An Incentive Trip in the Making: The Singapore Grand Prix

The Singapore Grand Prix is off to a racing start as preparations to put in additional infrastructure to the proposed street circuit have been finalised and work kicked off in September 2007, a year ahead of the event scheduled to take place on September 28, 2008.

The Singapore Grand Prix will be one of the rounds of the Formula One World Championship auto racing, which is governed by rules set by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the world organisation for motor sports.

The various rounds have been held in selected cities around the world since 1999 but Singapore’s inaugural race will be the first in Formula One’s history to take place at night. This allows the event to be televised at more convenient times to audiences in Europe, which has always been at the heart of Formula One racing.

Singapore has an agreement to hold the event for five years. The deal was inked between Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One’s Chief Executive Officer, Ong Beng Seng, a Singapore-based business tycoon and managing director of Hotel Properties Ltd and Singapore Tourism Board.

The Singapore Grand Prix will take place on a 5.05 km street circuit in the area around Marina Bay. The route is a slightly modified version of the original 4.8 km course designed by Hermann Tilke, a designer of Formula One racing circuits and an auto racer himself.

“The 5.05 km long street circuit offers a number of overtaking opportunities, fast turns and technically challenging sections for F1 race drivers, and will cover more than 70 per cent of Singapore’s existing road network,” said Mr Lim Neo Chian, Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive of the Singapore Tourism Board, chairman of the event’s working committee.

The new proposed street circuit has been submitted to FIA and is awaiting its approval before construction work on the remaining 30 per cent of the circuit begins.

This will include building a new 1.2 km road that will form the eastern section of the circuit along the existing road network around Marina Bay. There will also be a new underpass, a service road for vehicles and pedestrians, the widening of certain road stretches and modifying existing road kerbs and traffic islands.

Part of the infrastructure for the 2008 race will include construction of a pit area with paddock facilities that will house the control tower, garages for the race teams, hospitality lounges and a press room.

The circuit design has also taken into consideration powerful lighting systems to replicate daylight conditions and putting into place stringent measures to ensure driver and spectator safety.

The annual bill for hosting the Singapore Grand Prix is anticipated to reach S$150 million, with the Government footing 60 per cent of the cost. To help defray expenses, hotels will be levied a special tax on their total room revenue during the five-day event, with trackside hotels paying 30 per cent and the rest 20 per cent.

The race is part of the Lion City’s long-term plan to increase visitor arrivals to 17 million and tourist expenditure to S$30 billion by 2015.

The expected benefits, however, are likely to outweigh the costs. For one, there will be a huge amount of publicity for the “Singapore brand”.

Apart from an increased influx of visitors estimated to be around 100,000 during the five-day event from September 24-28, there will be spin-offs such as agreements with local suppliers and intense media coverage.

Some 350 million people are expected to watch the world’s first Formula One night-time race on television. And as the television cameras follow the cars as they whizz through the city streets, viewers will get to see the background shots of the Lion City as well. It would truly put Singapore on the world map.

It is estimated that it will rake in at least S$100 million in revenue for the hotel, retail, entertainment and service industries.

All this will create a buzz and add to the ambition to make Singapore a “vibrant global city” and establish Singapore’s reputation as the venue of choice for iconic world class events.

As Mr Christopher Khoo, Managing Director of MasterConsult Services puts it: “It’s not just a two-hour race. It’s a one-week event and this one week will be filled with a lot of additional events where you will have sponsors, a lot of MNCs and corporations hosting special events, hosting their special clients to Singapore to savour this Formula One experience, and that will translate into a lot of spinoffs for the other attractions.”

Already, some 80,000 spectators are expected to fill grandstand seats and hospitality areas lining the tracks. Tickets have also been tentatively priced at S$100 for the practice and qualifying race days while tickets for the paddock area would be priced from S$6,000 to S$7,000.

Trackside hotels offering views of the racing action will benefit and some hotels have already reported room bookings for the September 24-28 period. Restaurants along the circuit have also reported bookings for corporate events.

It will not be the first time that a Singapore Grand Prix is being held. Back in the 1960s, it was the name of an acclaimed auto race held on a street circuit in Thomson Road, in the outlying suburbs of Singapore.

In 1962, the first race was flagged off. Known then as the Malaysian Grand Prix, it was renamed the Singapore Grand Prix after Singapore gained independence in 1965. In 1973, the highly popular event was discontinued.

The new Singapore Grand Prix will be managed by Singapore GP Pte Ltd, a newly established race promotion company formed jointly by Komoco Motors and Lushington Entertainment, a regional events company.