by Suhaile Md
THE final nail has been hammered into the dead dream that was the Changi Motorsports Hub. Reports say the site once reserved for the Hub will now be converted into an industrial site supporting the future Changi Airport Terminal 5.
For those who don’t remember, plans for the Changi Motorsports Hub were first mooted nearly eight years back by the G – months after the announcement of the first F1 night race in early 2007. Anticipation and excitement were revved up. Along with the F1 night race, this was to place Singapore on the map for all motorsports fans. Alas, the endeavour kept stalling.
The vision was bold- a 24/7 hub that would position Singapore to be a regional motorsports destination. It included among other things, an international standard race track able to host global events like the MotoGP and A1 Grand Prix, entertainment complex, showrooms, racing academies, convention halls and even research and development facilities. It was expected to cost more than S$350 million.
However kinks started to publicly appear less than a year after SG Changi group, a Japanese-Singapore consortium, won the tender in Mar 2010. In Jan 2011, the Corrupt Practices Investigations Bureau (CPIB) was revealed to be probing the tender for irregularities – investigations had apparently begun months before and it included the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) and SG Changi. Despite questions now coming up about the future of the project, SG Changi had maintained that plans were still on track and no delays were expected.
However, barely a month after, news appeared that investors had frozen funds.
SG Changi’s director, Thia Yoke Kian, said the investors wanted it to be “cleared by the CPIB first before they’ll release the funds”. SG Changi thus failed to pay a S$50 million installment for piling work on the Changi Motorsports Hub site. Without funds to fuel the construction, work halted. The SSC warned that a re-tender would be on the table if SG Changi could not deliver.
SG Changi eventually crashed out. In early Aug 2011, the construction company terminated its contract with SG Changi. Soon after, SSC sent a final warning letter to SG Changi late Aug 2011. Then on Dec 12, 2011, the SSC announced that it had ended its project agreement with SG Changi. The land slated for the Hub was returned to SSC about six months later with the piling intact – with the hope that it could be of some use in the future.
Forlorn attempts to revive the Motorsports Hub continued over 2012 but prospects looked increasingly bleak. Apparently, billionaire and car enthusiast Mr Peter Lim, was approached to consider the Changi project – but his sights were clearly up north. He partnered the Johor royal family and Malaysian state investment firm Khazanah Nasional to build a RM$3.5 billion (S$1.4b) motorsports city in Johor’s Iskandar. Such a big project just across the border may have also contributed to the death knell for the Changi project.
With no finish line in sight, the SSC finally decided to put the Motorsports Hub dream to rest in Jun 2013. However, the piling that was done earlier on in the endeavour, still remained on the site for at least a year on. But now that the site has been converted for industrial use, it should be clear, to even the eternal optimist, that for the Motorsports Hub, it’s the end of the road.
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