Sepang to take a breather

SIC to close for track resurfacing and upgrading works in early 2016.

F1 in Malaysia moves to end September from its usual March slot for 2016. Will a new surface allow Lewis to beat Vettel and Ferrari? (AP Photo/Vincent Thian, Pool)

If you’re looking forward to watching F1 at Sepang during its traditional slot in March 2016, you’ll have to temper your enthusiasm for at least six months because the race has been moved to the weekend of 30th September to 1st October, 2016. The change means we’ll not be hearing the roar of racing engines from 15th February to 8th May, 2016 as the SIC will be closing the facility to resurface the track and perform upgrading works to the facilities.

According to the CEO of SIC, Dato’ Razlan Razali, the last five years have seen an average track usage rate of 98 per cent, meaning that it’s in use for nearly every single available date. While the events have helped established Sepang as the leading racing track for the region, it also means a high level of wear and tear, hence the need for a complete resurfacing of the 5.54km circuit.


Other works expected to be carried out during the closure include upgrades to the drainage system, kerbs and run-off tarmac areas. The gravel beds for turns 1 and 15 will also be completely rebuilt, which is vital as they’re located at turns immediately after the high-speed front and back straights.

“We regret causing disappointment and inconvenience due to the closure of the circuit, and we thank all track users for their understanding. Like all facilities and especially circuits, maintenance is a priority, and the resurfacing and upgrading works are necessary to ensure the continued availability of a track of the highest quality in Malaysia,” added Razlan.

There won’t be any major changes to events for 2016 due to the closure of the track (except probably for the locally run MSS series) but it does throw up some interesting scenarios. For instance, there are usually two pre-season winter tests held at Sepang for MotoGP, and while the first one will go on as scheduled from 1st to 3rd February, the second test on 17th to 19th February, 2016 has been moved to Philip Island in Australia.

Valentino and the MotoGP boys will only have one winter test at Sepang in 2016 before the track shuts down for resurfacing.

It also means information gathered during the first test will be less useful as a different track surface will mean new variables for the riders and machines. MotoGP’s new tyre supplier, Michelin, are also expected to run a test session at the track prior to the race as nobody wants a repeat of the 2013 Philip Island race where a new track surface chewed up the Bridgestone tyres of the MotoGP bikes.

WSBK will be the first international racing event on fresh tarmac, just one week after work is scheduled for completion.

The move of date for F1 is interesting, as the new date means SIC will be running the F1 and MotoGP races less than a month apart. It also means the Malaysian race takes place a couple of weeks after the popular Singapore race, so hopefully there’ll be a number of fans willing to stick around to catch the two races back-to-back.

Lewis Hamilton and Co. won’t however be the first international racers to run on the new track surface. Sepang will host the sixth round of the 2016 WSBK championship on 14th to 15th May, just one week after the track reopens for business, so watch for the likes of Jonathan Rea, Tom Sykes and Chaz Davies to have the honour of laying down the first streaks of burnt rubber as they scorch their way around the best race track in the region.