8 Hours of Sepang

  • We were given the honour to cover the 8 Hours of Sepang FIM EWC race from inside the BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team.

  • We had an unprecedented access to what made them tick and the strategies involved.

  • The team finished third overall.

Excitement fills the air as the bikes were fired up for 8 Hours of Sepang FIM Endurance World Championship (FIM EWC) race.

As adrenaline started coursing through the veins of the BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team members, their cheerful disposition gave way to steely stares and clenched jaws. It’s time to go racing.

The Planned Start

A technician pushed the BMW S 1000 RR onto the pitlane with rider Ilya Mikhalchik following closely behind. As he reached for the started button, I braced myself as if squeezing my ear canals in anticipation of an exhaust blast. But… nothing… there was a slight roar from the titanium Akrapovic exhaust silencer but that was it. No eardrum assaulting, chest punching roar.

Read: Up close with the BMW S 1000 RR FIM EWC racebike

And away he went along with other riders. The technicians grabbed their equipment and hurried to the gate to the grid. By then, the first riders had completed their warm-up lap.

When the bikes returned to the grid, they were wheeled backwards and parked against the pitwall at an angle. The riders then went to the other side of the start finish straight. The factory BMW sat in fifth while the crew blanketed the rain Dunlop tyres with warmers again.

Alas, the rain started coming down in earnest with just 25 minutes before the start.

The Safety and Medical Cars were sent out to check but it was visible that the sheer volume of water had overwhelmed the drainage. The cars sent up huge plumes of spray.

By then there was a delay in starting the race and the field was given another sighting lap. The riders roared away in a whiteout wall of spray. Back in the pit, the team had their eyes transfixed on the TV monitors.

The riders tip-toed through every corner and there was still lots of standing water including at the apexes of Turns 5, 9, 13 and 14. There was a river-like puddle running across the track at the braking area for Turn 15.

Upon reaching the start/finish line, marshals instructed the riders to their bikes, away from the where they were supposed to start running from. A few minutes later, race direction suspended the start. Team managers were then called to the briefing room at 1:15pm. We feared the worst i.e. outright cancellation, but that decision never came.

Now, the long wait began.

The BMW Motorrad World Endurance crew didn’t look agitated, but they didn’t seem relaxed, either.

We waited.

This is how the stripped down BMW S 1000 RR endurance racebike looks like

The 1st Restart

The rain began abated somewhat by 2:30 pm. At 2:40 pm, a message flashed across all monitors at the track: PITLANE OPENS FOR 2 MINUTES AT 3:05 PM.

Yes! We’re finally going racing. As per endurance racing rules, the duration was shortened to 6 hours.

However, there was no Le Mans style start. Instead, the riders were flagged off one by one by a marshal holding the Jalur Gemilang (Malaysian flag). Again, a wall of spray hung in the air as the bikes made their way to Turn 1. Also this time, they had to follow the Safety Car (SC).

Photo credit FIM EWC

The spectators in the grandstands were excited. Kids who’ve been running around suddenly sat ran back to their parents’ arms and pointed excitedly at the track.

The SC took the grid past the finish line for Lap 1. There was still too much spray. They went past for Lap 2. Then Lap 3, Lap 4, everyone in the pits was hoping for the SC to turn off its emergency lights. It would mean that it would peel into the pits and let racing commence.

All teams began to prepare for the eventual pitstop by placing tools, axle stands, refueling rigs near the pit entrance. They also place spareparts and assemblies such as front ends, rear subframes, bodywork, radiators, etc. where they are within easy reach (in case of crashes or breakdowns).

The refueling can was placed nearby together with a large fire extinguisher. The refueling man’s helmet and Nomex gloves were placed on top of the fuel can. There’s no time to rush back into the pits for something!

Sadly, the SC never turned off it lights and pulled in at the end of Lap 8. The red flags went out signaling another race suspension.

Another team managers meeting was called at 5.00 pm. BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team’s manager Werner Daemen ran up the steps again to the briefing room.

The organizers, stewards and teams deliberated for more than an hour before coming to the decision to either race or suspend it outright. However, should they choose to restart, the race has to end at 9.00 pm.

Sources told us that the teams were eager to go on and it’ll be a shame to cancel since they had travelled so far for this race. It would’ve been 8 Hours of Rain if it were cancelled.

The 2nd Restart

Soon, the message RACE TO RESUME AT 6.00 PM appeared on the monitors. Mechanics rushed to the holding area to pick up their bikes. They were pushed back to outside the pits and parked on the “hot pit lane” (the red line) and waited for the signal from Race Direction.

At the sound of the air horn, mechanics rushed their bikes into their respective pits to begin working on them.

Why such ruling? So that everyone starts working on their bike from the same time as everyone else. No handicap.

The team mechanics jumped in to change the rear sprocket for a taller gearing, fresh wet tyres were installed. They gave the bike a one-over to make sure everything was alright.

The pit reopened at exactly 6.00 pm and every single person at the track was eager to see the race get going. The field first formed up behind the Safety Car and the riders must be in their qualifying order before the car turns off its warning lights to let the 50 riders loose.

Finally, it was time to race after a couple of laps behind the SC. The 8 Hours of Sepang was go.

By the end of the first restarted lap, it was Mike Di Meglio of F.C.C. TSR Honda (#5) who was challenging Michael Van Der Mark from the Yamaha Sepang Racing Team (#21) for the lead.

The #37 bike of the BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team was in sixth at the end of the same lap, in a pack of four bikes including the Tecmas Racing #9 BMW S 1000 RR (older model). The Tecmas team’s pit neighbor’s the Motorrad’s pit.

Soon, a fierce battle developed up front between #5 and #21, as if it was the last few laps of a WorldSBK race.

The rain had stopped by the 4h 15 minute mark, but the track was still wet.

But neither leading rider backed down and they were pushing so hard that their bikes squirmed under hard braking. That frenetic racing saw a pace that no one else on the field could or want to match. While most of the field was lapping in the 2m 30s bracket, the dueling duo was circulating around in 2m 15s.

Meanwhile, #37 and #9 were locked in a battle of their own, and the former was briefly in fourth by the 4h 40 minute mark. The team members were glued to the TV monitors, a few mini-hopping up and down, a few chewed their fingernails.

Then it happened. V.D. Mark outbraked Di Meglio into Turn 15, but he went wide. Seeing the gap, Di Meglio stuck his bike up the inside. As V.D. Mark tried to tighten his line for the exit, he was surprised to find #5 there and lifted his #21 bike. Di Meglio was also surprised by the move and probably dabbed his front brake and lost the front tyre, which slid into #21’s rear tyre. It sent both men skidding off the track.

You can watch the video >>> HERE <<<

A huge roar went up all around the circuit and in the pits.

Di Meglio managed to pick up his bike first and continued racing, while V.D. Mark’s Yamaha was heavily damaged and had to return to his pit.

To give you an idea of how far they were ahead, Di Meglio rejoined the race in first place.

Into the Night

At the same time, #9 got the better of #37 and the latter dropped back to sixth. But four laps later, there was huge plume of white smoke leading into Turn 1. #9’s engine had gone bang in spectacular fashion. Peeking into our neighbours’ pit saw them slumped into their chairs. One of the crew members had told me during the start that they’re using Michelin tyres and gave the thumbs up. Michelin makes arguably the best rain tyres.

The Safety Car was called into action as the track crew removed the stricken bike from the gravel trap and to assess if any oil was dumped onto the track. It led the field for five laps.

During this time, BMW Motorrad team manager Daemen ran back and forth between the pit and pit wall, discussing their fueling strategy. He had told me earlier that the 24-liter tank could last between 26 to 27 laps in rainy conditions. But with the Safety Car period thrown into the mix, they needed to recalculate the bike’s fuel consumption. They also needed to figure out their pace in comparison to other competitors. Calling for a stop at the wrong time would be out of sync with field and cost them track position.

The mechanics began arranging different types of “stands” on the pit lane. They were all custom made for different purposes, including those to place the wheels. A loose wheel rolling down pit lane will be punished by a penalty.

They also prepared two types of Dunlop wet rear tyres, one intermediate and one full wet. The current rider will advise the team on which to choose.

At last, the #37 got the “BOX” message on his pit board. So do the other teams.

The bikes may appear slow on TV as they headed down pit lane, but they were fast in real life as the riders held on to the pit lane speed for as long as possible. The #37 flew into position in the blink of an eye and the four-man crew descended on it in that split second it stopped.

The wrenches went “rat-tat-tat-tat” in unison, the front and rear wheels came out, new ones went on, and and “rat-tat-tat-tat” again. But the mechanics also checked the nut with a torque wrench. (Here it was, where every second mattered, yet they still used torque wrenches, whereas most real-world mechanics never touch them.)

They yelled “GO!” to the fuel man and cleared away from the bike. With one swift motion, the biggest man in the pit (dressed in flame retardant suit) heaved the can above bike’s fuel tank and plunked it down into the dry break female coupling with an audible click, while another man stood by with the fire extinguisher. It took only a few seconds. He pulled the can off and the rider jumped on the bike, punched the starter button and away he went.

All these in less than 20 seconds.

You can watch video of the lightning fast pit stop below.

Countdown to the 8th Hour

We thought the field would settle into a rhythm. Instead, it was a crash fest.

Most riders crashed at Turn 5. Local riders know to stay away from apex as moisture seems to cling to that spot. The track was starting to dry but again, we local riders know that the Sepang International Circuit’s new surface may look dry while it’s still damp.

The most prominent crasher during this period was Mike Di Meglio on the #5 bike. While the earlier crash caused minor scrapes, this one saw extensive damage to the bike. He had to pit for repairs. His partner continued the race dead last but managed claw his way back to 21st at the 8th hour.

As the minutes ticked away, the top three began to emerge: YART Yamaha, Honda Asia-Dream Racing and BMW Motorrad World Endurance.

A second and last pitstop was called with 20 minutes to go. Again, the team did their choreographed magic. Again, they sent the rider and bike out in less than 20 seconds.

It’s all up to the rider now.

YART Yamaha was in an unassailable lead with one lap in hand, while the Honda Asia-Dream team was 1m 40s ahead in second.

Read: YART Yamaha wins inaugural 8 Hours of Sepang FIM EWC race

By now, the BMW rider Mikhalchik was lapping 3 seconds a lap faster the leading pair, but there was no way in catching the second-placed team.

The team climbed atop the pit fence to welcome their rider home. It was their second podium finish in as many races. It’s a fantastic result by all means, considering that this is the first season for the factory BMW Motorrad team.

It was also the second podium of the year for Dunlop. (Remember, there’s a tyre war in the FIM EWC, unlike in MotoGP and WorldSBK.)

The next race will be the 24 Hueres Motos at the Bugati circuit in Le Mans, France on 18th and 19th April 2020.

We wish to record our heartfelt thanks to the BMW World Endurance Team for allowing us to cover the race along with them. Them team was very professional and they were very focused on their tasks at hand. It was a true honour to experience it firsthand.

A big thank you and appreciation to BMW Motorrad Malaysia also, for setting up the coverage.

Last but not lease, congratulations to the team and BMW Motorrad as a whole.


  • The Yamaha Sepang Racing Team will start from pole position at the 8 Hours of Sepang inaugural FIM Endurance World Championship (FIM EWC) race.

  • Riders are Hafizh Syahrin, Franco Morbidelli and Michael Van Der Mark.

  • The race starts at 1pm tomorrow.

The Yamaha Sepang Racing Team will start from pole position at the 8 Hours of Sepang inaugural FIM Endurance World Championship (FIM EWC) race. The team consists of riders Hafizh Syahrin, Franco Morbidelli and Michael Van Der Mark. Syahrin and Morbidelli are MotoGP riders, while van der Mark rides for the factory Yamaha WorldSBK outfit. The team’s #21 Yamaha YZF-R1 is prepared by YART and shod with Bridgestone tyres. They are competing in the premier Formula EWC class.

Morbidelli on the #21 Yamaha YZF-R1. Photo credit FIM EWC

Such a great means the team is poised to gain victory in their “home” race. A win would make up for Morbidelli’s disappointment of finishing in 5th after qualifying second fastest in the Malaysian MotoGP. Besides that, it’ll be a great confidence boost for Hafizh Syahrin as well after being dropped by the Red Bull KTM Racing Tech 3 MotoGP team for 2020.

Hafizh Syahrin and Morbidelli in the pits. Photo credit FIM EWC

The second qualifying session started at 7pm yesterday. The FIM EWC uses combined qualifying times to determine the grid positions. The 10 fastest goes through to the Top 10 Trial shootout, which is like the Superpole format. The teams then put forth their fastest rider for a single flying lap to determine grid positions 1st through 10th.

Thailand’s Somkiat Chantra of Honda Asia Dream Racing set the gauntlet by posting an eye-popping time of 2m 05.440s. That took the team from 9th to 1st. One of Somkiat’s teammate is Malaysia rider Zaqhwan Zaidi who took part in the Suzuka 8 Hours in July.

But Morbidelli, the current MotoGP rider for the Yamaha Sepang Racing Team struck back with a 2m 04.647s lap. The Italian’s effort was a valiant fight given an early crash.

Qualifying third was the F.C.C. TSR Honda France team, who were previous champions in the series.

The BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team did well again to qualify in 4th. Remember, this is only their first season in the FIM EWC since 2015.

By contrast, the championship leading Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT) ended qualifying in 11th.

Read: Up close with the BMW S 1000 RR FIM EWC race bike

The Superstock class saw titanic battles for the starting grid up and down the field. In end, it was the Japanese team Tone RT Syncedge 4413 BMW who prevailed, just beating out French based Moto Ain. The former was team were the fastest at the Suzuka 8 Hour, while the latter was last season’s FIM Endurance World Cup winner.

The race starts at 1pm on Saturday. Be there!

Read: 10 Points about the FIM Endurance World Championship and 8 Hours of Sepang

  • Remember, the FIM Endurance World Championship is coming to Malaysia.

  • Called 8 Hours of Sepang, the race will be held from 13th to 15th December 2019.

  • Here are 10 basic points to get you up to speed.

Rejoice! Because the FIM Endurance World Championship (FEWC) is coming to Malaysia.

But what’s the race about, other than taking longer to complete than the usual MotoGP and WorldSBK race? What are the technical rules governing the bikes? What type of bikes do they race?

Let’s start with some details of the Malaysian round.

1. 8 Hours of Sepang

Photo credit FIM Endurance World Championship

The event is officially known as 8 Hours of Sepang and happens from 13th to 15th December 2019. But since it’s the first time the FEWC visits Malaysia, the event will be a double-header for both motorcycles and cars. The 8 Hours of Sepang for FEWC will begin at 1pm and end at 9pm on 14th December.

The good news is you can watch all the FEWC, World Touring Car Races (WCTR), Formula 3 Asia and Formula 4 Asean sessions and races for just one ticket price.

Please visit the Sepang International Circuit’s website for more ticketing details and prices.

2. Special role of 8 Hours of Sepang

The 8 Hours of Sepang has a special role (besides being a new round to score more points): It will serve as the qualifier round for part-time teams to the season finale Suzuka 8 Hours.

3. What is the FEWC

As the term “endurance” suggests, the races test the physical and mental resolve of riders and team members, besides the reliability of the machines throughout the race. There are pits stops and teams can repair crashed bikes and send them back out.

There are a number of race durations throughout the year i.e. 8 hours, 12 hours and 24 hours. As such, each team must have at least two riders. A third backup rider is permitted.

4. Run!

There are qualifying sessions, of course. However, the riders don’t start the races by sitting on their bikes. Instead, the bikes are lined-up along the pit wall with the riders lined up on the opposite side. At the drop of the flag, they run to their machines, start them up and off they go.

5. There are pit stops

Racing for such extended periods require pitstops, of course. The bikes will come in for fresh tyres, fuel and to exchange riders. Brake pads are also replaced usually during the 12-hour and 24-hour races.

But get this: Only four persons are allowed to work on each bike on the “hot” pit lane. Should the rider help, he is considered one of the four. Having an extra person will incur a hefty penalty.

So, unlike MotoGP mechanics who “sign off” the bikes until after the race, endurance racing mechanics must be on their toes at all times. It’s not uncommon to see them running around like mad rabbits especially when they need to fix a crashed or malfunctioning bike.

6. Who wins?

The races are limited by time, not by a predetermined number of laps. So, the team who accomplishes the highest number of laps within that period is the winner.

Should more than one rider be on the same lap at the end of the race, the first rider to cross the finish line is the winner.

So, endurance racing rewards not who has the fastest bike or rider, but one who’s fastest on a consistent basis.

7. What are the technical rules?

There’s just too many to fit in here, as listed in the FIM’s rulebook. But these are the main points.

  • The FEWC is a production-based racing series.
  • Superbikes is the short answer, but the homologation model cannot exceed the retail price of € 40,000 (including taxes).
  • Only four-stroke engines are permitted.
  • Engine capacity limits are 600cc to 1000cc for 4 cylinders; 750cc to 1000cc for 3 cylinders; 850cc to 1200cc for two cylinders.
  • The frame must be in the dimensions and material of the homologated bike.

The field is divided into two classes: The premier EWC Formula and Superstock.

The former allows upgrades to the forks, rear shock, swingarm, brakes, radiator and exhaust. Teams can soup up the bike’s performance, but the rules are still very restrictive i.e. the piston, rings conrod must all be stock. Maximum fuel load is 24 litres. Minimum weight is capped at 175 kg (when weighed at the end of the race!).

On the track, the EWC Formula bikes wear their race numbers on black backgrounds and have white-light headlamps.

As for the Superstock class, the bikes can be differentiated by race numbers of red backgrounds and use yellow headlights.

If modifications in the EWC Formula class are restricted, the Superstock bikes are practically taken from the showroom floors. However, ECU remapping, fuel injector replacement, clutch reinforcement and replacement of the exhaust silencers (not full system) are allowed. Maximum fuel load is 24 litres. The minimum weight for Superstock machines is 168 kg, at the end of the race.

There are other sub-rules for races that include nighttime or do not.

Limiting the number of modifications encourages manufacturers to produce better roadgoing bikes that can be obtained by the public, rather than ultra-exotics that no one could afford.

8. What tyres do they use?

The FEWC is where you find a proper tyre war. Instead of sticking to one brand of control tyre, Bridgestone, Dunlop and Pirelli duke it out here. The series encourages tyre makers to produce grippy yet high mileage tyres.

9. Which motorcycle manufacturers are involved?

Currently, Suzuki, Honda, Yamaha, BMW and Kawasaki are racing full time. Ducatis are entered without Ducati Corse involvement at the moment.

10. It’s currently the 2020 championship season

Suzuki Endurance Racing Team won the Bol D’or 24-Hour 2019

The FEWC season follows a different timetable compared to possibly all other racing series. Instead of beginning in the early part and concluding at the end of the year, the FEWC season begins in September and ends in July of the following year.

For the 2019 – 2020 season, the championship began with the Bol d’Or in France, then to 8 Hours of Sepang in Malaysia, over to the 24 Heures du Mans Moto at Le Mans back in France, followed by the 8 House of Slovakia Ring in Slovakia, then the 8 Hours of Oschersleben in Germany, and finally the Suzuka 8 Hours.


So, do book your tickets early for this prestigious event. It’s certainly a bang for your buck!

  • Litar Antarabangsa Sepang akan menganjurkan dua pusingan perlumbaan FIM World Endurance Championship dan FIA World Touring Car.
  • Acara ini akan berlangsung dari 13 hingga 15 Disember 2019.
  • Para penunggang dan pemandu negara akan mengambil bahagian dalam kedua-dua perlumbaan motosikal dan kereta ini.


  • The Sepang International Circuit will host round 2 of the FIM World Endurance Championship and FIA World Touring Car double-header.

  • The event will take place from 13th to 15th December 2019.

  • Malaysian riders and drivers will take place in both motorcycle and auto races.

The Sepang International Circuit will host two international race events back-to-back in December 2019. The FIM World Endurance Championship and FIA World Touring Car Races double-header will end under the floodlights at the circuit.

As announced earlier, the prestigious FIM Endurance World Championship (EWC) is set for its debut on Malaysian soil. This is the best opportunity to see your favourite superbikes being hammered to the limits for hours on end.

The 8 Hours of Sepang, as the event is called, will play host to the best Asian motorcycle endurance teams fight to qualify for the infamous Suzuka 8 Hours Grand Finale alongside regular EWC teams and riders.

The signature ferris wheel at Suzuka – courtesy of

Sepang is the 2nd round of the 2019–2020 FIM EWC calendar; preceded by the Bol d’Or and superseded by the 24 Hueres Motos. The schedule is part of Eurosport Events’ reworked winter calendar.

In case you didn’t know, there were Malaysian riders who took part in last year’s Suzuka 8 Hours race. Zaqhwan Zaidi teamed with Indonesian Andi Farid Izdihar and Australian Tory Herfoss in the Honda Asia-Dream Racing Team to finish 7th. The team is set to race in the event again this year.

There will be more Malaysia riders at the Sepang round this December. SIC CEO Dato’ Razlan Razali said that they will field the riders from the just-launched PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team and Khairul Idham Pawi from the Petronas Sprinta Racing Team.

Endurance racing is different from the usual “sprint” races from the aspect of the unknown, from which drama springs. For example, the leading bike may suddenly find the radiator leaking and the crew clamoring like madmen to fix the problem. Fans can expect to see the riders riding as if possessed to make up for lost positions.

But that’s not all. One the very next day, the FIA World Touring Car/OSCARO (WTCR) super-finale takes place under the floodlights for the inaugural time.

Razlan Razali, CEO, Sepang International Circuit, said: “With the departure of F1 in Malaysia, we were tasked to look into other world-class events to include in our annual calendar. Through fan voting and further feasibility study, FIM EWC and FIA WTCR were the top two selected events, both promoted by Eurosport Events.

“This special collaboration with Eurosport Events will make the race exclusive and one of a kind which will create history for Malaysia to host two world championships together in one weekend.

“Both races will take place until sunset and the chequered flag will be waived under the new SIC Circuit Lights. Tickets are now available for purchase through SIC’s website and we encourage all fans to come and witness these exciting world-class championships as they make their #RoadToMalaysia.”

Dato’ Razlan made the statements during the recent Petronas SIC Motorsports Association of Malaysia Award 2018.

Tickets for the FIA WTCR and FIM EWC double-header event are now on sale. Prices start from RM275 for the main grandstand and more information is available from the SIC website by following this link:


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