KUALA LUMPUR: A group of former car and motorcycle racers, who honed their skills at the Batu Tiga racing circuit, want the government to build an affordable racing circuit in the Klang Valley.
A former racer Sutan Mustaffa Salihin said youngsters’ can’t afford to use the Sepang International Circuit as it is ridiculously expensive.
The rental of the full track of 5.5km for one day costs RM50,000 and for half day (maximum four hours) is RM30,000.
Sutan, who now runs the SMS motorsport and driving school, said he and his former racer friends can’t understand the logic behind building more and more golf courses when only the rich can afford to join them.
If there are more low-cost motorsport circuits, more people will get involved in the sport, he argued.
Since the Shah Alam racing track, also known as the Batu Tiga track, was closed down in 2003, Malaysia now has only two motorsport circuits – the Johor’s Pasir Gudang Circuit and Sepang International Circuit.
Sutan said because racing tracks are not easily available, the youngsters have taken to the roads and this has created social problem such as the emergence of Mat Rempits.
Follow the Japanese lead
The way to solve the Mat Rempit problem is to build more tracks so that youngsters can get involved in the sport, Sutan added.
He said in Japan, motorsport circuits are built across the country to reduce “hashiriya” (illegal car racers) and “bosozoku” ( illegal motorcycle racers).
Sutan also related on how he became a racer. “I was an illegal car racer once. A friend told me about the Shah Alam track and I started working there as an assistant administrator. And I learned racing skills and became a professional motorsport driver.”
But, unfortunately when the circuit was closed down, he lost his job and had to set up his driving school.
The Shah Alam Batu Tiga track was opened in 1968 with the first Grand Prix, the Tasman Series, won by Indonesian Hengkie Iriawan.
Some of the best Malaysian racers have come from this track – people like Sonny Rajah, Harvey Yap, William Mei, Bulldog Kuan, Velu and Ali Kadir, Alex Yoong and Karamjit Singh. These racers became household names among the racing fraternity.
Sonny Rajah was the first and only Malaysian to win the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Alex Yoong became the first Malaysian to race in Formula One. He was trained and grew up in the Batu Tiga track.
Now a housing estates
Motorsports now has wide following and Malaysia has an interest in Formula One through Team Lotus and Mercedes GP Petronas teams.
But there is not much downstream activities from these teams as they are based overseas. Sutan said if there were more motor racing circuits here, our talent pool will increase.
“Not only will we have better racers but also skilled mechanics, engineers, pit crew and people who can run a professional race track.
“Then, we used to organise the ‘Saturday Night Fever’ race event. Young drivers and bikers from all over Klang Valley came to the track and there was usually a big crowd cheering them,” he said.
But unfortunately all this came to an end as the Shah Alam track, which was owned by the Selangor State Development Corporation, was developed into a housing estate.