From watching for free from a muddy slope to the luxury of the Paddock Club: The Singapore GP then and now.

12 03 2010

There was a time when watching the Grand Prix in Singapore meant having to brave the heat of the afternoon sun on the muddy tree lined slopes of Old Upper Thomson Road. Being run over the Easter weekend, going to the races offered a young boy something to look forward to besides Easter eggs, hot cross buns and the tedium of the very long Good Friday services and vigil masses that my grandmother was fond of dragging me to. I always looked forward to accompanying my father, his trusty old thermos flask filled to the brim with thick black coffee, and a thick wad of old newspapers, to the slopes which offered a glimpse of the cars and motorcycles that sped by as they made their way through the narrow and treacherous three mile street circuit.

The treacherous old GP circuit at Old Upper Thomson Road offered the public free access to witness the thrills and spills up close.

35 years after the original Singapore GP was banned in 1973 - a very different Singapore GP was re-introduced, run in the lights on the streets of down town Singapore.

That was a time when life I guess, was a little simpler, when we were content just to be able to catch the action up close, sitting on a piece of newsprint which protected our clothes from being soiled by the mud underneath. Most of us probably wouldn’t have thought of spending the seemingly exorbitant sums involved with watching the GP these days.

Spectators watching the motorcycle race perched on the muddy slopes.

The original Singapore GP had started off as the Orient Year Grand Prix in 1961, being renamed the Malaysian Grand Prix in 1962, and after independence, the Singapore Grand Prix. The GP was run right up to 1973, following which concerns about safety – there having had been seven fatalities and numerous injuries up to that point, and the negative influence it was thought to have on the driving habits of the local motorists, saw it being banned. It was not until 2008 when the GP was reintroduced, with the lure of the money and glamour that the sport brings to it host cities an overriding factor. The reintroduction has also given the F1 GP season its first and only night race – run on a street circuit that brings spectacular views of the illuminated Singapore skyline. The inaugural race received some mixed reactions and even some drama with one personality even describing the night race as a circus.

The inaugural F1 night race brought the GP back to Singapore after an absence of 35 years. The street circuit runs through the beautifully illuminated iconic structures of the night time Singapore skyline.

The inaugural F1 night race in 2008 runs past some icons of Singapore including the old Supreme Court and City Hall.

I suppose one does have a choice of how to catch the race these days … spending close to nothing catching the action from the comfort of one’s armchair in one’s living room or perhaps forking out a relatively small sum of money to walk the race track or a more painful sum to be seated at the grandstands … for the more fortunate, there is of course the ridiculous sums that one has to pay to get into the Paddock Club. There is also that chance you can get your hands on an invitation to one of the team’s hospitality suites … where the contrast with that muddy slope I sat on more than three decades ago, couldn’t be more apparent …

The comfort and luxury of a Paddock Club hospitality suite offers the ultimate experience in being up close to the GP - a far cry from watching from the muddy slopes of Old Upper Thomson Road.

The Scuderia Ferrari suite.

The Paddock Club offers a free flow of bubbly, spirits and just about anything else.

Top class chefs are flown in specially for the event.

A lounge - put up just for 3 days of action.

Live entertainment is also provided at the Paddock Club.

The Paddock Club also offers access to the Grandstand where the action and roar of the engines can be caught up close.

The suites offer a close up view of the action on the pitwall as well.

As well as the pits ...

Life in the pits.

The pit crew in action.

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4 responses

21 04 2010
sartenada

Great photos again.

It was interesting to see Singapore photos. I visited there in 1990 and liked it very, very much. I have been looking F1 many years, because we had two good drivers: Mika Häkkinen and Kimi Räikkönen. Now when they are not driving, I lost a little bit of my interest in it. There is only left Heikki Kovalainen and it might take few years until he is on the top.

Anyway, I am great car fan and I personally like drive fast. This is possible only in Germany legally. My best is on vacation trip 242 km/h. I could have had 250 km/h, but a slower car came in front of me and my wife said that this is now enough. I have four car posts and in the first You can see my car.

22 04 2010
The wondering wanderer

Thanks Sartenada once again for your kind comments. Singapore has changed a lot over the years and is still changing – you might not recognise some places here – even Orchard Road from your trip in 1990 and you must have noticed that I delve quite a lot into nostalgia for the past. I was a big fan of Mika Häkkinen when he was driving for McClaren! It is interesting to see how the grand prix has been transformed over the years with the level of sponsorship and it is a totally different world today then it was back in the late 1960s when I witnessed the first race in what was then a rural part of Singapore. Kovalainen is a great driver – and shows great potential – hopefully we can see him at the top in a few years. Here we can’t really drive fast – speed limits are 90 km/h on the highways and over in Malaysia, they go up to 110 km/h – so my “speed record” isn’t anywhere near yours! The speeds you see on the Autobahns are certainly way above what anyone has seen here! I will look up your posts on cars … :)

1 07 2010
The joy of being caged in the courthouse « The Long and Winding Road

[...] Court building, one of the landmarks that immediately catches the attention of audiences of the Formula One night race along the illuminated street circuit, hadn’t always there as I had imagined it had been in my [...]

20 12 2013
Lai Heng

I could have been in one of those old photos :) my old village was just opposite the entrance to the Old Upp Thomson Rd. Fading memories of those days on the slopes. Vaguely remembered there was an overhead bridge around there somewhere too, just for the race days.

At least those slopes now are occupied by more trees than in the ’70s! That’s something different/opposite from most places in modern Singapore!

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