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GP Week : Issue 3
GPWEEK OPINION >> The same would be true on two wheels. Old hands remember all sorts of miraculous saves by the likes of Wayne Gardner and Kevin Schwantz, wrestling with the unruly 500cc two-strokes of their time. They really did sort the men from the boys. If only in the frequency of hospital visits – even the best of the best, in those days, could rely on at least two big high-siders a season … Racing motorbikes have got a whole lot easier to manage since then. That’s progress. In the past three seasons the electronics have taken them a big step further along the same road. It is now easier to avoid crashing. That’s even more progress – and directly applicable also to road bikes. Arguments in favour of banning electronics all eventually founder on the question of safety. It’s one thing for an F1 driver to spin off … even if it results in a barrel roll, as with Robert Kubica in Canada last season. It’s quite another when a motorcycle racer finds himself catapulted into the gravel. Be careful what you wish for. Perhaps the racing will sort it out. At Qatar, in spite of winner Stoner’s clear escape, the battle for rostrum positions was close enough for the most demanding and nostalgic fan. And as safe as motorbike racing is ever going to be. SUNDAY was the 10th edition of the F1 race in Sepang. As the F1 machinery rolled into town, I couldn't help but thank the powers that be for the vision of having Malaysia’s own F1 circuit, and one that’s of world standard. There have been mix reviews on the success of Malaysia’s investment in the F1 circus. Some have been strong supporters from day one, while others have been much less enthusiastic. What is clear to me, a motoring journalist and a Malaysian, is Malaysia’s F1 involvement has put the country up there with the best in the world. Figures are hard to come by and certainly they should be taken with a tiny pinch of salt, but the contribution of the F1 into the Malaysian economy is undeniable. Take into consideration that the track is also used for other races like the Super GT from Japan and the Merdeka Millenium Endurance Race just to name two, and it’s safe to say the construction of the Sepang F1 Circuit was a stroke of sheer genious from the then Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Take a look at the motorsport scene in Malaysia and you can see that it has indeed grown, with more corporate parties making themselves available for sponsorship, thanks to the media awareness that comes with the motorsport cake. There are concerted efforts on the local front to inspire the young to reach for motorsport glory. The likes of Alex Yoong, Fairuz Fauzy, and the young but extremely talented Jazeman Jaafar have a lot to be thankful for. The future is only bright because there is a now a viable venue for gifted Malaysians to show their stuff. Still, I can’t help but feel that the F1 track at Sepang is underutilised – more so with competing and newer F1 circuits mushrooming in Asia. And it’s true that on-going grassroots racing programmes can be more effectively implemented. And there’re only so many companies willing to spend that kind of money in Malaysia. Plus the continued challenge of our local talents against the best in the world. It’s a dizzying mix. While we have a long way to go, it’s a damn fine start, in my opinion. And being a speed freak myself, it’s just great to have a track such as the Sepang F1 Circuit to 'test' the latest car on Seriously folks, a world-class racing track is a fine thing to have in your country. Sepang: Perfect 10? DONALD CHEAH Top Gear Malaysia o p in io n F1 in Malaysia is 10 years old – what does that really mean to Malaysian motorsport? Would a ban on rider aids help Rossi back to the front of the world championship field? 21