On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

One up for the Malaysian formula

For the past week, Malaysians  have followed the trail of the celebrity-like
F1 drivers who turned  up at functions to
please their  sponsors. They have had to
kiss babies, sign autographs, pose for 
photographers  one even
opened  a bank.

There's no such thing as a free  ride in
this case. The F1 event is  more than a
race  it's mega bucks business.

And if you believe the claim by  PAS
central committee member  Datuk Dr Hassan
Harun, the entire  exercise is to
hypnotise Malaysians with the various brands of 

It's another kind of vice endorsed by Barisan Nasional, the  motivation-speaker-turned-politician said at
a recent ceramah. In  August, PAS
condemned the pre National Day celebration in Bangsar, describing the trendy
spot as a  haven for vices.

Dr Hassan and his supporters  are
unlikely to be at Sepang today. 
Presumably, shouting slogans and 
burning Barisan flags would be 
more thrilling for them than 
watching speeding cars.

Bringing Formula One racing to  Malaysia
is a coup. It has put Malaysia on the world map because  the event is not a one-off race.

Next year, Malaysia will host the  last
leg of the race. That means the  champion
will be crowned here.

Beside the international exposure, the returns from tourism will  be enormous. Hotels in Kuala  Lumpur were booked solid over  the past one week.

Nearby tourist spots such as  Port
Dickson and even Pangkor  have attracted
visitors who came  for the race.

The F1 is one of the biggest  sports
events, attracting over 500  million
television viewers across  260

That aside, it makes sense to  hold the
race in Malaysia as it  complements our
efforts to be an  automobile producer. It
is also a  boost to motorsports as it
will enhance automotive engineering capabilities.

As Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad pointed out, it could encourage locals to
design racing  cars on par with those
produced  abroad.

Malaysia should now take the  next step
of hosting world-class  motor shows like
those held in Japan, the United States and Europe.  The F1 race, considered the ultimate in motor
sports, will  strengthen any bid by Malaysia
to  host an international motor

PAS leaders are merely being 
economically myopic when they 
bring up petty issues to criticise 
the race.

Tobacco sponsorship in the race,  for
example, reportedly amounts  to 30mil per
season, which covers  16 races, while
souvenir sales run  to millions of

Over the next five to six years, 
however, financial institutions are 
likely to edge tobacco companies 
out as they take over F1 sponsorship.

The countries involved in hosting the races are Australia, Brazil,  San Marino, Monaco, Spain, Canada, France,
Britain, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Italy,  Luxembourg, Malaysia and Japan.

The 61 sq km San Marino is  smaller than
Perlis and is located  near Italy. A tax
haven, the landlocked republic has made itself 
known following the F1 race despite having a population of only  25,000.

Despite its small size, it has not 
stopped San Marino from hosting 
the event. Malaysia certainly has 
better capabilities.

Now is the time to show the  world whether
we are world class  or merely interested
in hoisting  party flags on tree

The RM286mil Sepang F1 circuit  is
regarded as the best. It won't be  a
white elephant because it will  stage the
World 500cc motorcycle  GP in

It also has a go-kart circuit and  tracks
for motorcross. An 18-hole  golf course
is on the cards while  other
facilities  including a  theme park, hotel and hypermarket  will be built.

Similarly, when the National Stadium at Bukit Jalil was being constructed for
the Commonwealth  Games '98, criticism
was rife that  it would be left idle. It
has turned  out otherwise  the stadium is  used for concerts and trade fairs  now.

And as F1 legend Jackie Stewart  said,
“make Malaysia known for its 
attractions and not because of its 

Let's prove to the world that the 
Malaysian Formula works.