SEPANG: The country's general election took the shine off the Petronas Malaysian F1 Grand Prix, which ended on Sunday with Ferrari's Michael Schumacher winning the event for the third time in six years.
While the Italian team left Malaysia with sweet memories again, the race organisers, the Sepang International Circuit, were left to ponder over what might have been if the elections were not held on the same day as the race.
The SIC failed to achieve their race day target of 120,000 spectators. The turnstiles recorded 84,010 spectators on Sunday, bring the total for the three-day event to more than 140,000.
But despite falling short of the target, the SIC hailed the sixth edition of the GP as a major success yet again.
The SIC general manager, Ahmad Mustafa, said yesterday: “This year's race was a very significant achievement.
“It has never happened in any country where we have a F1 race on the same day as polling day.”
The announcement of March 21 as polling day caught the SIC by surprise and they had to make some changes to their marketing strategies.
They turned their attention to pulling in fans from the regional markets, especially Singapore.
“The general election presented us with a totally new challenge but we are proud that the race went smoothly,” said Ahmad, who is the event director for the Malaysian GP.
“Obviously, most the spectators heeded our call to vote first and then come to circuit.
“The circuit actually started filling up after noon. In fact, many of them started to arrive at the track after 2pm. To me, I sensed that these people went to the polling stations before making their way to Sepang.”
Many Singapore-registered cars were seen heading for the circuit on Sunday.
The SIC also managed to get people to fill the hill stands, especially with the reduction of ticket prices. Tickets for hill stands went for RM100 but college and school children bought them for RM50.
Ahmad said that the FIA race director, Charlie Whiting, made some good comments about the event after the race.
He also thanked the track marshals and the race management team for the splendid job done throughout the week.
The F1 race as well as the two support races – the Porsche Carrera Asia Cup and the Formula Malaysia Championships – went about smoothly.
“I would like to thank Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), which helped us to promote the race and also the traffic police for coordinating the flow of traffic to and from the circuit,” said Ahmad.
The DBKL's help in promoting the race around the city centre helped because more than 40% of the crowd attendance were foreigners.
“Until late last night, F1-based activities were still going strong in Kuala Lumpur with plenty of entertainment plus fun and games for racing fans,” said Ahmad.