Day 222: It’s All Good Practice

Sat. 23rd March 2013

Adrian Sutil in a Force IndiaIt is Day 2 of our sporting weekend and we are off to see the final practice and qualifying sessions for the Malaysian Grand Prix. We are very appreciative that Kuala Lumpur laid on such good sport for us on our visit here – we must be very special! Whilst the qualifying session itself is not until 4pm (unusual because it is usually at 3pm local time) we want to make a day of it. Not only are there other races on but also, like the GP teams, we need the practice at getting to the circuit and finding our way around.

Welcome to Sepang!The Grand Prix is at the Sepang International Circuit which is some way south of KL – a little further on past the airport. However we get there, it is going to take a little while and after mulling the options (either train to the airport and shuttle bus from there, or SkyBus from KLCC, at the bottom of the Petronas Towers, just one stop on the LRT from our hotel. We opt for the latter because it is the cheapest (RM30) and the simplest – once on the bus, we can sit back and we get dropped at the circuit.

Those twin towers againWe’re up and off and out of the hotel by 9am (that qualifies as an early start). The bus is easy enough to find – though we do end up walking three sides of a square around a hotel to find it. Still, this gives us another peek at the Petronas Towers which just look so spectacular. The bus seems to go a roundabout but pretty route to the circuit (we switch on our phones and check the GPS and we don’t seem to be on the main road or the direct route). Certainly, when we get to the circuit, the bus driver doesn’t know the way in to the car park and there is a bit of shuffling the traffic back before we finally get in the right entrance and are off the bus and on the way up to the circuit.

On displayIts quite a long walk from the car park through the entrance and the security check which annoyingly not only relieves us of our water but also of the empty bottle – “you must buy our overpriced food and drink!” We then essentially have to walk past all the souvenir and food & drink stands down the length of the main straight to the grandstand entrance and our seats. The good news is that we have fantastic seats – we are undercover (and in the shade), just past the start/finish line with a view right along the main straight and across at a large TV screen. We are also directly opposite the pit lane and the line of garages for the F1 teams. We are right opposite Jenson Button’s garage.

The view from our seatsOur seats are right opposite JB's garageIf there is a downside to our seats it is the noise. We arrive during a GP2 race (one or two steps down from Formula 1) and they make a racket but after that the F1 cars come out for their final practice session. The racket they make is indescribable – painful, almost, without ear-plugs in (which fortunately we had remembered). We have previously been to the Belgian GP in Spa Francochamps and knew the cars were going to be loud – but not this loud. We quickly decide that we had better upgrade to some ear-defenders that also have radios in them that pick up the on-track commentary.

Sports cars in actionQualifying day is a fun day to be at at GP circuit. Its not that busy – we certainly expect there to be a lot more people tomorrow – and there is quite a lot happening. As well as the GP2 race, there is a Malaysian Super Series sports car race. Both of these give us a feel for what to expect tomorrow and where the best vantage points are. Not only can we walk back along the fencing by the track perimeter road to get a view through a break in the fence to watch cars crossing the finish line, we can also sneak up to the upper tier of the grandstand (when the ticket inspector is looking the other way!) and get an even better view of the track unimpeded by the fence.

Go, Jenson!The GP Qualifying session was quite dramatic, though not the “rain caused chaos” that we saw described on the BBC website later. For those people with no radio and no view of the TV screens then it must be very confusing – all you would see are the cars coming round and you would have no idea as to who was fast and who was slow. With the radios in our ear-defenders and view of a big screen we were able to follow it reasonably easily. Towards the end of the second part of qualifying it did start raining and that probably did affect some of the outcome (it might have saved Jenson’s bacon) but it didn’t rain nearly as heavily as it did during the golf. All good fun and part of the excitement.

The man himself getting ready - talk about life in a fishbowlAfter qualifying, we head back to the bus to wend our way back to the hotel. Fortunately, the queue for the bus was not long – it might be worse tomorrow if we try to get away straight after the race. Sitting on the bus required absolutely zero brain power which is just as well as we were very hot and sweaty and probably a little dehydrated. I don’t think we bought enough of the £1 little bottles of water. Goodness knows what it would be like sitting in a racing car for 2 hours with the effort and concentration required to drive them (drive them at all let alone fast). It must be a tough life being Jenson Button – working for a couple of hours every other week surrounded by pretty girls, glamorous cars and for so little money too!

Looking down toward start/finish line - it will be busier tomorrowWe do however, have one decision to make. When we booked this hotel back in January we didn’t know when we would be leaving KL and so our last night booked in tomorrow (Sunday) night and we now know we need another 2 nights before we head on to Borneo. Whilst there are cheaper places to stay in KL, we like it here (and we don’t really have the heart to pack our backpacks once again just yet) and so we do a deal with the hotel to stay for another couple of nights. Sorted!

Who will be celebrating tomorrow?It has been a good practice session at the Grand Prix today as well as being good practice for us tomorrow when it will all be busier. We have a much better handle as to where to go and what to do for the best views and most of all have learned to drink more water! More than this, though, I think we have demonstrated best practice. We could so easily have bought a tour package with tickets, accommodation and transfers. It would have been one transaction and we would then have had everything on a plate. It would also have been a lot more expensive (like 2 or 3 times the cost) and we would have had no better seats and got to the track no quicker. Once again, our “don’t be a gringo” motto is born out.

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