Motorsports fans and petrolheads rejoice. After news of the Changi Motorsposrts Hub's demise left car enthusiasts disappointed, there now seems to be hope for the local motorsports fraternity.
With a planned opening in 2016 of a new project in Nusajaya, Johor, the new track will be just 5 minutes away from the 2nd Link. Not quite the same as being able to access the facilities within our own shores, but certainly a much better prospect than slogging through an 8-hour round trip to Sepang, with the advantage of safer and more modern facilities than Pasir Gudang. Like the failed Changi project, FASTrack Iskandar will be built to FIA Grade 2 certification, allowing it to host all races below F1, like MotoGP, World Touring Cars, FIA GT or V8 Supercars.
The biggest draw for trackday junkies (other than the very existence of the track)? The fact that the 5-6km track will be designed by Hermann Tilke, he of Yas Marina, Circuit of the Americas and Sepang fame. What makes this project even more interesting are the geographical features of the site, which includes elevation changes of up to 60m, prompting Tilke to liken it to some other famous tracks like Brands Hatch and even the Nurburgring's Nordschleife.
Apart from the main circuit, which will be lit to allow for the possibility of night races, the facility will also contain a CIK-certified kart track, off-road course and areas for advanced driving schools and driver training. Supplementing the different tracks will be various dealerships and test facilities for manufacturers, and workshops for repairs and tuning companies. To appeal more to enthusiasts, there are also plans to make it more family-friendly, with hotels, weekend homes, F&B and retail outlets, and a museum. There will also be bonded garages and storage space for collectors to keep not only their trackday and race machines, but also classic cars that can be used on the roads Malaysia once their COEs in Singapore expire. On a personal note, this last bit is a fantastic idea, because I find it one of the biggest shames that owners have to let go of their beloved rides at the end of every COE cycle, with many beautiful and beautifully kept cars getting exported or worse, scrapped.
In an interesting twist, both Tilke and FASTrack CEO Barry Kan emphasized accessibility and a challenging nature for this track, hence the desire to make it tighter than other recent Tilke designs, making it more suited to the average person in production and touring cars rather than the wealthy in purpose-built single seaters.
Combine that brief with Tilke's characteristic safety features and tarmac run-off areas (less exciting for professional racing, much safer and friendlier for trackdays), and everyone's a winner. As a car enthusiast in Singapore caged by endless rules and taxes, this news comes at a perfect time to give us hope and take our minds off the recent ridiculous trends in our car industry. If you'll excuse me, I've now got to start saving for my own trackday monster...