The FIM Superbike World Championship (WorldSBK) will not make a return to Sepang International Circuit (SIC) next year, after the company announced that they will not be renewing its contract to host the Malaysian Round. This follows three consecutive years of hosting the world’s second biggest two-wheel motorsports championship in Sepang – from 2014 to 2016.
“With SIC’s contract to host the WorldSBK ending this year, we decided not to continue hosting this event in Sepang. Due to the current financial climate and SIC’s financial commitments to improve our existing facilities as well as build new ones, it is the most prudent decision at this point. As we are looking to avoid financial risks at the moment, we feel it is best to reserve resources for our two biggest international events – the Formula 1 Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix and the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix. Nevertheless, we may consider hosting WorldSBK again in the future when the financial climate improves and if our market insights indicate great interest and demand to bring it back,” said SIC Chief Executive Officer Dato’ Razlan Razali.
The agreement to host the WorldSBK at Sepang was formalised between SIC and rights holders DORNA in 2014 at the WorldSBK Round in Assen, Netherlands. In that year, Zaqhwan Zaidi participated as a wildcard entry for SIC in the Malaysian Round, when he finished in 9th place.
In 2015, SIC brought in two-time WorldSBK champion Max Biaggi, who is also a MotoGP 250cc champion and 500cc MotoGP class runner-up, to ride in the Malaysian Round as a wildcard entry, the biggest name to ride for SIC so far. In conjunction with the championship, SIC also hosted a two-wheel carnival in Sepang, themed Sepang’s Biggest Bike Fest. The event showcased exciting off track activities such as MOTACK and MOTOJAMM, a stunt show by Aaron Twite, and the final of the WorldSBK Wheelie Challenge, which offered a brand new Benelli TNT 600 GP Edition worth RM32,000 as the Grand Prize.
In 2016, for the first time, Malaysia has a full-season entry in the WorldSBK, with Muhammad Zulfahmi Khairuddin riding in the FIM Supersport World Championship for Team Orelac Racing VerdNatura. His participation in the second biggest international two-wheel motorsports championship was an important milestone for Malaysia – showing the world what Malaysian riders are capable of. Fahmi thrilled the crowds in Sepang when he battled head to head for the win with Italian Ayrton Badovini, narrowly coming in second only 0.005s behind.
“The excitement generated by Fahmi’s participation and great performance has been very good for the event. It is also bittersweet for us as it caps a memorable three years for us on a high. Hosting the WorldSBK has been meaningful to the SIC team and we will miss organising the event. However, when we look at all the factors as a whole, the decision not to continue hosting the WorldSBK in Sepang is the best one at the moment. We hope the future will offer other opportunities to bring WorldSBK back to Malaysia. Nevertheless, we will continue to support Fahmi´s career through to 2017, inside the Supersport FIM World Championship in all the ways we can,” added Dato’ Razlan.