The implementation of GST also impacted ticket sales when consumers cut down on spending for non-essentials. While the haze nearly disrupted the MotoGP, it turned out well in the end with a record-breaking crowd and a thrilling race. Another plus point for SIC was receiving the rAWr award.
The Petronas Malaysia Formula One Grand Prix 2015 was a challenge with the decline in overall spectator numbers, particularly local spectators. The impact was mitigated by an increase in international visitors, which saw a growth of 2.7%. Nevertheless, F1 remains a major event on Malaysia’s calendar that can be leveraged to position Malaysia as a top Asian destination. With the Government’s support, SIC will continue to host the F1 until 2018, following successful negotiation with Formula One Management. This year, the 2016 F1 race in Malaysia has been reschedule to Round 16 on 30 September to 2 October 2016.
The eni FIM World Superbike Championship 2015 (WSBK) Malaysia was also challenging for SIC, as spectator numbers did not meet targets, despite the participation of racing legend Max Biaggi as a wildcard entry – the biggest ever name to ride for SIC. The timing of the event, from 31 July to 2 August 2015 fell within the Hari Raya celebration period, when fans had other commitments. The slow sales also comes on the back of GST implementation, which sees all types of retailers, including SIC, struggling to meet sales targets. Consumers meanwhile have been cutting back on spending, citing extra expenses due to GST.
While British rider Jonathan Rea was crowned 2015 World Superbike Champion, taking 548 points on his Kawasaki ZX-10R, 2016 is set to offer strong local interest with a Malaysian rider being signed up for the full season in the Supersport category. Local fan passion has been key in the success of the Malaysia MotoGP, and SIC hopes to replicate this in the WSBK in the coming years. With the Malaysian race scheduled for 13 to 15 May 2016, it will be good timing for Malaysian fans to consider coming over to Sepang to enjoy the race.
The Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix 2015 was a phenomenal success for SIC when all tickets in all categories were fully sold out for the first time in the race’s 25-year history. Despite the looming haze threatening to disrupt the event, the Malaysia MotoGP received overwhelming support from both local and international fans which led to a total of more than 150,000 spectators converging on the circuit over the 3 days. The dramatic competition between Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo contributed to great interest around the world, with the much talked about outcome further creating publicity for Malaysia’s home race. In 2016, the competition and interest is expected to be sustained, promising a positive impact for the Malaysia MotoGP.
Local support was high for the Malaysian riders, in the hopes of seeing a podium finish from the homegrown heroes, particularly following season’s best performances from the riders in Motegi, 2 races prior to the Malaysia MotoGP. However, hopes were crushed when Hafizh Syahrin was the only Malaysian rider to finish with points – with an eighth placing in Moto 2. Zulfahmi Khairuddin of the SIC Racing Team did not finish the race.
SIC hosted the Shell Advance Asia Talent Cup (ATC) twice in 2015 – as a support event for both the WSBK Malaysia and the Malaysia MotoGP. 5 young Malaysian riders – Shafiq Rasol, Adam Norrodin, Helmi Azman, Fakhrusy Syakirin Rostam and Azroy Anuar were in action this year, putting up an exciting challenge in a championship that features Asia’s brightest young talents in motorcycle racing. As a feeder championship, the ATC has been instrumental in the development of future champions on an international level and is supported by SIC and the Ministry of Youth and Sports in Malaysia.
The championship has revealed future stars with Adam Norrodin finishing 8th on the championship table with 105 points, having achieved second and third placing during the supporting races for WSBK and MotoGP in Sepang respectively, buoyed by local fan support. Fakhrusy Rostam too thrilled fans during the WSBK support race when he achieved a third placing.
SIC too saw promising results from the SIC Racing Team, when it wrapped up its sterling first year with two podiums finishes courtesy of Jakub Kornfeil. Kornfeil, who finished 12th in Moto 3 with 89 points, came in second at the British MotoGP and third at the Valencia MotoGP. His teammate Zulfahmi Khairuddin collected 19 points overall. In 2016, there are high expectations for the SIC Racing Team with Kornfeil targeting a top 5 finish and newly-signed rookie rider Adam Norrodin aiming to become one of the top 3 rookies.
Even as SIC sees sales and revenue targets for events like the F1 and WSBK fall short due to limited local support compounded by GST and the haze, the track itself continues to see a high number of bookings, hitting a consistent 98% for the past 5 years. SIC has also become more popular among new audiences, with an increase in non-motorsports sporting events such as the Viper Challenge, Music Run and much more. SIC itself has opened the track for non-motorsports events, such as the Motorsport Free Morning and the Night Cycling events, when the track was opened for cycling, running, walking, jogging, rollerblading and more. The events proved a hit as members of the public were thrilled to have access to a world-class racetrack, and allowed SIC to further engage with non-motorsports communities.
Come 2016, SIC anticipates a demanding year and more challenges ahead, especially with reduced revenue following the track closure for 3 months for resurfacing and upgrading works. Nevertheless, there are indications of improvements in ticket sales and spectator numbers, with the WSBK taking place on a more conducive weekend and featuring a well-known local rider, and having more time to promote the F1 following a rescheduled race.
There will be changes to the racing calendar overall to accommodate the track closure, but the main change will be the rescheduling of the Petronas Malaysia F1 Grand Prix 2016 that will share a month with the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix 2016.
With continued interest in the on-track rivalries, interest in the MotoGP remains strong, and SIC will continue to work hard to ensure that the Malaysia MotoGP maintains its track record of success. Additionally, SIC will work closely with the SRO Motorsports Group to ensure a good number of high quality entries in the Sepang 12 Hours, and also encourage strong local support.
Meanwhile, in the years to come, SIC will be expanding its scope beyond the track, with planned projects including a hotel and a specialised drivers’ education facility within SIC’s 300 hectare land bank.