The MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is heading back to Asia for the second time this season: after kicking off on the Buriram circuit in Thailand, the bikes derived from standard production models are going to Sepang in Malaysia for the sixth seasonal round to be held from May 13 to 15.
Opened in 1999, the Sepang International Circuit is set close to the capital of the Malaysian federation capital Kuala Lumpur, in the Sepang district of the state of Selangor.
Like many other circuits of the championship, Sepang was designed by the German architect Hermann Tilke appointed by the Prime Minister of Malaysia with the goal of revamping the engine industry and becoming a reference for two- and four-wheel motorsport enthusiasts in the region.
Completed in just 14 months, the Sepang International Circuit is still today one of the most modern and technological also for the integrated structure of the huge compound which attracts thousands of spectators every year: it has an attendance capacity of 130,000, of which over 30,000 in the central grandstand and the adjacent areas, all fully air-conditioned to keep fans cool and conveniently facing east-west to be shaded from the blinding sun.
The circuit is a charming location surrounded by thousands of palm trees planted during construction to balance the environmental impact of the works and to add a fresh touch to the buildings.
The Sepang International Circuit will be opening its doors to the bikes derived from standard production models with plenty of news: for the first time since it was opened, the structure has undergone extensive revamping and modernisation. Works included complete repaving, updating of the rainwater drainage system and repairs to the kerbs and escape routes, in addition to areas outside curves 1 and 15.
The objective of the new works, completed just in time for the arrival of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship in Malaysia, is to keep the safety level for drivers and personnel high.
The all-new paving is an unknown factor for Pirelli, that will not be able to benefit from the solutions adopted in the past on the old bituminous compound tarmac. Certainly the solutions which will be adopted in this round must take the main feature of any new paving into account, specifically that of being very abrasive.
One of the typical features of Sepang is certainly the climate: the temperature is hot and humid with little changes from season to season all year round, and this greatly influences tyre durability and strength.
The Sepang International Circuit is a very varied track and choosing the right tyres is not a straightforward matter.
For instance, on the front, fitting a soft tyre could ease cornering and holding the line on the driven part that displays sections in which a good degree of agility is needed. Despite this, using a front tyre that remains compact in conditions of high longitudinal load is recommended to improve braking and avoid squashing at the end of the straights.
As on other circuits where the two solutions can be potentially used, the conditions of the new paving and the climate will be dictating law. The same applies to the rear tyre choice, which must ensure the requisite grip, standing up to the challenge of high temperatures in the central area of the profile in the compound on both straights. The choice must also take into account the new situation of the circuit, which is an unknown factor for riders and engineers.
The Superbike and Supersport teams will take on the weekend in Malaysia seeking the best solution for the 5543 metre-long circuit: for this reason, Pirelli will be taking a variety of available compounds also suitable in case of bad weather.
In 2015 the hot temperature did not hold the riders back from staging an exciting competition: in Superbike Race-1, Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) won over fellow countryman Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati SBK Team) by just one tenth of a second seizing the twelfth success in the races held until then. Max Biaggi (Aprilia Racing Team) took the third step of the podium becoming the oldest rider to reach the Superbike top-3.
Race-2 ended with the incredible duel between Davies and Rea, who even touched on the last bend of the last lap. In the end, Welshman Davies prevailed ahead of Rea by just 0.091 seconds. Spaniard Jordi Torres (Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils) won third place and the second podium of the season crossing the line five seconds after the winner.
The Supersport win went to USA rider Jacobsen on Honda CBR600RR of team CORE” Motorsport Thailand, a hair's breadth ahead of Frenchman Jules Cluzel (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) and Italian Lorenzo Zanetti.