Five V8 Supercars took to the city streets of Kuala Lumpur last weekend for a series of exhibition races at the inaugural KL City GP event.
V8 Supercars has signed a heads of agreement with event promoter GT Global Race for a full championship event from 2016, in the series’ latest bid to increase its international presence with a sustainable overseas event.
The street-circuit event may just kickstart a renewed push in Asia, with big crowds and a challenging track hinting at what could be a successful and accessible trip.
One potential stumbling block is the date of the event, with local organisers looking to make the event earlier in the year, with the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang shifting to September in 2016.
The September date would have been more beneficial to V8 Supercars, given the freedom in the calendar at that time of year and allowing the series to be ship-freighted to Malaysia.
There’s also a concern over the lack of adequate pit facilities at the street circuit. The five visiting V8 Supercars were housed in small marquees erected in a cramped pitlane under Petronas Towers. But in order to race as a full championship event from 2016, V8 Supercars cannot compromise on garage facilities and will need a fully functioning pitlane complex to house all 26 cars.
As negotiations ramp up between the local government, event organisers and V8 Supercars, this shapes as the biggest stumbling block before going ahead with a championship round.
As for the circuit itself, despite delays in completing the track heading into the event, the tight but high-speed layout raised a few eyebrows among the five visiting drivers.
What emerged from the feedback was the circuit was more Macau than the street circuits we are familiar with in Australia. And the prospect of 26 V8 Supercars racing around Kuala Lumpur both excites and raises concerns.
Veteran driver Todd Kelly, representing Nissan Motorsport at the exhibition event, described it as “probably the most challenging street circuit I’ve ever been on”.
“It made the Gold Coast and Homebush street tracks look like a walk in the park in terms of the bravery required to do a fast lap,” he said to Motorsport.com.
“A lot of the corners are quite high-speed, fourth gear sweeping corners. Some of them have pretty big bumps in them so it was an absolute blast to put a good lap together, bring the car home in one piece and also be the fastest in qualifying.
“It’s going to be pretty interesting having a full field of cars there next year. The racing wasn’t too bad, but there were only five of us. For the future, it will certainly come down to qualifying, and the agro that we usually get in the second half of the field will be interesting around there.
“Overall, the event was fantastic. For the amount of time that they had to construct the circuit, they did a great job. The people were very enthusiastic and the interest in V8 Supercars was surprisingly high.”
As Kelly states, interest was high and proves yet again that V8 Supercars’ best bet for overseas expansion is these street-circuit festivals rather than racing at out-of-the-way permanent facilities.
But street-circuit events present a unique set of challenges, which V8 Supercars and KL City GP race organisers will need to overcome if the Malaysian event is to headline the Australian series’ international calendar.
Adrian Musolino is editor of V8X Magazine, and has written as an expert on The Roar since 2008, cementing himself as a key writer who can see the big picture in sport. He freelances on other forms of motorsport, football, cycling and more.
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