SUPERB ORGANIZATION, BAD CONDITIONS
An icon of Asian motor sports, Albert Poon always had praise for the organizers of the local Grand Prix, despite the often grueling conditions. “The Singapore Grand Prix, I tell you, is the best-organized race meeting in all my life. On arrival at the airport, there’s always somebody there to meet you. The organization was superb; the conditions were appalling. We knew exactly what was going on; the races started exactly on time. The paddock was muddy, no shade whatsoever. Hot. But well-organized. No hassles from the customs. The first time I had the Lotus 23…they let me test the car on the road…I drove it around town with trade plates taped to the body. They said, ‘Why don’t you just drive the car back to the hotel?’” Graeme Lawrence had a similar story to tell of his McLaren M4A.
Fatalities were a downside to racing on street circuits such as the Upper Thomson Road Circuit. “Every year, somebody got killed…Every year! Without fail! Absolutely unbelievable! Anywhere on the circuit! One time on the straight, one time at the chicane, one time up on the hill. And this time , the Government says that if somebody gets killed, no more Grand Prix. Everybody’s been briefed not to kill ourselves,” recalled Poon with a straight face.
Dickie Arblaster, who worked for Wearnes subsidiary, Federated Motors, in Singapore, was very much part of the motor sports establishment. A keen competitor and the first to promote the Mini in competition in South East Asia, he was also heavily involved in the promotion of the sport in Singapore and one of the few who opened his workshop to the international competitors. For many years, his circuit duties during the Grand Prix involved radio and TV commentary work. Arblaster summed up his thoughts on those halcyon days of Grand Prix racing in Singapore: “We had been running a successful meeting for 13 years, so the whole organizational infrastructure was there, you just flicked the switch, everybody knew what they’ve got to do, it wasn’t like starting from scratch as it had been in 1961 when it was…a slog.”