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!
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. ;)
Here’s another two full videos of Rain performing live in his Rain Live @ Sepang, 2011 concert. I recorded several of his set songs that day but since I don’t actually listen to him I’ll just call it “the fast song” and “the ballad” coz that’s just what it sounds like. Heh!
The fast dance music tempo song
The songs are in Korean – I don’t know the titles of them but the crowd went wild for both so I’m guessing they’re either fluent in the language or just too awed by his muscular pecs and brilliant mane of hair.
Speaking of hair, Rain only registers to someone like me (who doesn’t listen to K-pop) coz he was endorsing shampoo in a series of ads on TV a while back. I’m not sure if you can make girls go all weak kneed if you have his hair (remember Aaron Kwok and his popular haircut back in the 90′s?) but having a full crown of hair always helps. ;)
Svenson’s Save My Hair Facebook contest is ending on the 16th of April – that’s just in a couple of days! Click over for your chance to win a full hair treatment session. You can also get a free hair consultation just by submitting a photo of your current hair problem(s) to their Facebook application! :D
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
Golden Palm Tree Resort is located in Sepang and consists ENTIRELY of water villas. This 5 star resort is a great alternative instead of Port Dickson since the drive is a bit shorter. To be honest I was a bit dubious about this when I drove down with Lainey bff.
I had expected an empty resort…
…but the place was PACKED with tourists, both local and international. We stayed in the Travelers Palm Villa and this is what the room looks like:
The infinity pool! *refrains from saying “To infinity and beyond!”
Back to the mangrove tour, this is different from the mangrove tour I’ve been to in Langkawi – they have different species of mangrove over here.
I’m on a boat!
Doing our part! *proud
We’re planting mangrove seeds for it to grow.
Next on the itinerary was The Search for the Holy Ketam. I was one of the few to step off the boat and into the nearly knee high deep (at times) mud.
There are yellow crabs…
…and a very interesting crab with a immense left claw.
It took a while but we finally managed to find ourselves one of them. w00t!
It was back to the resort after that for dinner and an awesome show by the talents at Golden Palm Tree Resort.
It’s called GPT’s Got Talent and it’s an awesome and interactive night entertainment program. YMMV though, they have different events running at different times.
Me and bff Lainey kept on supporting the good ones but alas, it wasn’t enough.
We had a lot of fun though and met a lot of different people.
The latest way to take a group photo is via video.
Okay la, I set it to the wrong settings. :p
I particularly liked this photo. Heh!
We then adjourned back to our hotel where Nicholas and Lainey sealed the deal. *stamps I WAS THERE
I had problems with the Internet at around 1 am in the morning and two of their IT staff came over to fix it. At 1 fucking AM!!! (deserves more than 3 exclaimation marks to be honest)
Now this is what I call excellent service.
The next day…wah damn hard to wake up lor, Lainey was up and I took my time and had a couple of swigs neat from the Absolut Raspberry I brought up before I could properly wake up.
Lainey wakes up like this.
I wake up like this. T_T I could only drink a beer and eat a banana FML.
The eco friendly water sports were not running that day due to the lack of wind so we ended up…
…touring the place instead!
There was a massage session scheduled for us after that at escapade spa. I love massages and I opted for full strength as did Lainey bff.
It is a very relaxing environment and puts you at ease and takes all your stress away.
We got into the couples room and it started with a foot rub before the actual massage.
Here is Lainey semi nude. Lainey sez: WA who’s that hottie wei! I was wearing nothing but boxers too.
It was in this totally chill place where the masseuse worked her magic and I completely dozed off after she did my back and moved to my front.
It was an awesome massage though. First class treatment. It can’t get any better than this.
It was a steamboat lunch after that before lazing around the resort and packing our bags to get back home. I had a huge backpack which I lug around when I travel. Lainey bff travels lighter than me! We really didn’t want to leave. It was such a chill place that we had a discussion about taking leave the next day and just chilling here for one more day.
I love Golden Palm Tree Resort – you can’t ask for more in this 5 star getaway just an hours’ drive from the city. I thoroughly enjoyed myself there. The drive back was quite sad though coz Lainey bff pasaut in the car and I missed the short weekend in Golden Palms. :(
It definitely warrants a return trip back if you want to chill and get away from the stress and hustle and bustle of the city.
Okay, this is a rather ill conceived idea that got into my head ever since the mangrove tour guide guy told me the water was 5-6 meters deep from the individual water chalets. I’ve done cliff jumping in Ton Sai and bff Lainey knew that I was gonna do this from the way I pondered and reccied the exit points.
There is an emergency ladder system about 100 meters from our water chalet and to be safe I deployed the life buoy (standard in each chalet). I didn’t know how deep the water was or whether there are any rocks under it so I needed the life buoy as insurance just in case I jumped into rocks and can’t resurface.
I must let it go on record that this is not recommended at all! It was a lot of fun for me but the water at high tide is only 1 meter deep (!!!). It’s a good thing the bottom is sand or else I’ll be in a shitload of trouble from jumping from the balcony into the sea.
The video is funny from bff’s commentary and how I kena tiu by the security guard when I appeared seemingly out of nowhere…in my briefs.
F1 is synonymous with fast cars, grid girls and pit babes. I hear most girls won’t kick the drivers out of bed for eating cookies under the sheets too but I can’t comment on that since I’m heterosexual. ;) The final race was on the 5th of April at 5 pm in Sepang International Circuit.
I went to watch Formula 1 last Sunday with Debra and Desmond (one of the Top 10 bloggers in Malaysia, it was an honor to meet him). It was the final race day (and my birthday) and we met up at 1 Utama before catching the SkyBus down to Sepang.
We decided to take public transport instead of driving there. I’m glad we didn’t drive there – the traffic was appalling. The bus cost RM 15 from 1 Utama to Sepang International Circuit.
Our tickets were in the C2 area – covered hillside tickets, right around a tight corner which allows for great photo ops. It’s RM 200 each. Formula 1 tickets isn’t exactly cheap, cheers to Nuffnang for furnishing the tickets. Anyway, we caught the 3 pm bus, thinking we had ample time for the 5 pm race…
…except we did not account for the massive turnout. The inbound lanes were gridlocked so badly that some people resorted to parking their cars by the roadside and walking to the circuit. One of the outbound lanes had to be opened for inbound traffic to accommodate for the astounding amount of vehicles on the road.
Our bus was in that lane. What was supposed to be a 1 hour journey took more than two hours (!). The race had already started by the time we got there. There were street vendors everywhere – enterprising souls selling everything from umbrellas (it was drizzling) to beer (at a whopping RM 15 per can).
I managed to find this corner where the F1 cars slow down to make the curve. It’s the perfect spot for taking photos of the cars since they brake before approaching the sharp bend. Ferrari, baby!
The crowd turnout was amazing – we have some hardcore fans braving the rain (it had started to pour by then) in the uncovered areas.
There were even some people trying to get a Mexican Wave going. I have no idea why, it’s not a soccer match, but to each his own. :)
No one can be told what F1 is. You just gotta hear the scream of the F1 engines to experience it for yourself. ;)
It was fun though…the crowd was great, and so was the company.
The sky turned a forbidding shade of ebony and the loud rumblings of thunder could be seen (and heard, respectively) about an hour into the race.
The inevitable downpour was nothing short of prodigious – the drains behind the covered hillstand overflowed and caused the already muddy grounds to be even muddier.
I think all of us had a tough time walking without slipping due to the poor grip afforded by the wet mud.
It got to the point where I had to stand under Deb’s umbrella ella ella eh eh eh since we decided to go up to the uncovered concrete instead of slipping around in the mud.
The pacer car came on the race track after that and we all thought the race would be postponed until the rain stops. It was seriously POURING on Sunday.
The race never resumed. It was canceled.
People started leaving and we headed for the bus back to 1 Utama as well. We managed to catch the 7:30 pm bus back. Desmond had to meet up with his friends so I had dinner with Deb at Sushi Zanmai before sending her back home.
It was fun to watch the race – the powerful roar of the high octane engines, the energy of the crowd, the company of good friends. I’m glad I went even though the race got canceled due to the heavy downpour.