Sepang's forgotten brothers: History of the Malaysian Grand Prix
If you think the Malaysian Grand Prix was first held in 1999, I would say think again! We all know the name of the famous Sepang International Circuit which has given us so many fantastic Sundays in the past. But how many of us know the fact that the “Malaysian Grand Prix” dates way back to 1962, a time when it was called the “Malayan Grand Prix”? Now the question arises, if Sepang was built in the late 90s, which circuit(s) hosted those races? Your answer: Thomson Road and Shah Alam.
It seems quite astonishing that within only 5 years of becoming independent, the Malaysian government had the foresight as to how much a Grand Prix could benefit an economy, and that too a small one as that of Malaysia. As some might know, initially Malaysia used to be called Malaya and it included Singapore as well until 1965. That is why the 1962 race was labelled as the “Malayan Grand Prix”.
Thomson Road Grand Prix Circuit
The Thomson Road circuit belongs to Singapore now, but it held the races in ’62, ’64 and ’65 as a part of Malaya. It has also held the Singapore Grand Prix on quite a few occasions but we shall talk about that later in the year when we preview the Singapore Grand Prix. It comprised of the Old Upper Thomson Road and therefore, was more or less a street circuit.
The track length was 4.865 km, ran in a clockwise direction and had 9 corners in total. In the early 60s, the race was held for 60 laps, which made the total race distance around 290 km – very less considering those days’ F1 standards when races run were close to 500 kms. The track didn’t have a long history of hosting the Malaysian Grand Prix because, when Singapore separated from Malaya in 1965, the track became part of Singapore. These races, though, were part of the Formula 2 championship. Singaporean Yong Nam Kee won in 1962 while Hong Kong driver Albert Poon stood on the top step of the podium in 1963 and 1965, with the 1964 edition cancelled after practice.
Shah Alam Stadium Circuit
Now, we come to the second of Sepang’s brothers, the Shah Alam Stadium circuit. This circuit remained part of Malaysia and was active until 2003 when it was turned into a housing project. It hosted the Malaysian Grand Prix for a much longer period – 1968 to 1982 (except 1976) albeit none of them F1, which is obvious.
The 3.69 km (longer version), 14 corner track was designed by Dutch designer John Hugenholtz. Apart from the Malaysian Grand Prix, the circuit was also host to the Superbike World Championship in the 90s with its first international fixture being the World Sportscar Championship in 1985. The results of the 14 Malaysian Grands Prix held here are as follows:-
These two tracks might never have experienced the prestige and glamour of holding a Formula One World Grand Prix but still their names will be etched in the history books as ones who initially hosted the Malaysian Grand Prix and brought Malaysia to the international racing stage.