Changi motorsports dream fizzles out

Written by Cheryl Tay on . Posted in Cheryl Tay Blog | Blog Post of Cheryl Tay

It’s a weekend now and I could be at some corner of a circuit in Changi taking photos of formula cars (single-seaters), before heading over to the drift skid pan to catch up with friends. That might be happening if things had gone to plan and SG Chang had built the Changi Motorsports Hub (CMH). The deal was to get it operationally ready by end of 2011 so it could be on the calendars of the 2012 racing season.

But no, the CMH is not happening.

Mock-up of the Changi Motorsports Hub (courtesy of SG Changi)

Mock-up of the Changi Motorsports Hub (courtesy of SG Changi)

Everything seemed so rosy for motorsports back in 2007 when Formula One was confirmed and the government said yes to a permanent race track at Changi. Motorsport activity then hyped up in Singapore with more events, such as Formula Drift. At the moment we even have to karting tracks (a permanent one at Upper Jurong and a temporary one at Changi).

Six years later, things have taken a hairpin turn. Formula One is fine and will go on till 2017, but the CMH is not happening. On Wednesday, the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) announced that there will be no re-tender for the CMH.

They have spent almost a year collating market research and seeking public sentiment. They also opened up for proposals from potential investors for a motorsports facility or any other sports-related lifestyle ideas for the 41-hectare Changi site.

Finally, the verdict was made, breaking the hearts of many motorsport enthusiasts and bursting the bubble of hope for many that saw the prospects of growing motorsports in Singapore to higher levels.

I’m not surprised that there will be no re-tender for the CMH. While, like me, many hoped that Singapore can have its own permanent racing track, we also knew at the back of our minds that it is not commercially viable.

It is such a pity though, because the local motorsports scene here could really do with our own race track to help groom our local driver talent properly. Ideally, we would want to have a track but realistically, it’s not happening.

Individuals and organisations have been working hard the past few years to educate the general community about motorsports and its advantages – both on the racing and commercial aspects.

Now it seems like motorsports in Singapore will have to take a back seat.

Why do you think the CMH was not approved for a re-tender? Here’s what I think:

1) It landed in the wrong hands.

In 2010, SG Changi was the winning consortium for the bid and managed to cough up $36 million (which would be confiscated by SSC I suppose). Piling works got started and then shit happened in 2011 – construction delays, alleged corruption, fake bank documents, lack of funds. Finally, SSC terminated the contract with SG Changi.

2) Plans for a motorsports facility in Iskandar were announced.

Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim is partnering the Johor Royal family and a Malaysian state investment firm to build a $1.2 billion motorsports city in Nusayaja, Iskandar. It is located really near Singapore, just 10 to 15  minutes from the Tuas second link. Peter Lim was asked to invest in the CMH, but at three times the land size, lower operational costs and a freehold lease, it made more sense for him to go with Iskandar.

Because of the Nusajaya track, sums for the CMH had to be re-calculated. For $330 million to build the CMH, there may not be enough time to get back the return on investment on the 30-year lease without state funding. Potential investors who were keen for a re-tender, were asking for concessions, subsidies or a longer land lease, but SSC rejected these requests.

3) People still think motorsports is for the rich.

The general public are still not embracing motorsports the way many have been trying to educate them to. Many still feel that it is an elitist sport and that the government should not be forking out money for something so niche.

With that announcement made, SSC also said that the land will be cleared and returned to the government in a year’s time.

Many motorsport enthusiasts have expressed their disappointment, although they knew that this might happen. Some have said that this will send the Singapore motorsport scene and development of local driver talent a few steps backward.

Business ideas relating to and deriving from the motorsport hub will also be canned, now that there will be no track. In the last few years, I have heard various ideas from people wanting to bring in motorsport-associated brands or events. I even know of people who bought houses and offices in the far East, in anticipation of the CMH.

Well, it’s time to implement the alternative what-if-CMH-does-not-happen plan…

Cheryl Tay

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Singapore’s only female full-time motoring and motorsports photojournalist. Independent automotive consultant and prominent local motorsports personality Cheryl Tay is uniquely passionate about all things cars and motorsports. She also has a strong passion to share her interest and knowledge, hence having a dream to become the ‘Oprah Winfrey of cars and motorsports’ and create a multimedia platform for her sharing. - A female in a male-dominated world, Cheryl Tay is Singapore’s only female full-time motoring journalist and motorsports blogger and she regularly writes for prominent titles in Singapore, Asia and internationally. (See full list of titles that Cheryl Tay writes for here.)

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