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NEWS UPDATES 20 April 2010

Facelift of Malaysia F1 circuit to cost $56m

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Malaysia's 12-year-old Formula One venue needs "a major overhaul and refurbishment" costing 180 million ringitt ($56 million), AFP quoted circuit boss Razlan Razali as saying Tuesday.

Sepang is a favourite among many drivers with the track considered one of Hermann Tilke's most interesting designs with several high-speed corners and two very long straights connected by wide hairpins.

But it is starting to look its age. "Unfortunately after three to four years, the track was not very well maintained," Razlan, CEO of Sepang International Circuit told AFP.

"There are areas of the grandstand and the paddock where it leaks during a storm. We experience power trips and mechanical and electrical woes. We need a major overhaul and refurbishment."

Razlan, 37, took over in 2008 soon after Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone criticised the "tired" looking 350 million ringgit circuit. "It's starting to get a little shabby and looks a bit tired.

There is rubbish all over the place and it’s not really a good sign for Malaysia," Ecclestone said at the time. The Briton, F1's commercial powerbroker, likened the circuit to "an old house that needs a bit of redecorating."

Razlan said Sepang's soaring roof shelter inspired by the hibiscus, the national flower of Malaysia, needed to be replaced since the grandstand canopy leaked and had outlived its life span.

"The flat roof above the paddock is also leaking. We are fighting a losing battle to repair the leaks," he said, adding that "we need to bring back Sepang's glory days." Razlan said Malaysia had the rights to host F1 until 2015.

"I hope we can secure about 180 million ringgit over the next five years from the government to carry out a major overhaul and refurbishment," he said. Razlan made the remarks as new circuits emerge in the world championship calendar, including Bahrain and Abu Dhabi. Asia-Pacific countries that host races include neighbouring Singapore, Australia, China and South Korea. India holds its first race next year.

"Our track needs to be on par with Bahrain and Shanghai," he said. "I am not afraid of Malaysia losing Formula One spectators. I am more concerned about providing better hospitality services and how to generate additional revenue."

"We have a huge land bank covering 286 hectares (706 acres). Currently only 36 hectares is built-up area," he said. "We are seeking investors. We are open to joint-venture partners," he said.


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