Since our last crack at it [read: Sepang Circuit At Night In a VW Golf GTI], the opportunity for us to take a few more laps around the Sepang International Circuit (SIC) at night again didn’t present itself as much as we’d hoped.
Fortunately, that chance finally came again in the midst of the recent festivities hosted by Ferrari. The famed Italian prancing horse marque’s Malaysian, Thai and Singaporean arms were celebrating their combined 10th anniversaries with Malaysia playing host to it all, to which we were invited to join in too.
Part of the celebrations included a trackday jaunt in SIC for owners on Saturday night just after one of the weekend’s scheduled Ferrari Challenge race events. It was here that we were handed the keys to a familiar Ferrari Portofino demonstrator to join in the fun on track with the owners.
Yes, the Porotfino isn’t built for the track by Ferrari standards at least, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t going to be any less fun. For those curious, you can find out how the Ferrari Portofino is to drive on the road in our test-drive report by clicking this link: [Test-drive: Ferrari Portofino].
Back to the matter at hand and, aptly, this was a chance we couldn’t resist of course. However, as we settled into the hot seat with one Ferrari’s certified instructors seated next to us, it suddenly became clear: this wasn’t going to be as easy at it looked, and there were several good reasons for this.
For starters, the Portofino had much MUCH more power and cost equally much MUCH more than the humble hot hatch we piloted in our last outing. If anything were to go wrong, we knew things were going to be painfully expensive for everyone involved, enough said.
Adding to that was the fact that we’d be handling the Portofino on track with other Ferrari owners, all driving their own multi-million Ringgit stallions too. Surely, any right-minded folk can see that this was no walk in the park, and one needed to tread carefully so as not to cause a multi-million Ringgit pile up.
Well, ‘carefully’ was how we kept things as we went out to chart our laps, of which we were able to lock in three. Again, unlike our last attempt, we finally get to do the entire 5.542 kilometres of asphalt that Sepang had, not half of which, and we were able to do so under perfectly clear weather conditions too.
... things can get pretty dicey when there’s this much horsepower involved.
Apart from the slightly cooler temperatures, SIC isn’t all that different at night. Don’t let the floodlights fool you though; there are still some areas of the circuit that still requires your eyes to be sharp and focused as you would in the daytime.
So as long as you remember your lines, things wouldn’t be too hard here to say the least. Yes, that sounds easy, but trying to remember it all whilst managing the Portofino’s 591bhp and 760Nm outputs and rear-drive setup can be a stretch.
Adding to this are the presence of other Ferrari owners on track at the same time, all wanting the same piece of asphalt as you. Even on a ‘regular’ trackday as this was, things can get pretty dicey when there’s this much horsepower involved, especially in some of SIC’s most technical bits, most notably in its Southern half.
While the Portofino isn’t the perfect tool to chart laptimes around SIC with, it’s far from dull to say the least. Surely, blasting down the circuit’s two straights at over 220kph is thrilling enough for most mortals. Then there’s the epic view of it all, with the ‘Tower’ at Turn 15 looking mighty fine when lit with floodlights.
We’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating: If you haven’t done a night trackday in Sepang, then you better get around to it. It’s an experience worth savouring in. If anything, the experience was perhaps fitting for the occasion too, with many of the passionate Ferrari owners present sporting ear-to-ear grins by session’s end.