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Sloggs' Travel Blog A journal of my travels in 2008 & beyond...

Malaysian Grand Prix!

MALAYSIA | Sunday, 23 March 2008 | Views [3127]

Me from my K1 seat at the Malaysian grand prix!

Me from my K1 seat at the Malaysian grand prix!

On Saturday morning I could hardly contain myself I was so excited about the F1! I awoke ten minutes before my alarm after a stupendously good sleep in a proper bed, which was so nice after the weeks of uber-budget accommodation I'd gotten used to! I stayed in the Empress Hotel Sepang, which blew my budget a little, but what the hell, the Grand Prix was a treat to myself... ;-)

After a slap-up buffet breakfast which was included with the room, I nipped across the road to buy a cheap bottle of water before heading off to the circuit in a minibus organised by the hotel.

Because I'd gone so early, the entrance to the circuit wasn't too busy and I headed into the 'F1 village' near the middle of the circuit before the entrance to the 'Mall' section which houses the grandstand for the two main straights and the start/finish line. It had exactly the same merchandise resellers stands and gear as I saw at Silverstone last year, and the prices weren't much cheaper either! I expected the pricing to be better here, but alas the money men make sure they earn top dollar where ever they go it seems... I got myself a Hamilton/Mercedes baseball cap, as I need a new one anyway having tortured mine for long enough on this trip with my sweaty head, and also picked up a landyard for my ticket. This turned out to be a waste of money, as my intention was to walk around the circuit taking in all the views on offer today, and sit in my seat for the whole race day tomorrow. I walked over to the turn styles for the Mall area and was told that I couldn't go in there...! I bought a 'gold' ticket assuming that it afforded me the same rights as at Silverstone, how wrong I was! I could literally only get into the K1 section of the circuit, which I soon found was sectioned off to the point of looking like a prison! I couldn't even use my ticket to get to the grass banks around the outside of the circuit, which became even more annoying when I saw how empty they were on race day.

This was to be the only downside for me personally for this weekend though, so I had a little word with myself, and got over it pretty quickly!

I didn't get searched by security at any point during the weekend, and it surprised me to hear from those that did that they were only looking for food and drink being brought in from the outside! How bloody rude is that... happily I'd succesfully smuggled in a large bottle of water each day which cost considerably less than those available inside the circuit. Other had theirs confiscated... unbelievable!

I found my seat and sat down to have a read of the program I'd picked up, which was actually reasonably priced having been written and printed locally. The quality of the program was good, and had plenty of info about last weeks Australian opener too which was nice having not had opportunity to see that.

After a short wait the first action was underway as the noisey speedway cars headed out for their formation lap. They were about to race having qualified yesterday (Friday) and I was interested to read that Johnny Herbet and Jean Alesi were racing in this, amongst other ex-F1 drivers... Alesi lead almost the entire race, with Herbet nipping at his heals throughout. Herbert finally got infront with 5 laps left with some nice overtaking in the last corner before the start/finish line and the battle intesified with Alesi taking the lead back on the last lap to win the race. It was a great start to the weekend... from the TV screens I saw them get out of their cars and enjoy a high-five and a hug, they obviously enjoy their sport still, lol!

During this race I noticed some people had little TV screens in their hands, so I enquired with one of them to find out what it was about... It is called Kangaroo TV and is an ingenious little idea! From what I hear it should be at every grand prix this year, having trialed at some last year. I went off to get one straight away as I had no radio to use to keep up with qualifying and having been to a few Silverstone events, knew that without something to help I'd be oblivious to the standings. It cost 60 USD for the whole weekend and comes with earphones, spare battery and charger. The device is superb and I had no issues with it all weekend. The TV screen is a decent size and you have a choice of the main feed of TV and audio, which is relayed all around the circuit on the big screens and tanoy speakers, or you can choose from RTL or BBC radio 5 live feeds for the commentary and you can follow any driver in-car at any point during the weekend! You also get sporadic (and somewhat randomly selected) driver audio, which was a treat to hear the team discussing tyre and downforce issues during practise 3 and qualifying! I'd recommend it for any hardened F1 fan as a great addition to the weekend experience. The stats and standings and track information are superb and completely up to date, as it happens. You can also set the TV up with your 'favourite driver', and it constantly updates you on their personal progress throughout. I used this to watch Jenson (of whom I have been a fan since his move to F1) during practise and compared his style using the in-car feed to that of Lewis. This is something you just don't get to see as an F1 fan on the TV coverage. They always say how smooth Jenson is, and even his steering input is super smooth, compared to Lewis who is constantly making adjustments and twitching through corners... great stuff to see.

The Porsche Carrera Asia Cup came next, and I had high hopes for this as the Porsche Cup at Silverstone last year was one of the best races of the weekend for me, proper wheel to wheel racing. British driver Tim Sugden was on pole and lost first position early on staying in second for most of the race, constantly trying to push back through with the guy in third pushing him as well. The three of them stayed close in battle all the way until Sugden made a mistake on one of the last corners of the race to relinquish second place and then he suffered a blowout on the last corner! He limped in fifth thanks to the pace the three of them set early on though. It was a shame for him, great race until then!

The F1 qualifying went pretty much as expected although Lewis Hamilton seemed quite inconsistant and only looked like he put one good lap together with all three sectors going well. Jenson showed up pretty well, so hopefully they are making some improvements with his car, about time he had a decent machine to drive!

In the GP2 I set the TV to in-car for the start with one of the British guys racing, only to watch him crash off in the first lap! I left it in-car long enough to see him get out and walk off, and the stewards coming over to lash the car to the crane and lift it from the circuit... a bizzare view of things! Almost as soon as I switched my view to the second British driver in the race, he crashed off too, helped into the gravel from someone behind giving him a nudge, lol!

I left the circuit before the Formula BMW, which I heard on Sunday only lasted 9 laps or so anyway due to time constraints at the circuit and the bad weather. That evening I treated myself to some things I thought I wouldn't see for a while because of this budget travel... a hot shower, room service(!!!!!!) and live premiership football on TV (3pm kick off, on a Saturday, you can't even get that in England!). Might as well make the most of the place while I can.

Sunday morning I got up nice and early again and enjoyed the nice buffet breakfast at the hotel and made my way to the circuit. I realised once I got to the circuit that I'd forgotten to charge my Kangaroo TV unit overnight!! I put the spare battery in and hoped it would get me through... oops. I didn't use it all the way through the support races, just in case, as I wanted to use to keep up to date with the standings and times during the whole F1 race.

During the Speedway Alesi and Herbert battled again, but this time for 4th and 5th spot as the leaders from pole left them in the pack behind. The other British drivers did not fare well on raceday and most ended up off of the circuit or with cars issues... disappointing, but the support races were still good, with the GP2 being the most 'racey' with plenty of incidents and overtaking to enjoy.

The F1 race was preceeded with all the pomp as usual and the heat and humity really set in, much more so than yesterday. My plan was to stay still as much a possible, so I bought the delicious Satay 'set' and lots of water to my seat at the start of the afternoon so I could just stay there out of the direct sunlight and enjoy the whole thing... which worked out nicely!

I had some Brits sat next to me, who were well into their motorsport, so it was cool to chat with them about the race. Most of the crowd were Asian, with plenty of Japanese around in Super Aguri and Honda shirts. There were also a huge number of Fin people, out on mass in support of their world champion.

The race wasn't as exciting as it could have been, especially with Hamilton having the issues with his brake hubs during his pit stop, that effectively kept him off of the podium! Jenson had a reasonable afternoon though, so hopefully the car will be better for him this season... It would be interesting to see him in the same car as the championship contenders, just to see if he really could fulfil the potential that he seems to have!

Overall I was very pleased with the weekend. It was well organised, if a little disappointing that I couldn't wander around the different areas. The food was good, but expensive, and the transport links were all well enough run. At least I now know that the FIA run each race in the same fashion and that prices are similar across the world! Get more sponsorship and stop fleecing the fans!!

Later that night I watched the Manu v Liverpool game, which was pleasing... well done Mascherano... muppet, lol! I also whitnessed a tropical storm from the middle of it! The loudest and fiercest storm I've ever seen happened right above the hotel. I video'd some of it from my ninth floor window, and it was spectacular (I'll try to upload it later in the week). The lightening was showing up the silhouette of the mountains behind the hotel while the driving rain thrashed down. One clap of thunder was so close to the building that the whole building shook and it made me jump away from the window! Lol. Awesome power... Malaysia is the daddy at storms!

Some of the people I met at the Grand prix had been to the Australian opener, and remarked that they thought it was the best one of the whole calendar, having been to many of them... so maybe next time I need to get to that one... :-)

Photo's are on my facebook profile (for those that use it) and on my Photobucket page... finally found a reliable internet cafe on Koh Lanta...!

Tags: adrenaline, motorsport


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