed nostalgic when attending the official launch of its circuit lights, with their installation once deemed unfeasible.

“Now the facility is available at night as well. Lighting up the track was something we thought to be expensive but today, our dream came true.

“To be selected to launch this very important addition to the facilities in Sepang is my honour. It feels good to be back and thank you,” he said during the event.

The prime minister, who is an avid driver, also took a red Ferrari 458 supercar around the track to test the new circuit lights.

He was accompanied by SIC chairman Tan Sri Azman Yahya in the passenger seat.

Azman told reporters the lights would allow track owners to sell more track time and would allow for night racing which he believes would be popular in Malaysia.

“Apart from the cooler weather in the evening, the idea of driving under the stars somehow has a romantic feel to it,” he said.

For the first time ever since 1999, the entire 5,543-km track will be lit up with 64 light poles measuring as high as 43 metres, with a consistent illumination brightness of 150 lux.

“It means the position of the poles was designed so that all parts of the asphalt on the track have the same illumination intensity.

Mahathir said SIC’s effort to transform the venue into a motorsports hub is a step in the right direction. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
Mahathir said SIC’s effort to transform the venue into a motorsports hub is a step in the right direction. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

“This is important especially for motorbike riders so they can judge the braking zone, cornering apex and acceleration exit perfectly,” Azman said.

When asked if Formula One would be revived, Dr Mahathir brushed the question off, adding that the newly-installed lights are not “bright” enough for the sporting event.

“Formula One needs a different lighting with higher intensity because the camera needs to record the game for the people at home. This one is not bright enough,” he quipped.

The latest addition to the SIC infrastructure was installed by US-based Musco Lights — the same entity in charge of similar installation at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit, Canada’s Jukasa Speedway and Bahrain International Circuit among others.

Dr Mahathir also said SIC’s effort to transform the venue into a renowned motorsports hub through new skills and talent development programmes is a step in the right direction.

“Sepang can now become a top motor city where those interested in engineering and motorsports can come here to learn how to move forward in the field,” said the prime minister.

“Engineering is not a static field, it is moving and developing all the time. Today, we have the means of controlling the engines like we never could before.

“We need not be diffident. I believe we can be as good engineers as anybody else. It is high time we acquire the skill and knowledge to do so,” he added.

SIC was officially opened in 1999, and subsequently hosted the Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix until last year.