Motor Racing in Singapore – Posted by Lam Chun See

I came across mention of the Heritage Fest’s Vintage Car Showcase which went on parade around Connaught Drive recently. And with the F1 coming to Singapore in 2008, my memory went back to the days when motor racing was very popular. There was of course the Singapore Grand Prix races at the Old Upper Thomson Road course (between 1961 and 1973); which I would add was the first time street racing took place in Singapore. 2-wheeler “factory works” teams from Yamaha, Kawasaki, Honda and Suzuki attracted the Ah Bengs and Mat Noors. Those who got deep pockets went for the cars. I can remember international participants like Vern Shuppan, Albert Poon, Motohashi, Tanaka and Chris Korn.

After 1973, motor racing went dead until 1977 when an international motor rally event came to Singapore. No lah, I am not referring to the motor shows at the Singapore Expo with those mini-skirted girls. I am not referring to karting either. Guess what? The National Stadium Car Park B was the venue. This was unusual because it was sponsored by none other than SINGAPORE AIRLINES. It was the 1977 London-to-Sydney Rally. It was in September 1977 when all the participants arrived in Singapore overland from Penang.

 

I had never witnessed so much variety – different nationalities and vehicle types. There were Land Rovers, Peugeot 504s, Citroen Pallas, Mercedes-Benz 300s, a fire engine, Porsches, a Fiat Arbath, and dump trucks. At that time I was in the University of Singapore and my buddies who were also car enthusiasts made the trip to the National Stadium just to watch the drivers and their “flying machines”. Because they were rally cars driving through tough terrains like those you see in the Dakar Rally in Africa, all the vehicles were coated with mud and dust when they arrived in Singapore. I found all the vehicles were specially fitted with extra head-lights, rear and front reinforced metal bumpers, and spare fuel tanks. Inside the vehicle was spartan.



Sad to even say when I contacted Singapore Airlines nobody could remember this event, or as I was told “not wanting to talk about it”. The AA of Singapore also never heard about this. I drew a blank stare from the Singapore Tourism Board. Lucky for me, I managed to scramble for some “donated” pictures from one of the participants. Hopefully out there might be some readers who know more about this event.

This fired my imagination that one day, I too would like to take-up this hobby; in a small way. I envisaged this hobby for my retirement but in the context of Singapore this was not possible given all the car-ownership policies are set by the government.

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