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Is Motorsports City an F1 rival for Sepang?

The Motorsports City project is to upgrade plans to produce an F1-spec circuit at Iskandar.

The long-time home of the Malaysian Grand Prix could find itself under threat should plans to upgrade the Motorsports City facility go ahead.

The venue, at Iskandar in the Johor region, is the brainchild of Singapore businessman Peter Lim, but was initially envisaged as a circuit for series below F1. However, when the cost of upgrading it to grand prix standard proved only slightly more expensive than work originally planned, the decision was taken to go in that direction.

Developer FASTRACK Autosports told business website investvine.com that the US$100m project would produce a circuit capable of rivalling both Sepang and the Marina Bay street circuit in Lim's homeland, although that cost is a mere drop in the US$1.4bn, 300-acre, ocean that is the entire Motorsports City complex.

FASTrack chief executive officer Barry Kan claimed that the 4.5km Hermann Tilke-designed circuit would comply with the technical requirements necessary to qualify as a host for F1 world championship rounds, with greater run-off areas, slighter gradients, better safety facilities and a longer straight added to the original plan

“It'll be faster than Sepang, Monza and Singapore,” he intimated

Plans to put the venue forward as a potential grand prix host could be thwarted by the already crowded calendar, which would likely prevent it from appearing alongside either Sepang, whose contract expires in 2015, or Marina Bay (2017) in coming seasons.

“F1 teams can test their cars here, but whether a circuit is an F1 track depends on one man,” Tan continued, referring to F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone's influence over the schedule.

Motorsports City is expected to be fully completed by 2018, with hotel, retail and entertainment venues complementing both the F1 circuit and additional automotive facilities including a CIK-standard kart track and sprint layout.

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