Malaysian MotoGP, Sepang, KL

I’d never been to a MotoGP race before but have been following the sport for years. Thought I’d finally book it up and go before Valentino Rossi retires, which can’t be long now, I’d also promised the kids I would take them. Booked the grandstand tickets through the official website back in June, they worked out at just over 50 quid each for the two days. The tickets for the Buriram race in Thailand were double the price, and getting there twice as long even though we live in Thailand.

The flights from Hua Hin to KL cost about the same, booked at the same time. Since KL is over an hour away from the airport we stayed at the Empress Sepang Hotel, 10 kilometers away, which cost around 160 quid for 3 nights, room sleeping four people.

Saturday is qualifying and we got to the track at about 11am, it is right next to the airport. The taxis in Malaysia are bandits for want of a better word so the Grab app was a lifesaver, getting less than half the rate they were quoting.

Leading up to the entrance is a mall/market/festival type setup with all of the manufacturers, sponsors, rider’s tents etc. These guys don’t make their money from riding motorbikes – they make it from the sponsorships and selling merchandise. An official Rossi Yamaha shirt will set you back over $50, as does a cap – no fakes for sale in here.

The sound these bikes make going round is immense, it puts your hair on end, especially the thousand cc MotoGP bikes. Rain put an end to qualifying on day one so we made our way back through the crowds with big anticipation for race day tomorrow. The hotel was full of motor racing fans, it is probably empty at most other times. Evening meal was at a little Chinese restaurant which was also decked out in racing memorabilia.

Race day was upon us and we had to get to the circuit earlier as the races had been bought forward two hours due to the afternoon rains. Everyone else had the same idea though and the 10km journey took about an hour. The crowds were huge, double the number of people here today and just under 104,000 according to the commentators. The ticketing is open seating so you can walk around and change seats, most people want to be at the start/finish line but we headed for the tower at the end where the bikes have to slow down to get round the hairpin. This was the best place for closeup photos when they’re not doing 300kph past you!

Rossi led for most of the race but lost the back-end five laps from the end gifting Marquez the win, it would have made for a spectacular battle otherwise. Most of the Malaysian fans are Rossi supporters and shirts emblazoned with 46 were everywhere. Their local rider Hafizh Syahrin, number 55, also had a huge following. We decided to wait around after the race while the crowds dispersed, we were in no hurry.

The only downside to the weekend was losing my phone on the way out, and getting fleeced by the taxi drivers but you come to expect that! We’ll be back in 2019!