For the first time in the history of the SingTel Singapore Grand Prix, ordinary folks got to walk on the most famous stretch of the Marina Bay Street Circuit - the pit lane.
Crowds five to six deep thronged outside the Formula One teams' pit garages past 10pm last night, treasuring the rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of the fastest cars on earth.
The Pit Lane experience, which also saw the circuit park host the 2,500 visitors for the first time on a Thursday, gave them a small taste of what happens during the race weekend. In past races, only Paddock Club pass holders - who include heads of states, celebrities and business leaders - get to visit the Pit Lane.
This year, however, race organiser Singapore GP held a ballot from May 28 to Aug 22 via its website, which allowed ordinary folk to also share in the experience, albeit without the actual racing.
The food stalls were in full swing, as were the merchandise outlets. On the Village Stage, a band played after Ms Shannon Lim was crowned this year's SingTel Grid Girl.
Mr Derrick Tan, a 41-year-old engineer who was there with his family, said: "The kids love it."
He had attended the first race in 2008 but had not been back to the circuit until last night. Overall, he rated the Pit Lane experience as "not bad".
Another visitor, eight-year-old Ryan Levitt, was "super excited" by the experience. The American had visited the circuit with his parents previously, but had never walked along the pit lane, where the cars enter and exit garages.
The event was given the thumbs-up by Second Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran. Reaching out to Singaporeans, he said, was "a very important part of our overall effort". He welcomed the fact that "we were able to bring more people into the circuit park and enjoy the atmosphere".
He said that while the outreach is done every year, there has been a particular focus on schools this time around.
He also added that the race, now into its sixth edition, is enjoying a good response and that "prospects for another year of strong tourism spending associated with the event are quite good".
"Tickets sales are even better than last year, and still orders are coming in," he said, adding that crowd figures are "well over 84,000 per day".
He revealed that visitor arrivals for the race would exceed the 40 per cent mark "significantly", but did not elaborate on which markets contributed to the growth.
"In terms of receipts, it remains to be seen (if they will also increase) but you would expect that, with a stronger visitor arrival, then you would expect the spend to rise as well."