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Every saga has its origin. The 13th of July 2020 marks the tenth anniversary of what should have been a historical day in the history of Motorsport in Singapore. A day that should have marked the beginning of a bright new era for Motorsport in Singapore. A bright future that never came, and remains forgotten.

Every 2 years, the skies above Changi East are filled with the roar of low-flying military aircraft performing aerobatics during the bi-annual Singapore Airshow, held at the Changi Exhibition Centre (CEC). For the remainder of the 2 years, Changi East remains a relatively quiet place; with most of the noise in the area coming from airliners taking off from the adjacent Changi Airport.

However, this was never meant to be the case. The roaring of powerful engines and the sound of squealing tyres should have reverberated in the air. The sounds coming from Singapore’s first permanent racing circuit, the Changi Motorsports Hub. Built to complement the Marina Bay Street Circuit, allowing for Motorsport activities on a year-round basis.

Contrary to common belief, the Changi Motorsports Hub was not the first Permanent Motor Racing Circuit for cars planned in Singapore. The first was the aborted Tuas International Speedway from 2005. (Part of the site subsequently became used for a Motocross track, Circuit@Tuas, which closed in the early 2010s.) The Changi Motorsports Hub progressed further, being built, albeit as far as a bunch of piles sticking out of the sand in Changi East.

Origins

Plans for the Changi Motorsports Hub were first revealed in an article published on the 17th of October 2007, titled: “Motorsports to put Changi on fast track” , written by Samuel Ee. Despite this, no news on the project was announced until 31st March 2009, when the Singapore Sports Council (now known as Sport Singapore) released a Request For Proposal (RFP) to build and develop the Changi Motorsports Hub. The RFP dateline was the 27th of August 2009.

In the Press Release, the SSC announced the site of the racetrack would be a 41 hectre site located next to the Changi Exhibition Centre. The following minimum specifications were laid out[1]:

  • Minimum 3.5-kilometre long FIA Grade 2 Circuit
  • A single permanent sheltered grandstand for at least 8,000 pax, with an unobstructed view of the whole circuit.

The 3 Bids

On Monday, 7th of November 2009, the three organisations bidding for the Changi Motorsports Hub presented their plans to the media. The organisations & their bid details were as follows[2]:

Singapore Agro Agricultural (SAA)

The then-operator of Turf City (now known as The Grandstand), which was also behind the initial plans for the cancelled Tuas International Circuit.

  • Project Name: Changi International Speedway (CIS)
  • 4.37 KM Track meeting FIM Grade 1 & FIA Grade 2, with room for upgrading to FIA Grade 1 status
  • Secured rights to host a MotoGP Night Race.
  • Est Cost: 200-250 Million SGD

Sport Services

A wholly-owned subsidiary of the Haw Par Corporation; owner of the Tiger Balm brand.

  • 4.2 KM Track designed by Hermann Tilke, meeting FIM Grade 1 & FIA Grade 1T
  • SuperGT & the V8 Supercars Championship signed Letters of Intent
  • Operation & Development costs were planned to be recouped with a 3000-member Motorsports Country Club
  • Est Cost: 200 Million SGD+

SG Changi

Consortium with shareholders from Japan and Singapore. Auto Trading Luft Japan would partly finance the project.

  • 3.7 KM track meeting FIA Grade 2 standards
  • Letters of Interest were announced for the FIA GT Championship, Super GT, Formula Nippon (now known as Super Formula) and Japanese Formula 3 (now known as Super Formula Lights).
  • The proposal included an R&D Facility, Motorsport Museum and a Hotel
  • Est Cost: 280 Million SGD

On the 26th of March 2010, the SSC announced it had selected SG Changi to develop, build, finance and manage the facility. Completion was targeted by the end of 2011, with the track ready for use ahead of the 2012 racing season.

SG Changi Project Details

SSC’s press release included SG Changi’s final proposal. Key Details are listed below[3]:

Racing Circuit

  • Racing circuit with 6 different configurations, inclusive of a Karting Track
  • Main Circuit (Circuit 01) will be 3.7 KM long
  • Karting Track will be 1.1 KM long
  • 3 Pit Complexes included within the development, 2 Permanent (Main & Karting Pits), 1 Temporary (Secondary Pits)
  • Direction of travel not mentioned, believed to be Clockwise

track maps

Developmental Process

Ground Breaking Ceremony & Piling Work

On the 13th of July 2010, the groundbreaking ceremony was held at Aviation Park Road. As part of the event, a drift race was held. Following the ceremony, SGChangi announced construction would begin in August of that year. [4]

Contrary to SGChangi’s announcement during the groundbreaking ceremony, work only started much later. The appointed contractor for piling works, CSC Holdings, only received its contract in October. Without the piling work done, no construction could begin. Piling work only began in December, 4 months behind schedule.

Unbehest to most, the 4-month delay was just the first of many problems the project would soon face. In mid-January, less than 2 months after commencing, piling works ground to a halt. SGChangi had reportedly fallen behind on payments to CSC.

When the work ceased, just 1000 of the 6000 piles had been driven into the ground. During this time, SGChangi also came under probe from the Corrupt Practices Investigatory Bureau, further compounding the project’s problems.[5]

By the later half of 2011, it was clear that the project could not continue with SGChangi. CSC Holdings terminated it’s contract with the firm in August. By December, the SSC announced it was moving towards a “mutual termination” of the deal.

In an interview with The Straits Times in late December 2011, consortium chairman Fuminori Murahashi revealed the CPIB probe had been the result of a tip-off from himself. Murahasi claimed to have been alerted of an email exchange between an SGChangi employee and an SSC official. The email trail reportedly contained a job offer with SGC, in the event of the consortium winning the bid. [6]

Post-SGChangi

Despite the SSC announcing it would terminate the SGC Contract, The Straits Times reported in late January 2012 that the return of the site to the Government was being delayed. This was due to SGC being concerned over a particular aspect of the Contract. Within the contract, a clause stated that any refund of the land lease was tied to a second tender exercise. As a result, SGC appeared to be reluctant to accept the proposal to terminate the contract, if it was unable to minimally recover the $36 million, without the involvement of a second tender process. [7]

On the 15th of May 2012, the SSC officially terminated its agreement with SG Changi, 6 months after it announced it would terminate its deal with the SGC. The SSC repossessed the land on 17th of May 2012. SSC CEO Lim Teck Yin stated that the land could be used for non-motorsports purposes. He announced a market-sounding exercise would be carried out to assess the level of interest among potential investors for a motorsports hub or other sports and lifestyle concepts.[8]

The End of the Road

During the RFI period after November 2012, the SSC received seven proposals from six organisations. However, on the 12 of June 2013, the SSC announced it would not hold a re-tender for the site. Instead, it opted to reinstate the land, working with the authorities on the feasibility of an early handover of the land back for alternative uses. [9]

With that, the curtain seemingly fell on the CMH. A project that saw much promise but ultimately proved to be a false dawn for Motorsport in Singapore. However, Changi East did see some motorsport action in the form of the Changi Karting Circuit, which opened in 2013, on a short-term lease, closing in 2014.

Aftermath

In April 2014, nearly a year after the announcement that the CMH would be scrapped, the site was found to be left virtually untouched. The Straits Times saw the site still littered with Piles, with SGChangi having yet to remove the piles.

Subsequent site evaluations by engineers later revealed that extraction of the piles risked weakening nearby sea walls. Making the complete extraction of the installed piles unfeasible. As a result, plans were instead made to cut the pillars at a shallow depth, beneath the ground. [10]

In late October 2014, the SSC, rebranded as Sport Singapore, announced that it had returned the site to the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) earlier in the month and returned the remainder of the 40 million SGChangi had paid for the land to the consortium. SGChangi repaid its debt to CSC Holdings in the same month.[11]

In November 2015, The Straits Times revealed that the site was to be reserved for industries supporting the future Changi Airport Terminal 5. [12] Since then, no mention of the Changi Motorsports Hub or SGChangi has ever been made in the media again.

References

[1] Sport Singapore. 2009. Singapore Invites International Consortia To Bid For Asia’s First Integrated World-Class Motorsports And Leisure Hub Intitiative. [online] Available at: <https://www.sportsingapore.gov.sg/newsroom/media-releases/2009/3/singapore-invites-internationals-to-bid-for-asias-first-integrated-motorsports-and-leisure-hub> [Accessed 6 July 2020].

[2] Ramchandani, N., 2009. Changi Motorsports Hub Proposals Roll In. [online] Asiaone.com. Available at: <https://www.asiaone.com/News/The%2BBusiness%2BTimes/Story/A1Story20090908-166499.html> [Accessed 12 July 2020].

[3] Sport Singapore. 2009. SG Changi Wins Bid For Changi Motorsports Hub. [online] Available at: <https://www.sportsingapore.gov.sg/newsroom/media-releases/2010/3/sg-changi-wins-bid-for-changi-motorsports-hub> [Accessed 7 July 2020].

[4] Singh, P., 2010. Channel Newsasia – Construction Of Changi Motorsports Hub To Start In August – Channelnewsasia.Com. [online] Web.archive.org. Available at: <https://web.archive.org/web/20100716130431/http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1069158/1/.html> [Accessed 7 July 2020].

[5] Ramchandani, N., 2011. CPIB Looks Into Changi Motorsports Hub Deal. [online] Asiaone.com. Available at: <https://www.asiaone.com/News/The%2BBusiness%2BTimes/Story/A1Story20110106-256794.html> [Accessed 8 July 2020].

[6] Lim, L., 2011. SG Changi Boss Still Keen On Motorsports Hub. [online] STCars. Available at: <https://www.stcars.sg/guides-articles/sg-changi-boss-still-keen-on-motorsports-hub-37274> [Accessed 8 July 2020].

[7] Lim, L., 2020. Motorsports Hub Hits Fresh Set Of Obstacles. [online] STCars. Available at: <https://www.stcars.sg/guides-articles/motorsports-hub-hits-fresh-set-of-obstacles-40685> [Accessed 10 July 2020].

[8] Teo, D., 2012. Changi Motorsports Hub Set For New Lease Of Life?. [online] Sg.news.yahoo.com. Available at: <https://sg.news.yahoo.com/changi-motorsports-hub-set-lease-life-120152591.html> [Accessed 12 July 2020].

[9] Yeong, J., 2020. Changi Motorsports Hub Called Off. [online] ActiveSG. Available at: <https://www.myactivesg.com/read/2013/6/changi-motorsports-hub-called-off> [Accessed 9 July 2020].

[10] Tan, C., 2014. Failed Race Track Project Site Not Cleared A Year On. [online] The Straits Times. Available at: <https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/failed-race-track-project-site-not-cleared-a-year-on> [Accessed 7 July 2020].

[11] TODAYonline. 2014. SG Changi Settles Motorsports Hub Debts. [online] Available at: <https://www.todayonline.com/sports/motor-racing/sg-changi-settles-motorsports-hub-debts> [Accessed 9 July 2020].

[12] TAN, C., 2015. New Use For Ex-Changi Motorsports Hub Site. [online] The Straits Times. Available at: <https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/new-use-for-ex-changi-motorsports-hub-site> [Accessed 12 July 2020].

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