KUALA LUMPUR: Despite Marc Marquez having already wrapped up the world title and the addition of the Thailand GP, the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix remains on track for a record turnout by spectators at Sepang this weekend.
Sepang International Circuit (SIC) yesterday confirmed that ticket sales have exceeded figures from the same period of last year by 11 per cent, with all but one of the grandstands at the circuit having been sold out. Hillstand tickets remain available for sale.
SIC chief executive officer Datuk Razlan Razali expects over 100,000 fans to turn up on race day this Sunday.
"As of October 25, for the latest figures we have, almost 90,000 tickets have been sold. This is 11 per cent more than we sold during the same period last year," said Razlan.
"The F grandstand was sold out in March while the main grandstand was sold out in June. All that remains (grandstand) with us are tickets for the VR46 Tribune, which is not much.
"We are forecasting another record breaking year in terms of attendance with over 100,000 on race day this time."
Despite the wet conditions last year, 97,457 fans turned out on race day with a total of 166,484 fans attending over three days, a new record for the track. The 2016 race saw 161,533 fans showing up over three days.
Razlan added that the increasing presence of Malaysian teams and riders is one of the main factors the race has grown in popularity despite neighbours Thailand now hosting one of the rounds in the series.
"We sold out our grandstand tickets except for VR46 Tribune even before the Thai round," added Razlan.
"One of the reasons we have been able to maintain the event's popularity is due to the local riders we have in the world championships such as Hafizh Syahrin Abdullah, Khairul Idham Pawi and Adam Norrodin.
"We have always believed that it is important to have strong local interest in the race."
Thailand's addition to the series was earlier feared to have an impact on attendance at Sepang as Malaysia had previously enjoyed regional exclusivity in Southeast Asia.
Marquez, who crashed out at Phillip Island on Sunday, clinched the world title at the Motegi round earlier this month, making for an anti-climatic end to the season. It was his fifth premier class title.
Malaysia, for the first time this year, will have a rider competing in the MotoGP class, thanks to Hafizh, who is riiding for Monster Yamaha Tech3 this season.
In Moto2, Malaysia is represented by Khairul Idham Pawi (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) as well as Finn Niki Tuuli who rides for Malaysian outfit Petronas Sprinta Racing.
Petronas Sprinta Racing also have a strong presence in Moto3 with Adam Norrodin and Ayumu Sasaki of Japan.