A more thrilling race in Sepang expected after Melbourne drama


By LIM TEIK HUAT

KUALA LUMPUR: After an action packed season-opening race in Melbourne, the stage is set for an even more exciting Petronas Malaysian F1 Grand Prix at the Sepang F1 Circuit intwo weeks' time. 

The organisers of the second leg ofthe World Championships, SepangInternational Circuit (SIC), believe thatthe interest from local and overseasfans is bound to pick up for their eventscheduled for March 21-23. 

Scotsman David Coulthard won the Australian GP for McLaren Mercedes yesterday. The proceedings also saw two safety cars brought out and seven drivers failed to complete the race. 

World champion Michael Schumacher failed to make the podium for the first time in more than a year after his Ferrari floor and barge board broke at the tail end of the race. 

Juan-Pablo Montoya took second place for BMW-Williams with Coulthard's teammate Kimi Raikkonen finishing a car’s length behind. 

The outcome of the race was fundamentally changed by rain an hour before the start, which threw the grid into confusion. 

The SIC general manager, Ahmad Mustafa, said yesterday after a signing ceremonyappointing Asian Overland Services in Kuala Lumpur as an official ticket agent for theMalaysian GP: “It could not have been a better opening race in Melbourne than this. 

“With the nature of the new qualifying format and new rules which do not permit anyteam refuelling after qualifying, we are definitely going to see some unfamiliar faces at the front end of the grid this season. 

“I expect a more thrilling race at the Sepang circuit, which offers plenty of room for overtaking manoeuvres.” 

Ahmad felt that the Malaysian GP would be more closely contested compared to the race in Melbourne. 

“The Australian GP, being the opening round, showed that some of the drivers and teams were still jittery over the new rules,” he said. 

“To a certain extend, Melbourne was like an experimental ground for them. I believe when they come to Malaysia, the drivers and teamswill be in a better frame and mind and have a better understanding of what the new rulesare all about.” 

With two weeks to go, the SIC have already sold 40,000 tickets and Ahmad expressedconfidence that they would hit the 100,000 mark in race attendance. 

“I am happy to announce that we had reach the same number of ticket sales compared to the corresponding period last year,” he said. 

“This is definitely very encouraging for us. I am confident that sales will pick up even faster, especially after today’s exciting race in Australia.” 

Malaysia will be hosting the F1 race for the fifth consecutive time. The SIC recorded their highest spectators’ attendance last year with 92,500 fans catching the race proper live. 

The SIC have already kicked off their month-long promotional activities for the event. 

Singer Ning Baizura was unveiled as the F1ambassador at the “World's Hottest RaceParty ” in Bangsar on Saturday night. 

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