Numbers show MotoGP’s popularity in Malaysia
Malaysians make up 70 per cent of the spectators at Sepang
The numbers say a lot about the people who watch MotoGP, said Sepang International Circuit's (SIC) Razlan Razali.
Biker Boy met the SIC chief executive officer at the Singapore Bike Show 2017.
Since 2010, his team has tracked attendances for the three-day Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix, which rose from 105,555 in 2010 to 161,553 in last year. The figures include both local and foreign spectators.
This year's penultimate race of the MotoGP season inSepang on Oct 29 is expected to see around 169,000 spectators.
In the end, it is about the product, Mr Razlan said. And he expects the figures to grow, given that next month will see the last Formula 1 race at SIC.
He told The New Paper: " (In) the last race (Austrian GP), MotoGP was like Moto3. We had four riders spread out fighting for the first turn."
Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso won the race after a last-corner duel with Honda's Marc Marquez.
But for fans, the excitement is not only felt in the premier MotoGP class. The action starts from 5pm and lasts till 9.30pm.
Added Mr Razlan, 44: "The moment Moto3 starts, you're sitting at the edge of the seat, glued to the TV, refusing to go to the toilet, all because it is exciting."
But hardcore fans prefer the roar of race engines than the comfort of the sofa. So who are these fans that turn up at SIC?
A survey last year by SIC showed that visitors from Indonesia, Spain, Singapore, Thailand and Britain made up the bulk of international MotoGP fans.
Three-quarters of fans were male while a tenth were first-timers. About 70 per cent of the spectators were Malaysians.
The fans came in groups of four with 65 per cent under the age of 35, and a further 80 per cent owned at least one motorcycle in their household.
While most would definitely come to see top racers such as Valentino Rossi, Marquez or Jorge Lorenzo, others support up-and-coming riders such as Jonas Folger and Johann Zarco, who often offer a brave challenge to the more seasoned and well-funded factory riders.
The future of MotoGP's spectatorship depends on the next generation of racers.
Said Mr Razlan: "We have seen how these guys (Folger and Zarco) have developed. These rookies are out of the ordinary - which is good for the sport. The moment Rossi leaves, you need the next generation to really race well."
And Mr Razlan has seen how important it is to build the hype and create local heroes, especially in the Moto2 and Moto3 categories. Malaysian riders such as Khairul Idham Pawi, Muhammad Zulfahmi Khairuddin and Hafizh Syahrin command a strong following back home.
Added Mr Razlan: "Some of these (fans) are your 'makcik and pakcik' (Malay for aunts and uncles)... I can still remember when Fahmi (Muhammad Zulfahmi Khairuddin) raced, one kampung from Selangor came to watch him."