Saturday, April 10, 2010

Tips for watching the Malaysian Grand Prix

Formula One could be the most difficult sport for a road trip. Each Grand Prix takes place in a different country, there's only one race per Grand Prix, and the races are a week or two apart. So you really only get one chance to get it right. As the tracks are huge, your seat choice is critical. With that in mind, I'm offering a few tips on the Malaysian Grand Prix.

1) Book early and stay near the airport for the weekend. Sepang International Circuit is about an hour from downtown and you'll likely be going for two or three days. I was only in Kuala Lumpur for 2 days, but took six separate 1-hour bus rides between the airport and downtown (two for the flights, four for the races). That's a lot of wasted time; it would have been smarter to stay close to the circuit but the decision to go was made at the last moment. There aren't many hotel choices nearby, so book early. If you don't mind basic accommodations, the Tune.Com hotel near the Low Cost Carrier Terminal seems like a good bet.

2) If you are staying downtown, use the Skybus to get to the circuit. There are options that use the train but these require a transfer and it's much simpler to just board the bus at Sentral or KLCC and relax for the hour ride. It's RM15 one way which is pretty cheap.

3) Don't buy your ticket in advance. There are plenty of tickets at the box office, but even better, lots of scalpers who are selling tickets well below face value. Many tickets are given away or sold at discounts to local groups; some of these tickets find their way into the hands of resellers. I got a 500RM ticket for just 200, about $60. Study the seating options, there are many different choices. I recommend sitting in the mall area, there's plenty of food options between the two seating areas. The difference between the upper and lower level is significant; my ticket was for the lower-level Citrine section, but I just walked upstairs to the Topaz section which offered a better view. Check out the pictures below for the difference.

The fence blocks your view down low

The bottom right corner shows where the fence is when you are upstairs

Obviously the start/finish line is the prime seating, but I found the opposite side to have a better view of more of the track. The hillside seats are much cheaper but seem to have limited amenties. Generally I would recommend getting there early on Saturday and looking for a grandstand seat from a scalper. If you get a lower seat, it seems pretty easy to walk to the upper level so try that if you can. The picture below shows the grandstand - the left side is where the finish line is while the right side is the Citrine/Topaz section where I was. Note how long the grandstand is, it takes nearly 10 minutes to walk from one end to the other.

4) Bring earphones. It is very, very loud. I bought the race radio headset which was ridiculously overpriced but helped a lot in understanding what was going on and also blocked the worst of the engine noise. Earplugs are also available outside the circuit for just RM5, so that's another option. But don't try to tough it out; the race is 90 minutes long and your ears will suffer without some protection. Binoculars are also very useful.

5) Eat at the circuit but bring lots of water. There are some great local food selections at reasonable prices. I had a big bowl of watermelon for the equivalent of $1. Kept me hyrdated for a while, but you will need a couple of bottles of water for the long day. If you get there at 11 am, you'll spend 7 hours outside in the heat so water is a necessity.

Satay stand

1 comment:

  1. You will have to do a NASCAR comparative some day as per the varied experiences and lessons to learn.