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MARCH 5, 2001

Sepang circuit official vows safety will be top priority

AZMI MURAD, the general manager of the Sepang International Circuit, on Monday vowed to make safety the major priority at the track for the Malaysian Grand Prix on March 18.

The Formula One world is still in deep shock after a race marshal was killed as a result of a crash in the Australian Grand Prix and Murad has said he will do his utmost to ensure a repeat will not happen in the Malaysian race.

"If there is any need for us to do something to ensure safety on the track, we will take care of it," said Murad.

"First and foremost we give top prominence to the safety of the drivers and all of the parties involved on the track."

Safety fears were once again raised last weekend when marshal Graham Beveridge was killed after being hit by a wheel from Jacques Villeneuve's British American Racing car.

Villeneuve had hit the back of Ralf Schumacher's BMW-Williams and launched into the air before hitting a safety fence. Debris from the car flew through gaps in the fence, ironically used by marshals to get onto the track in the case of an emergency.

The Sepang circuit will now be the focus as the championship moves to Malaysia for the second round hoping for a safe weekend. The circuit has worked hard to improve safety since its introduction to the calendar last year.

A transparent shield has been added to, and runs the length of, the top of the pit wall and a gravel trap has also been extended at turn one.