8 Hours of Sepang: 5 days to go until first-ever race
The maiden edition of the 8 Hours of Sepang on Saturday 14 December will be a key component of the “Races of Malaysia” two-and-four-wheel motorsport festival, with a double-header pairing the FIA WTCR/Oscaro and the FIM EWC for the first time in Asia.
The 8 Hours of Sepang – the 2nd round of the FIM Endurance World Championship – promises to be an action-packed and spectacular race, with a lot at stake and some top-quality teams competing at the Sepang International Circuit.
MotoGP, FIM Superbike and Asia Road Racing Championship riders and title winners will be competing in Sepang next week alongside the 36 full-season 2019-2020 FIM EWC teams. The clash between the world’s top endurance racing teams and Asian squads determined to win on home territory will form the heart of the action at the first edition of the 8 Hours of Sepang.
The two Asian front-runners are the Malaysian team Yamaha Sepang Racing and the Japanese squad Honda Asia Dream Racing with Showa.
Yamaha Sepang Racing has partnered MotoGP rider Franco Morbidelli and Michael van der Mark, an established World Superbike rider and four-time winner of the Suzuka 8 Hours, with Malaysia’s star rider and MotoGP competitor Hafizh Syahrin.
Honda Asia Dream Racing with Showa, a consistent front-runner at the Suzuka 8 Hours, is fielding Malaysian rider Zaqhwan Zaidi, the team’s number-one racer since 2016 who finished 3rd overall in the Superbike 1000 category of the recently-concluded Asia Road Racing Championship, Indonesian rider Andi Farid Izdihar who competes in the Supersport 600 class in the ARRC, and Thai Moto2 world championship rider Somkiat Chantra.
7 manufacturers in the race
The full-season FIM EWC teams are ready to face the competition. The reigning champion Webike SRC Kawasaki France will seek to make up for lost time in the wake of a turbulent Bol d’Or. The Kawasaki team had to throw in the towel, together with YART Yamaha and F.C.C. TSR Honda France.
All three factory-backed teams will fight to score the maximum number of points in the second round of the 2019-2020 FIM EWC. 30 points are available for the winner in Malaysia, plus 5 bonus points for securing pole position. But they will have to reckon with the ambitions of the Bol d’Or winner Suzuki Endurance Racing Team as well as BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team, the 3rd-place finisher in the season’s first race. Another factory outfit is also expected to make its presence felt: Team ERC Endurance, now backed by Ducati to lead the Panigale V4R to glory in the endurance world championship.
Six manufacturers have entered official teams in the FIM EWC. A 7th brand will be on the starting grid of the 8 Hours of Sepang, with Team Sugai Racing Japan on an Aprilia.
Top 10 Trial
The practice sessions on Wednesday 11 December and qualifying on Thursday 12 December will provide clues to the pecking order in Malaysia. As at the Suzuka 8 Hours, a Top 10 Trial will redistribute the final positions on the starting grid after qualifying. At the 8 Hours of Sepang, the fastest rider of each of the top 10 teams in qualifying will return to the track to do one flying lap. The first ten positions on the grid will be reassigned based on the results. The Top 10 Trial will be held after sunset on the Sepang International Circuit.
A show both on the track and in Kuala Lumpur
Before the action gets underway on the Sepang track, the teams will put on a show in the streets of the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, located 45 km from the Sepang International Circuit. On the evening of Tuesday 10 December, a procession will wind its way through the city centre, made up of the FIM EWC bikes as well as the cars competing in the season finale of the FIA WTCR/OSCARO, the second half of the unprecedented Races of Malaysia double-header event. The three FIA World Touring Car Cup seasonal finale races will be held on Sunday 15 December, with Hafizh Syahrin once again featuring among the contenders. The Malaysian rider has set himself a major sporting challenge by entering both world championships in the course of a single weekend. Following the 8 Hours of Sepang on Saturday, he will be one of four wildcard drivers taking the wheel in the WTCR Race of Malaysia challenge.