It is humiliating that Singapore can host a successful Formula One race – the top tier of motor racing – but is unable to pull off a project to build a permanent motorsports circuit here.
Infighting, alleged corruption and a lack of funds have led to the possibility of the Changi Motorsports Hub project being shelved.
The Singapore Sports Council (SSC) announced on Monday that it is seeking to terminate its contract with SG Changi, the consortium that was to build and run the hub.
Furthermore, the SSC will gauge public and national interest before deciding whether to call a second tender.
The project could very well be dropped should market consultation show that interest in the motorsports hub is dwindling.
Not surprisingly, many in the motorsports community are upset with the latest development. Gerald Tan, champion of this year’s Singapore Touring Car Challenge, said: “This is disgraceful for our local sports scene. It is sad to see that the project might even be cancelled.
“This does not send out the right message. We don’t want Singapore to seem fickle-minded about developing its motorsports scene.”
Tan was part of a focus group that SG Changi conducted earlier this year and he already felt that something was amiss at the time.
“I realised first-hand that they did not seem to have the right mindset and concepts for the track,” he said. “We may need to revise and enhance the bidding and tender process of such projects in the future.”
Having a racing track in Singapore will no doubt boost the motorsports sector and give local drivers a place to call home.
But many felt that building a motorsports hub with several lifestyle amenities was too ambitious, as it pushes up costs and makes the project financially non-viable.
Having followed the progress of local drivers across different types of motor races, it is always sad to see limited support from the authorities and companies for the drivers, even though many of them are gaining recognition on both regional and international circuits.
The motorsports scene here was revived after the introduction of the F1 in 2008. A string of major motorsports events has since sprung up, such as Formula Drift and the Singapore Karting Championships (SKC) hosted by Kartright Speedway, which provides a proper karting track for the event.
But Singapore now appears so preoccupied with the glamour of the F1 Singapore Grand Prix – and the economic and image boosts it gets from the elite race – that it has ignored the vital grassroots scene that nurtures the fan base for the bigger events.
David Wong, the Singaporean team owner and founder of Petronas Syntium Team, which has achieved international recognition and success, said: “Building a motorsports hub requires a lot of forward thinking and planning for the future. It goes beyond dollars and cents.
“For Singapore to step up its motorsports sector and produce a world-class racing driver, a track will benefit lots, but the right mindset is essential too.”
With the renewal of the F1 contract still up in the air, and possibility of there being no race track in Singapore, many in the motorsports community fear that the sport may return to its dark ages.
Benjamin Tan, managing director of AutoInc, the title sponsor of the SKC, said: “Singapore must have a track of its own at some stage. If not today, then hopefully sometime in the future.
“However, we need to have the correct ‘software solutions’ before hitting the ground again.
“Focusing purely on physical infrastructure is not sufficient; media (support) and good distribution…must be incorporated into the project to maximise its value.
“The current mayhem has disheartened many, but…with better support from SSC and the Government, we believe it’s just a matter of time before the project takes off.”
*This was first published in My Paper.