The 'spiked' story

While going through some of my older articles this morning, I came across one of my writing - High time for Malaysia to rev up - which was not published.

It was supposed to be for The Weekend Mail, April 7-8, 2007 edition. At that time The Malay Mail had a weekend edition, a single paper catering for Saturday and Sunday. It didn't last for long.

I remember being summoned by my superiors (those above the sports editor) and was told "it's a good fact finding report but we can't use it as it is ammunition for the Singapore government to bid for the race".

Sigh.

Below is the article.

MOTORSPORTS/ High time for Malaysia to rev up.

By Haresh Deol

THE truth hurts, and its time for us to face reality.

The Singaporean media are in a frenzy over the past month as Singaporean hotel mogul Ong Beng Seng has held talks, including a dinner, with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone over a possible F1 showcase to be staged on the Republic's streets at nightfall.

Also, in weeks to come Singapore could be named as the new headquarters for the A1 Grand Prix and with the planned construction of a 3.5 km circuit roughly estimated at USD 200 million, our Islander friends have something to cheer about.

Perhaps much research and development have been quietly done by the Singaporeans prior to their ambitious outbursts. However safety remains top priority as stated by Mark Webber with BMW Sauber driver Nick Heidfeld echoing more have to be done to ensure no blackouts occur as drivers sweep corners at 200kmph.

So where will this leave the Sepang International Circuit (SIC)? The SIC have been bombarded with calls from the Singaporean and foreign media on the numbers of foreigners, in particular Singaporeans who frequent the Malaysian Grand Prix.

According to the statistics revealed by SIC, the total number of Singaporean ticket buyers since 2004 is 45,515 (2004- 14,400; 2005- 10,557; 2006- 20,558).
SIC recorded a 40% increase in ticket sales this year compared to the previous edition but the total sold and foreigner-local sales breakdown remains unclear to date as the country plays host for the next three years and hopefully until 2015.

Sports Minister Datuk Azalina Othman Said and SIC's chairman Datuk Mokhzani Mahathir are not too perturbed over Singapore’s bidding. Nevertheless, many agree more has to be done to promote motorsports in addition to solving the teething problems since the inaugural GP in 1998.

Mailsport received calls from disgruntled fans yesterday morning, claiming their credit cards could not be used to buy merchandises due to a 'system failure' while the ATM machines within the circuit's compound were also out of service. They were forced to take a 15 minutes drive to the nearest petrol station to withdraw money while some were stuck in the long lines, missing the morning practice sessions.

However, we were told the system was up and running later in the day.

Transportation is still a problem. While going to the KL International Airport is made easy thanks to the ERL and several bus services, the same cannot be said in getting to SIC.

Fans who drive are charged between RM50 to RM100 for a three day parking pass, and for the price, they expect parking their vehicles on better paved bays. Some claim the bays are too far out and the shuttle service is of no help as they are forced to wait for hours to obtain a place in the sardine packed buses.

And the massive traffic that builds right after the race, coupled with the existing weekend volume along the highway further puts off motorist. Not all can travel with police escorts or enjoy helicopter rides.

Whether Singapore wins its bid in organising the F1 remains to be seen. This, however, should not discourage Malaysia from putting up a brilliant show as hosts. Nevertheless, those involved need to buck up in providing better build ups and accessibility towards motoring events organised here.

Otherwise we could be looking at a bleak future, just like the French Grand Prix.

-end-

HD says: I also remember accompanying then sports editor Tony Mariadass as we met A1 Malaysia's Alex Yoong and Jack Cunningham at Shangri-la Hotel in KL during the early days of the A1 series. I wonder what happened to that. Do I see the same thing happening to Lotus? Hmm

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