Motor racing: New Johor track not rival to F1 race

Above: The centrepiece of Fastrackcity, a 10-minute drive from the Tuas Second Link, is the 15-turn 4.45km track which is certified to stage Formula One races. Left: Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim giving a model of a racing car to Mal
Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim giving a model of a racing car to Malaysian PM Najib Razak, as FASTrack Iskandar director Barry Kan looks on at Fastrackcity's design unveiling.PHOTO COURTESY OF BELL POTTINGER
Above: The centrepiece of Fastrackcity, a 10-minute drive from the Tuas Second Link, is the 15-turn 4.45km track which is certified to stage Formula One races. Left: Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim giving a model of a racing car to Mal
The centrepiece of Fastrackcity, a 10-minute drive from the Tuas Second Link, is the 15-turn 4.45km track which is certified to stage Formula One races.PHOTO COURTESY OF BELL POTTINGER

Johor motor-sports city may take over from Sepang but will complement S'pore

Johor's upcoming Fastrackcity will be a 65ha playground for petrolheads, featuring a top-rated track and a host of other motor-sports facilities. It has also raised the possibility of a Formula One race being staged there.

Although a spokesman for the facility's developer, FASTrack Iskandar, said there are currently no plans to hold F1 races in the southern Malaysian state, the infrastructure is in place for a festival of speed should the need arise.

But the Singapore Grand Prix, the world's first F1 night race, should not feel unduly threatened.

James Walton, head of Deloitte South-east Asia's sports business service line, explained that the two venues attract different crowds: "The international high net worth crowd is interested in the Singapore Grand Prix. It has a different look and feel.

"Johor cannot replicate that brand. It does not have the shopping, the five-star hotels and the night life for sponsors to host their clients."

Singapore Grand Prix chairman Teo Hock Seng is also not losing sleep over concerns that the Johor circuit will steal the thunder from Singapore. He said: "The Iskandar track is never a competitor because they had announced that it is not going to do F1.

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Johor cannot replicate that brand. It does not have the shopping, the five-star hotels and the night life for sponsors to host their clients.

JAMES WALTON, head of Deloitte South-east Asia's sports business service line, on the Marina Bay Street Circuit and Fastrackcity attracting different crowds.

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If the Singapore Grand Prix cannot agree terms with F1's management, the Johor circuit is an obvious option.

SONG SENG WUN, CIMB economist, on the new facility possibly hosting the region's only grand prix after 2018 if the Singapore race is discontinued.

"Beyond 2018, we have yet to get an answer as we are still in negotiations to continue to host the Singapore Grand Prix."

Singapore's current deal with Formula One Management ends after next year's race.

Former Singapore Motor Sports Association president Tan Teng Lip also believes that F1 races in the Republic and Johor can complement each other.

The architect said: "I don't think the Iskandar track, which is a permanent circuit, can threaten Singapore, which is the only night street race.

"But if both races can be held over back-to-back weekends, it will be attractive to fans, including those from Europe."

Malaysia announced last month that it would stop hosting F1 races at Sepang after 2018, citing costs for the decision.

CIMB economist Song Seng Wun noted that the Johor circuit could give Malaysian and Singaporean F1 fans an alternative, adding: "The track is F1-rated and after Sepang closes shop in 2018, it will be another opportunity to continue hosting F1 in Malaysia as long as licensing fees are paid. And if the Singapore Grand Prix cannot agree terms with F1's management, the Johor circuit is an obvious option."

Yesterday, FASTrack Iskandar unveiled the design of its motor- sports city in a ceremony at Johor's Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios. The event was officiated by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. The RM3.5 billion (S$1.1 billion) facility, first announced in 2012, has a targeted completion date of 2019.

At the heart of the motor-sports city, a 10-minute drive from the Tuas Second Link, is the 15-turn, 4.45km track. It has received a Grade 1 rating from the Federation Internationale Automobile (FIA), motor sport's world governing body. That is the highest grading, enabling the track to stage F1 races.

The track takes advantage of the site's natural undulating terrain, and the 60-metre elevation differential gives racers an extra challenge. The circuit also has lighting so that races can also be held at night, like at the Singapore GP, which is currently the sport's only full night race.

The track was designed by Hermann Tilke, whose body of work includes Malaysia's Sepang, Germany's Nurburgring and Hockenheimring circuits as well as Singapore's Marina Bay Street Circuit.

But Fastrackcity is more than just a circuit. The 1.5km Commission Internationale De Karting kart circuit, hill climb track, 4x4 park with obstacles for off-road, four-wheel drive vehicles and advanced handling park for road-safety training ensure that a wide spectrum of motor sports is catered for and will help it live up to its billing as a motor-sports hub.

Food and beverage outlets, a cluster of garage and hospitality facilities, including high-security premises for the well-heeled to park their supercars, a four-star hotel, family recreational facilities and a park with a lake aim to make Fastrackcity a self-sustaining automotive eco-system.

All this means the new Johor circuit still has its allure, according to Walton, who said: "If the Malaysian Grand Prix ends up in Johor, part of the Singapore crowd that don't want to pay Singapore prices (to attend the night race) might want a weekend break in Johor."

Song added: "The facility has given Singaporeans and Malaysians another lifestyle option for their weekends."

The motor-sports city is a joint venture between FASTrack Autosports, majority-owned by Singapore billionaire Peter Lim with the Johor royal family as partner, and Malaysia's state-owned UEM Land.

Johor Crown Prince and FASTrack chairman Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim told The Straits Times: "I am very pleased to see the progress that has been made on this iconic development. I look forward to the time when Fastrackcity becomes one of Johor's crown jewels in the near future."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2016, with the headline 'New track not rival for F1 race'. Print Edition | Subscribe