SIC’s Driving Excellence Centre gets thumbs-up from professional drivers

Race drivers, past and present, have expressed support for Sepang International Circuit’s (SIC) Driving Excellence Centre (DEC), which will open next year.

DEC is the only such centre in Southeast Asia. The closest one is the Porsche Experience Centre in Shanghai, China.

DEC is part of SIC’s five-year strategic business plan. Among the products offered are performance driving experience, safety driving courses, and facility rental.

SIC’s board of directors approved DEC in 2014. It took six years of planning to design the circuit and the facilities. The project was delayed by two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Auto makers can rent the facility to test their new products and offer customers the chance to try them out in a safe, and controlled environment.

SIC chief executive officer Azhan Shafriman Hanif said the facility is the next logical step in the continuous learning process for drivers in becoming more proficient in handling and operating motor vehicles.

The facilities at their disposal include a 1.5km handling circuit, a skid circle, a hydraulic skid plate, and a dynamic staging area that test the driver’s proficiency and the ability of their vehicles.

During the ground-breaking ceremony today, Azhan Shafriman expressed hope that current, and former race drivers, would be a part of DEC.

“These drivers can share their experience of driving under extreme conditions. They can share tips, tricks and best practices, and tell their stories, so that other drivers can learn, and better understand what to do when faced with certain situations,” he said.

The news was well-received by several drivers.

Nabil Jeffri, one of the youngest drivers to test drive a Formula One car, said he is excited to see what the DEC would look like when it is completed.

Nabil, now a forex trader, said the local motorsports scene needs a shakeup as it has lost its ‘shine’.

“This is partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic as many teams and drivers struggled to get sponsors,” said Nabil, who was involved in the aerodynamics testing for the Lotus Racing Formula One team’s Lotus T127 on Sept 1, 2010, nearly two months shy of his 17th birthday.

“This announcement is good news for the motorsports industry. If asked, I would not mind helping out.

“The DEC will help, not just professional drivers, but normal, daily drivers too, as they can learn safe driving tips.”

Another driver, Natasha Seatter, also hopes to be involved with DEC.

The 28-year-old, who 10 years ago became the first female driver to win a race in the Middle East, said: “I am very keen to be involved in some form. It will be a way of giving back to the sport.

“A friend of mine is also keen to help out. He has lots of experience with safety training.”

Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu was the guest of honour at the ground-breaking ceremony at Sepang International Kart Circuit.

Also present were Ahmad Faizal’s deputy, Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker, Malaysian Motor Sports Association president Tan Sri Mokhzani Mahathir, and SIC chairman Tan Sri Azman Yahya.

Separately, the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil will be closed from tomorrow.

Ahmad Faizal, in a statement later in the day, said the move was to “quickly address legacy issues” related to the field and other facilities.

The Malaysia Stadium Corporation, an entity under the ministry that manages the stadium, was lambasted for the poor field condition following a downpour ahead of the Bahrain-Malaysia match in the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup qualifier on Saturday.