Yes! I can strike another one off the bucket list! I’ve actually driven on the Sepang International Circuit – one of the official F1 race tracks around the world! w00t!
I was at the Volkswagen Das Auto event held to herald in the Volkswagen Scirocco R Cup 2011 at SIC and got to experience this once-in-a-lifetime chance. Heh!
I was there pretty early – the event was very well organized – there’s even parking near the paddock and a shuttle to ferry you there so you don’t have to walk.
After a quick registration, I signed up to test drive the Volkswagen Polo GTI.
I got the 9:45 am slot so I grabbed a quick breakfast of hot noodle soup and coffee before testing out the car.
This is a real world 7.7 km circuit around SIC comprising of various conditions you’ll expect in your daily commute.
I was quite impressed with the car – it handled the straights very well as you can see in the video above. The traffic was pretty light at that hour so the kind folks at Volkswagen let me drive through it twice. This isn’t the actual track (more about that later) – there was a lot of stuff to do that day.
…like this driving simulator located throughout. It’s customized so you can see the new Volkswagen Polo in the simulator.
I also went for the Volkswagen Driving Experience – which is basically a safety course. Obstacle avoidance, emergency braking, stuff like that. It was a lot of fun though and I was so glad I got there early coz the spots were all quickly taken up till 4:30 pm.
The highlight of the event was the launch of the Volkswagen Polo GTI. The car is a beauty!
All the meals were provided that day. I guess they don’t call it a VIP experience for nothing. Heh.
Catering was done from Pan Pacific so the food was pretty good.
There’s also a Volkswagen Scirocco R car inside – this is the actual car used in the Volkswagen Scirocco R Cup 2011.
Here’s another angle of the car. I don’t think this highly tuned and spec-ed up car is road legal but won’t it be a blast to drive it? :D
Anyway, the event that everyone has been hoping for with two fingers crossed came up after lunch – the lucky draw to drive an actual Volkswagen car ON the Sepang International Circuit! The names were announced and there was a mad rush to the monitors see if we were one of the lucky ones.
I think I’m going to have a stroke. *pounds chest
My name was on it! I am going to drive on an actual F1 circuit. There are people who would kill for this. I know, you all hate me. ;)
I suited up in safety gear and went into the car. There were Volkswagen Golf and Volkswagen Scirocco up for grabs and as I headed to mine, I suddenly thought – how am I going to film the experience?
I mean, this is an experience of a lifetime, I’ve gotta get it on film! Thus, I randomly scanned the crowd of people who weren’t as lucky and picked one at random.
Say hello to Celine! She’s from Penang and has agreed to be a passenger in return for filming the Sepang International Circuit drive.
I actually filmed the entire experience (or rather, Celine did) but I had the radio on at the beginning – it was Eminem feat. Dr Dre – I Need a Doctor and I forgot to turn it off so I couldn’t upload most of the drive around SIC.
I can tell you though, it was hair-raising. I pushed the Volkswagen to its limits, hitting 220km/h on the straights and doing corners at 180 km/h. I have to say, the latter is not to be attempted by anyone less than a professional.
I nearly skidded out of control three times and it’s a testament to Volkswagen’s ride and handling which corrected my amateur mistakes. I think I might have frightened Celine though, heck, I frightened myself at the power of the car and the experience of driving at high speeds on an actual racing track.
Thank you for the experience of a lifetime, Volkswagen. I’ll never forget it. :)
Good luck in the Volkswagen Scirocco R Cup 2011 season!
You know the one right? It’s the only F1 GP in the entire world with a night race. I reckon it was an ingenious twist to the F1 format when it first came out – it stands out from all the others and makes Singapore one of the places to be if you’re an F1 fan!
The actual race will start on the 25th of September with a total of 61 laps, making it a 309.316 km drive. Well, the F1 Grand Prix is of course the highlight of the event but I wonder if you know how they live in Singapore? ;)
The 2011 Grand Prix Season Singapore lasts from 16-25th of September and is set with parties, fashion shows and performances throughout the season. It comes at a reputed entertainment lineup bill of SGD 5,000,000. That’s slightly over RM 12 million!
This mostly goes toward their Live Louder than Life theme this year with a focus on music performances and dance parties. If you remember last year’s theme, it was “It’s Gonna Get Loud” and this year’s will expand on that by giving F1 racing enthusiasts the experience of a lifetime by introducing them to the exciting and glamorous Singapore nightlife!
That’s right, no one goes to just the race itself. From experience in the F1 races in Melbourne and Sepang, there’s loads of events going on at the time to cater to the fans during the lulls in the action on track.
Singapore is one of the most glamorous places to party in Asia – I believe they’re at the #1 spot or close to it according to this clubbing report I read. They’ve got an outstanding lineup of international artists this year – Chemical Brothers, Linkin Park and Shakira is just the tip of the triple A list entertainers coming in.
Here are highlights of the few parties that I think is going to be a blast:
This is an annual VIP party with F1 drivers and stunning models gracing the club with a fashion show set to beats of international Djs from London to St Tropez.
Avalon Date: 16 to 25 September 2011 Venue: Marina Bay Sands, South Crystal Pavilion
The Chemical Brothers are going to spin here! It’s headlined by The Bloody Beetroots Death Crew 77 and also features Benny Banassi (!!!), Massive Attack and Boy George. The entire list is too long to well, list here, but it’s hard to argue with the Chem Bros playing Dig Your Own Hole while you soak in the panoramic views of Marina Bay…it’s Avalon, the hottest club in Singapore!
Red Hot Racing Weekend @ St James Power Station Date: 23 to 25 September 2011 Venue: St James Power Station
DJ Angie Vu Ha – Asia’s first supermodel DJ will be spinning there on the 23rd of September. You can also race on the F1 simulators and stand a chance to win exclusive Ferrari merchandize. Need I say more? :)
Worldwide Festival Date: 16 to 18 September 2011 Venue: Zouk & Velvet Underground (16 September), Avalon (17 September), Tanjong Beach Club (18 September)
Yes, it’s BACK! The Worldwide Festival returns with artists which includes Kyoto Jazz Massive, Floating Points, Mala, Gilles Peterson, Shuya Oniko and more! It’s 3 days of partying in indoor and outdoor venues. This is going to be awesome, there’s nothing quite like a beach party.
Anyway, if you’re a fan of both F1 and partying (it seems like there is a high correlation between the two) you can gear up to the actual event by participating in the Grand Prix PartyBlaster contest. You can hear sample tracks from the top DJ’s who will be performing at the Grand Prix Season Singapore parties and share them.
The best part is when you share a new track with your Facebook or Twitter friends, you’ll unlock a new one!
No, I’m just using a US-based proxy. Excellent job in detecting and allowing me to select the correct country though – it’s the little things that matter.
The best thing about this application is that you get to win a FREE trip for two to Singapore, inclusive of race tickets, airfare, 4D3N accommodation and access to selected clubs and parties all weekend, if you’re the “loudest” (most number of posts shared) user.
…and hey, even if you don’t win, you’ll have a blast (pun intended) listening to the A list DJ’s. Turn on, tune in, drop out, at YourSingapore.com!
The paddock! It’s the dream of every F1 fan to be able to walk amongst the pit crews, engineers and drivers prepping the F1 cars before the start of the race. I was fortunate enough to be able to join in just one such expedition.
There are scheduled pit walks if you’re a member of the F1 Sepang Paddock Club (where you have to shell out a staggering amount for the privilege) but ours was by the Lotus Renault GP team.
Our liaison was Anita Nyers, who travels around the world with the Lotus Renault team as Liaison Officer. She brought us into their allocated garage, which was bustling with activity. There were people hurrying around, all wearing the Lotus Renault GP shirt. I am also donning one of the tees – which I got from PROTON, who is supporting Group Lotus in its sponsorship and involvement in F1 through the Lotus Renault team.
This is the almost magical Lotus Renault GP VIP Garage Access tag that granted us entrance into the area. I still have it. :)
The paddock visit was scheduled at 11 am in the morning and I drove down to Sepang much earlier than that (didn’t want to risk missing this chance) and parked in PA1. The SIC has decreed that parking this year will be slightly cheaper – I paid RM 50 for the ticket, which is valid for two days. I like the parking spot, it’s right in front of the Sepang International Circuit.
Anyway, back to the paddock trip, we saw the Lotus Renault GP team working on the cars, tuning and checking every single component before the race in their garage.
The weather and track conditions (temperature of the ground, ambient temperature etc) are tracked constantly with computer monitors. It’s an engineer’s wet dream.
They use all this data to give them an edge in the race. Here is a tyre stack – two front and two rear wheels which will be used during the race. There are spares in stacks all around.
The interesting bit about this contraption here is that it HEATS the tyres starting from 3 hours before the race based on the track temperature so it’ll perform optimally.
The attention to detail is incredible and F1 cars are amazingly complex machines.
These are the real racing helmets that the drivers will be using later.
Here’s a video of The Paddock! Experience it vicariously! ;)
Oh, we bumped into the Malaysian driver for Lotus Renault GP while walking in The Paddock – here’s Fairuz Fauzy.
We were also brought into the hospitality lounge where there’s anything and everything you can think of. I had a bottle of Italian sparkling water. There’s Evian, Perrier, various carbonated drinks and even Corona beer in the fridge. You can help yourself to it, or more accurately, Lotus Renault GP has a staff member which helps you get it.
They actually FLY these people all the way around the world with the Lotus Renault F1 drivers – everyone from the pit crew to the chefs. The drivers have very specific diets and brings along their own chef and food.
I discovered a coffee machine which is quite nifty – you just put a packet of coffee that you choose from a dispenser above and put the entire thing in. There’s no need for you to open it or pour it out. The entire packet – unopened – goes into a slot and out comes your coffee. I don’t care if it makes me look dumb, but I’ve never seen anything like that before.
I also had a croissant (which is one of the largest I’ve ever seen) and a banana coz I didn’t have breakfast and then we walked out to watch the pit girls parade past, waving to the drivers and teams in The Paddock.
Here is one final video of the Lotus Renault garage in The Paddock!
We had to vacate the premises soon after that for the qualifiers so we did. I watched the 4 pm qualifiers and went back to catch some much needed sleep before the real finals on Sunday.
Sunday came and I decided to go 5 hours early to beat the jam. It turned out to be futile. It was congested at certain parts of the road to Sepang and though the traffic police did a great job in directing, it took me the better part of two hours to get there.
There’s still ample time when I got there so I parked and started walking around before deciding I wanted to go up to one of the towers instead of sitting at my allocated seat. There’s a girl at the entrance which checks your ticket but I guess I was quite official looking with my tags and all on Saturday so she didn’t ask me for my ticket when I went up.
I decided to stroll up again and smiled at her. She recognized me from the day before…and yes, did not check my ticket. Heh! I went up to the 3rd floor, which offers an awesome 360 degree view of the track – I can see the starting point, several straights and two bends.
The pit girls came out parading the flags of the participant countries…
…before the F1 cars came roaring out of The Paddock and into their allocated slots.
Here’s a video of the lineup of all the F1 cars at the Malaysian Grand Prix 2011 final race!
There was an initial placement round and then the race started proper…
…and they’re off!
Man, was it exciting! Red Bull Racing’s Sebastien Vettel started charging right off but Vitaly Petrov of Lotus Renault was right on his ass, giving him lots of pressure. Vitaly finished 3rd with his Lotus Renault in Melbourne before this so he was a favorite in Sepang. His pacing was impressive and it must have kept Vettel looking at his rear. It was unbelievable!
I was rooting for Nick Heidfeld though. He’s also with the Lotus Renault team but didn’t start out as well as Petrov. However, he just kept at it and it paid off at the end, as you’ve probably heard.
Petrov did things with his Lotus Renault F1 car that it was not meant to do – aerodynamic stunts – and had to retire at the 52nd lap. It was sooo close to the end but unfortunately he hit the side of the track and actually became airborne for a while before gravity took hold and pulled the car back down. The impact damaged the front so he had to exit after that.
I was standing all through the entire race – running from one side of the tower to the other to see the action. Nick of Lotus Renault was the dark horse in this race and I like rooting for the underdog. He kept on pushing the limits.
The other fans up there were equally excited, some flew thousands of miles just to come and root for their team.
It was a nail biting race – each lap saw cars trying to outmaneuver each other at bends and vying for position on the straights and Hiedfeld of Lotus Renault managed to come in at 3rd place!
It’s not the chequered flag but being able to stand on the podium is quite an achievement in itself. This is especially sweet for PROTON since Lotus Renault’s Heidfeld did it on home soil. :D
Out of the 3 Malaysian backed teams, only the Lotus Renault team managed to get into the top 3 and pop the cork on the champagne bottle in the podium. w00t!
Lotus Renault GP is sponsored by Group Lotus. PROTON in its support of Group Lotus’ sponsorship of the team kindly provided me the tickets to F1 and the rare chance to go into The Paddock and even better – get INSIDE Lotus Renault’s garage. Not many people have that chance and I’m glad I managed to experience it.
I also went to the Rain concert which was included in the ticket.
Thanks to Jeffrey and Alvin from PROTON for being great hosts and Anita Nyers from Lotus for being an awesome tour guide. I can now say that I’ve held a real F1 steering wheel in my hand and rubbed shoulders with the pit crew inside the Lotus Renault paddock. :)
An interesting fact about the Lotus Renault team: Their golden suits is not just for the bling factor – it allows them to stay cool in Malaysia’s hot weather compared to their traditional black ones.
Now that the Malaysian leg is over, I have one more year to recover from the sonic assault on my ears. I didn’t wear earplugs on both days and I think I might have developed slight hearing problems. ;)
I dropped by the Rain concert after the F1 race in Sepang on 10 April 2011. It was after the final race and there was already a good sized crowd forming there at around 7 pm. Luckily, I had pretty decent tickets so I managed to get into the pit – was about 5 meters from the stage itself.
I can’t say I’m a fan of Rain. I don’t know him at all except from the Clear shampoo TVCs. I went to catch his performance with very little expectations since I don’t listen to K-pop.
Rain has a really good stage presence – his choreography is excellent and the stage set is managed well by his technical people. However, I can’t say I’m impressed with his singing. I don’t think he’s that talented – he’s just one of those pretty boy “idols” that teenage girls go all gushy over.
However, I must admit that he’s quite good at what he does – namely his appealing looks and dance moves. The pyrotechnics helped a lot too!
I’m not his target audience, but there were legions of fans screaming for him. His fan base is predominantly female and he knows the usual tricks to get them into a frenzy.
One interlude had him commenting on the heat in Malaysia while taking off his shirt and wiping his sweat with it and throwing it into the crowd.
That went down very well. It was a huge hit with the crowd and I bet the girl who caught it would really treasure that personal souvenir. I don’t want to think about what she would do with it in the privacy of her own room. ;)
I will refrain from making captions like “It’s raining (men)” but that is apparently his most well known song. I think it’s called It’s Raining. I captured it in its entirety for your viewing pleasure.
I don’t know how many people who’s reading this is a Rain fan. I’m not but if you are, I hope you enjoyed the video coz I had to stand there for damn near two hours before he came on stage. ;)
The F&B places all started to jettison their food stock straight after the F1 final race in Sepang with “Buy 1 free 1” promos and 50% discounts. I wouldn’t pay RM 20 for a soggy sandwich but I was feeling particularly hungry and at RM 10, it didn’t sound so bad. It started to sound like airport food prices to me. ;)
Thus, I parked my ass at the nearest place and started to eat.
I got an egg sandwich, managed to two bites and started to poke at the radioactive looking mess that’s supposed to be coleslaw when I accidentally upended the entire disposable container and got the gooey stuff all over my jeans. The splatter was everywhere – on the floor, on my clothes and it nearly even hit the person beside me.
Anyway, I was wiping futilely at my jeans with the tiny piece of serviette they gave me, just moving around the mess instead of doing anything productive to it, when the girl sitting next to me (see photo below) rummaged in her bag and held out a packet of wet wipes.
I thought that was really nice of her. Most people would have ignored the scene and looked the other way but she was kind enough to notice and offer some wet wipes to me. It really made my day, even though I still had to go to the washroom to clean up most of the mess. Heh! Thanks anonymous girl! I’m sorry I didn’t get your name. :x
I stuck to a safer-to-eat muffin after that. It was at bargain basement prices – a Coffee Bean bottled drink with 4 individually packaged muffins for just RM 5. :D