Sunday March 11th, 2001
Tan Sri Basir Ismail, chairman of the Sepang International Circuit (SIC), has vowed to stand by his decision to ban live coverage of the Malaysian Grand Prix after the country's population failed to buy tickets for the event.
Basir is disappointed with ticket sales for next weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix and he is hopeful that his decision to cancel live coverage in Malaysia will prompt an increase in attendance figures.
"If Malaysians want to watch the race live, they can buy a ticket and come watch it here," he said in Malaysian newspaper the New Sunday Times. "This is not my event, it is a national event being staged in our own country.
"For that, we must be patriotic and show our support so that we have a positive image throughout the world. It's like a war, there are those who watch it on TV and there are those who go out and fight."
Basir is concerned that the revenue from ticket sales will not reach the figure required to break even, which is believed to require four times the current amount of sales.
There have been just 30,000 tickets sold so far, compared to 65,000 for the first race in the country in 1999.
Last year, however, the circuit lost RM22 million (£4 million) and a further slump in sales this year has left Basir desperate for his country's support.
"We spent a lot of money to stage the event and we need to sell tickets and the hospitality suites in Sepang to cover the cost," he said.
"Australia has a smaller population than Malaysia yet they recorded an attendance of 400,000 spectators over three days. There would be no problems should we get the same sale figures as we did in 1999.
"But how do the public expect us to spend money when we have only 32 per cent sales?"
With less than one week to go before the Malaysian race, the ticket sales will need to make a massive up-turn if the SIC is to make it a financial success.
Coverage will not be shown in Malaysia until 9pm on the evening of the race, and the move to cancel the live showing may just drum up the sales they need. But Basir has not ruled out the possibility of allowing the live race coverage to return if ticket sales increase.