SEPANG, 25 May 2016 – The ever-popular Sepang Drag Battle series that first debuted in 2003 will not be taking place this year. The national championship, which is the only drag race held at a racing circuit and sanctioned by the Automobile Association of Malaysia (AAM), has been removed from Sepang International Circuit (SIC)’s 2016 calendar, as SIC has stopped drag races on the newly resurfaced track for safety reasons.
Dato’ Razlan Razali, Chief Executive Officer of SIC said, “We have had to take the race, which has a good following, off the 2016 calendar with immediate effect as we cannot afford to damage the newly resurfaced track.” The resurfacing and upgrading exercise, which cost close to RM15 million, involved the entire 5.543km track, including improving corner driveability, upgrading the drainage system, the kerbs and the run-off area, as well as upgrading the shortcuts.
He added, “The decision was made based on advice from Italian track consultant Dromo, which led the upgrading works. The new track composition is not conducive for high impact events such as drag races, and we do not want to endanger track users.”
Jarno Zafelli, Dromo’s Head of Circuit Design, said, “The racetrack comprises elements such as asphalt concrete which is not appropriate for drag racing. Proper drag racing requires surface characteristics that are totally different, more specifically concrete covered with a special type of glue.”
He added, “It is a wise decision by SIC to protect their assets to ensure safety at the highest level, and to avoid activities such as drag racing, which could potentially damage the new asphalt. Based on our inspection of the track prior to the resurfacing works, we recognised several oil spills on the track, as a result of drag races, and this would cause severe damage if drag racing were to be continued on the newly upgraded track.”
In view of this decision, SIC is studying the possibility of building a new track specialised for drag racing within the circuit grounds, in collaboration with the Ministry of Youth and Sports Malaysia. Dato’ Razlan shared, “SIC has always prioritised the safety of our riders and drivers.  We have contended that racing should be kept off our highways and byways, but we also understand the need for speed. Therefore, just as we have carefully upgraded the current track to meet stringent FIA and FIM international standards, we are looking to provide a purpose-built facility for drag participants to race in.”
The proposed drag circuit is among efforts by the Ministry of Youth and Sports Malaysia, together with SIC, to promote and support motorsport development in a safe and controlled environment. A spokesperson from the Ministry of Youth and Sports Malaysia said, “In view of this, the Ministry of Youth and Sports Malaysia is in support of drag race enthusiasts having an outlet that is safe and specially catered for this sport. We subscribe to the need for a race circuit that meets the requirements of a drag race track and the highest measures of safety.”
SIC will not be taking any bookings for drag races until further notice. “We hope that our drag racing clients will be patient while we look into the possibilities of a specialised drag racing track. We understand their frustration, but we believe such a track needs to be well thought through and well-executed without undue haste applied,” added Dato’ Razlan.
The refreshed SIC track was reopened on 8 May 2016 after a close to three-month closure, and hosted the 2016 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship on 13 to 15 May 2016 - the first major motorsports event to be held on the fresh track.
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