SIC boss working on extending MotoGP’s stay in Malaysia

MotoGP fans are disappointed by the cancellation of this year’s Malaysian Grand Prix but some good news is in store.

Sepang International Circuit (SIC) chief executive officer Azhan Shafriman Hanif revealed negotiations with rights holder Dorna to renew Malaysia’s hosting contract are going on smoothly.

Shafriman said this as he hosted a virtual press conference yesterday. Here are the highlights of the event.

What does the future hold for the Malaysian MotoGP?

Azhan Shafriman Hanif (ASH): We are negotiating with Dorna about renewing our contract which ends next year. We are at the tail end of discussions. We don’t have any problems with Dorna and we have worked well with them for 20 years or so. MotoGP makes sense for Malaysian supporters and also our partners. Hopefully, we will have some good news very soon.

What can we expect in 2021?

ASH: The two of us (SIC and Dorna) are planning how we can make the 2021 race bigger and better. It is likely to remain one of the later races in next year’s calendar as well but let’s see how it goes. It is hard to predict what will happen next year.

We had no choice but to cancel this year’s race as we don’t want a SIC or MotoGP cluster as the number of Covid-19 cases in Malaysia is still not good.

What will happen to those who had bought tickets for this year’s Malaysian MotoGP?

ASH: They can contact us for a full refund. There are some suggestions that they are allowed to carry forward the tickets for the 2021 race but we have not decided on anything. For now, we are offering refunds.

What is the economic impact on the cancellation of the Malaysian MotoGP?

ASH: There is no cost impact in terms of the cancellation of the race. Our bread and butter is track day and I’m glad to say we are fully booked until the end of the year due to the track days and also local races.

We are hosting events behind closed doors and this will carry on until the government says otherwise. We have a few back-up plans to liven up SIC during this phase.

When do you think international events will be back in SIC?

ASH: For now, our borders are still closed, so we are unlikely to have any international events until probably next year. Tentatively, the Asian Le Mans in the first quarter of next year could be the first international event in SIC.

For now, we will focus more on the local events and talents – for two wheels and four wheels – like Cub Prix races. Most importantly, we have to support our local talent.

It has been a tough year financially for everyone. How will this affect SIC’s talent development programme for riders and drivers?

ASH: To overcome this, we are looking at having more local events. For example for two wheels, we are going to launch an SIC mini Grand Prix, hopefully by the middle of this month.

For four wheels events, we are discussing with our partners how we can use these talents for the future. There are plans to look into talent development. My wish is for the grassroots in two and four wheels to continue to grow despite the current situation.