With 30 years of experience in motorsports – as a driver, a series organiser (Singapore Corporate Karting Challenge) and a track owner (Kartright Speedway) – Dato’ Jude Benny speaks up about the latest development in the Singapore Karting Championship (SKC).
The SKC was inaugurated in 2010, when it was organised by the Singapore Motor Sports Association (SMSA). Handed over to the private sector from 2011 onwards, the SKC has been held at Kartright Speedway all the while, until Round 2 this year when it was taken outside of Kartright, to the F1 track at the pit building. Round 3 last weekend was held at Kartright but the remaining two rounds will be held at the F1 track again.
Dato’ Jude is a prominent maritime lawyer with a fervent passion for karting.
Q: Having been in motorsports for so many decades, is this the first time you have encountered such a thing?
A: Yes, because most sponsorship contracts are meant to be just that – binding contracts.
Q: What are your thoughts on AutoInc’s withdrawal of sponsorship from the SKC?
A: This would be a simple case of whether the contractual terms allow for withdrawal. If they do, that’s the end of that. If they don’t, that would be a breach of contract. If it is a case of the former, then it is unusual.
Q: Do you think this will affect the sport? How?
A: I do not think this will have any lasting effect on karting. The sport has been through much worse in the last 30 years. Sponsors come and go. Karters want unadulterated, clean and safe racing. That is all. Anything more is fun, but not essential. The most important thing now is for SMSA to show strong leadership, and move forward unfazed. Take people to task, if the facts warrant that, and enforce contractual rights, if that avenue is open. The karting community looks to SMSA for leadership in the sport.
Q: Will this damage the confidence of potential sponsors for local motorsports?
A: I doubt it. Sponsors are capable of assessing the ROI themselves, based on the event under review. The reasons applicable for withdrawal by one sponsor will not necessarily impact another sponsor’s views. I don’t see this episode as creating baggage going forward. It is a storm in a tea-cup.
Q: What do you think led to the drastic move by AutoInc?
A: Perhaps they felt unappreciated. I don’t know. You will have to ask them. I have not developed the art of reading minds, yet.
Q: Politics are inevitable everywhere, what can all of us learn from this incident?
A: What we can learn is that the moment something gets good, it never lasts. In the first two years, it was all about racing and fun. When it attracts attention and grows, it gets complicated. People get upset, hurt, unhappy etc.; divisions set in and ultimately deflation. So the lesson is – keep karting simple. Commercial issues and racing issues have some common ground, but they must be kept separate. When the lines are blurred, trouble follows. Strong leadership is needed to manage these issues.
Q: SKC has been around for its third season now, how do you think it can improve or what do you think the direction should be or what is the next step for the SKC?
A: SKC is essential for the karting community. The series, sponsors and teams must be bound by strong and fair contracts. The challenge is to grow the grid at all levels. When I started, we went straight into racing in the Clubman class, irrespective of age. It was great fun. All newcomers just trying their best and then gradually moving into National, International B and International classes. I think the Masters and Seniors divisions based on age is not helping. New drivers are put off racing because they are expected to race with experienced drivers – just because of age. SMSA should look into introducing novice class races, as this is a national/local championship. I am sure this will bring many of the karts now in storage, back on the track.
Q: How has Kartright been progressing? It’s been almost 4 years since it started. What is the next step for Kartright?
A: Watch this space!