KUALA LUMPUR: The curtains have come down on what has been regarded as the most successfully organised Petronas Malaysian F1 Grand Prix, which climaxed with McLaren Mercedes' Kimi Raikkonen bagging a first-ever career win at the Sepang F1 Circuit on Sunday.
Race promoters Sepang International Circuit (SIC) have scaled new heights and they declared yesterday that the fifth edition of the event attracted 101,485 spectators to the circuit on race day.
The total attendance over three days reached a figure of nearly 168,000 – making it the best-attended event at the track since it opened in 1998.
But the SIC, who are expected to reap RM48 million in ticket sales, are not resting on their laurels. They have begun preparations for next year's event, which has been scheduled for March 19-21.
The SIC officially launched their ticket promotion campaign for the 2004 race at a glitzy ceremony held at the Kuala Lumpur Tower yesterday.
And their chairman, Tan Sri Basir Ismail, threw a challenge to his team to better the figures for next year's race, which will remain the second round of the World Championships.
“It was the best-ever and most thrilling Malaysian GP,” said Basir.
“Except for the traffic jams leading to the venue on Sunday, things went without a hitch and there was plenty of unexpected finishes on the track. We managed to fill up not only the grandstand areas but also the hill-stands as well.”
On Saturday, a crowd of 57,488 came and saw Renault's Fernando Alonso create history by becoming the youngest F1 driver to win pole position. On Friday, 8,972 spectators caught the first qualifying session.
Basir added that this year's race was well received by the Malaysian public and the outbreak of war in Iraq did not deter the foreigners from showing up.
“For that, I have to thank everybody for their support, including the 3,500 volunteers and police personnel,” he said.
“This year, we had the support of Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL) and the RTM have also chipped in to telecast the entire season live.”
On preparations for next year's GP, Basir said: “We put up promotional banners for our campaign at the circuit last week.
“In fact, we began selling tickets for the 2004 race at the track with a special 20% discount thrown in. We managed to sell more than 500 tickets valued at RM200,000.”
Next year, Bahrain and China will join Malaysia and Japan as the Asian nations to host a leg of the World Championships.
And SIC are hoping to capitalise on a bigger Asian market.
“We are looking at an increase of F1 enthusiasts in Asia. Malaysia will still host the second race of the season and we want to tap into this growing market of new fans,” said Basir.