The Glory days of Grand Prix in Singapore

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The Singapore Grand Prix 1961-1973

Last Update 12th December 2006

Singapore - Thomson Road Circuit

A lap of the Upper Thomson Road Circuit

There are few street races that have survived around the world. The modern-day racetrack is a fenced edifice with so much run-off area you could build a shopping complex between track and stands. With her superb organization and hospitality, the Singapore Grand Prix outdid everyone in the region, yet the track itself had a reputation for oil trails left on the roads from the local diesel-run buses, monsoon drains, bus stops and lamp posts. Macau had the South China Sea, Singapore had the more intimidating monsoon drains!

The track was 3.023 miles with a fast undulating one-mile stretch called the Thomson Mile (actually the start of what was then Nee Soon Road) and a series of esses on the back section linked by hairpins at either end (what is still Old Upper Thomson Road today). The start-finish line was laid on the main straight. On any given day, the two-lane blacktop would serve as one of the major trunk roads for heavy traffic. On the right of the main straight were fruit plantations and on the left were new housing estates and industrial parks sprouting up.

The bend halfway down the straight after the start-finish line was known as The Hump. This had a false apex as it sat on the turn-in that saw cars lift off the ground at high speed. The left side of the road cambered oddly which caught Australian Frank Matich off guard during practice in 1970 leading to an altercation with a bus stop which ruined his weekend and his McLaren M10 Traco Chevy F5000. Immediately after The Hump came Sembawang Circus or The Hairpin, dangerous because cars approached flat out (chicaned till 1969 in an effort to preserve spectators and the Cabinet sitting on the VIP stands).

The esses were made up of a number of sections heading uphill towards Pierce Reservoir following Circus Hairpin. The first, Snakes, consisted of a series of four bends. This was followed by Devil’s, a rounded-off V-bend impossible to pass yet offering a very good vantage for spectators. Devil’s caught out everyone out at some point. After Devil’s came the Long Loop, a right hander that would see fuel and oil surges in engines - particularly bad for Minis with poorly-designed oil sumps.

Peak Bend followed Long Loop where TV and Radio teams positioned themselves. The circuit then headed downhill right to Range Hairpin where one could see all that was taking place in the pits to good effect. This was followed by a hard right onto Thomson Mile past the pits known as Signal Pits. Pit entry was after Range Hairpin.

One would generally require around 24 gear changes per lap, or 1440 gear changes if you were doing the 60 lap main event (from 1970 it was split into two events of 20 and 40 laps over two days). In reference, a modern F3000 car on the Monaco circuit would require about 30-40 gear changes per lap.

Years later, Singapore made plans for an F1 circuit at Changi (or was it Sentosa Island). That was quietly forgotten until this latest blast of news on not just the Tuas development but a STREET RACE along Marina Park Road that will cover the Central Business District and some of its key landmarks! Brings to mind the infamous Encik Othman Wok quote when he was Minister of Social Affairs,

"I'll be the happiest man when we get a permanent circuit."

NB: The reader may wonder why this website has very little on the current excitement behind the possibility of Formula One racing in Singapore. This website is about historic racing minus the politics behind the sport. Modern racing and racing cars are far too expensive for anyone but the affluent. Where historic racing involves grassroot-level support, the modern touring car is most certainly manufacture-backed in some form and therefore interests and attitudes tend to be rather different. Great if Singapore is able to hold a street race for Formula One, A1 or just SpeedCars. Chances of the street circuit accommodating Vintage, Classic, Historic or F5000 races are almost naught.

So why even bother when you can race your historic car at the NZ Speed Fest, Australian Philip Island event, Zuhai Lotus Challange, Sepang Classic Car series or just about anywhere in the US and Europe? It's only a matter of how you want to go about enjoying your hobby and your car.

18th to 22nd April 1973
Vern Schuppan
March-Ford 722

30th March to 2nd April 1972
Max Stewart
Mildren-Twin Cam

8th to 11th April 1971
Graeme Lawrence
Brabham-Ford BT29

26th to 29th March 1970
Graeme Lawrence
Ferrari Dino 246T V6

4th to 6th April 1969
Graeme Lawrence
McLaren M4A Cosworth

12th to 15th April 1968
Garrie Cooper
Elfin-Ford Twin Cam

25th to 27th March 1967
Rodney Seow
Merlyn Lotus-Ford

9th to 11th April 1966
Lee Han Seng
Lotus 22

11th to 12th April 1965 Albert Poon Lotus 23B
29th to 30th March 1964 Abandoned after 4 laps N/A
14th to 15th April 1963 Albert Poon Lotus 23
22nd to 23rd April 1962 Yong Nam Kee Jaguar E-Type
16th to 17th Spet 1961 Ian Barnwell Aston Martin DB3S

Snakes & Devil’s – A history of the Singapore Grand Prix 1961-1973

Living the Dream....

Common myth has it that before the Sepang Formula 1 Grand Prix in Malaysia, there was nothing in Southeast Asia to call a proper race. The roulette player had the Macau casino, Suzie Wong was the girl in the next bar and A-go-go was the rage in music. Southeast Asia offered lovely sunsets, stengahs and last vestiges of colonial rule. Behind the corrugated iron though, there existed a whole different world of Castrol R mixed with acetone, color and noise, snakes and devils, and racing.

Orient Year Grand Prix program cover

Motor racing in Singapore took off in a big way with the first Grand Prix in 1961. It was called the Orient Year Grand Prix and was held for the first time on a designated stretch of Upper Thomson Road. In 1962, the race was renamed the Malaysian Grand Prix and the Malaysian race called the Selangor Grand Prix (back when Singapore was part of Malaysia). When Singapore gained independence in 1965, the country ran its own Grand Prix from 1966 while Malaysian held two, one timed around the Singapore Grand Prix in March/April and another in September called the Malaysian Grand Prix and the Selangor Grand Prix respectively. With the onset of the European winter, and if budget permitted, the racing season in Asia would begin at Macau, move to Australia and New Zealand with the Tasman Series, and return to Southeast Asia with back-to-back Grand Prix races in Singapore, Johore, Selangor and Penang, followed by Japan.

Trio of shots showing races that took place at Macau, Batu Tiga in Selangor and Penang

Left to Right:

The Macau Grand Prix, 1972. Vern Shuppan is in the #9 March 722 with Albert Poon in the middle in the #66 ex-Pier Courage Brabham BT30 and John Macdonald on the right in the #11 ex-Graham Hill Brabham BT36-2 with the Rondel nose. Macdonald would go on to take the win with Max Stewart second in a Dolphin F2 and Sonny Rajah third in the ex-Ronnie Peterson March 712.

John's race tyres came from Vern Schuppan as his first set had been punctured by his boxer Fritz. Below the Caltex sign to the left of John sit Derek Duggan and Barry Will. Derek was the chief scrutineer, amongst other roles he played, while Barry was a scrutineer for the event.

Batu Tiga, Selangor for the Malaysian Grand Prix in April 1974. John Macdonald is in the Brabham BT40 with Graeme Lawrence in the Surtees TS15 to his left. The big guy on the right of JM's BT40 is Alan Dingle - CEO of Metro Dodwell Motors Hong Kong. John won the 1972 Guia race in a Mini Cooper that was sponsored by Dingle. American Richard Tuttle (with the camera) helped John with the Cathay sponsorship.

From the Penang GP grid of 1971. Front row with Kiwi Ken Smith in his Lotus 69, Indonesian Hengkie Iriawan in the #16 Elfin 600, Sonny Rajah with his Lotus 59/69; Second row with Bob Birrell in the Hawke DL2A Formula Ford and Jan Bussell in the Brabham orange-liveried Brabham BT14

The ex-Graham Hill Brabham BT36-2 which John Macdonald won the Macao GP in 1972 with. This photo shows the BT36 heading out for practice at the Tasman Revival meeting. Eastern Creek, December 2006. The car no longer sports the Rondel nose that John Macdonald ran with.

The Malaysian Grand Prix (Singapore) 1961 to 1965

The inaugural Orient Year Grand Prix was held over the weekend of 15-17 September and an overenthusiastic crowd saw ticket sales halted by the police an hour after the races had begun. The main Grand Prix race of Sports and Racing Cars saw a mixed grid of everything from a Cooper monoposto to a Warrior Bristol (not quite the Cooper Jaguar it was listed as) – the race pitted strengths of a new streamlined Lola Climax with long range tanks; a 1955 Ferrari 500 Mondial Spider (chassis 0528 MD); a Lotus 15 with the ex-Jan Bussell Ferrari Mondial engine shoehorned into it); an Aston Martin DB3S (chassis 106); and a couple of Lotus, a Le Mans works car and a Climax.

Stanley Leong’s Lotus 15 sans bodywork to cool the Ferrari Mondial 1985cc engine. Williams-Wynn’s MGA trails at the 1961 Sing GP.

The race was run over 60 laps and was won by Ian Barnwell in the Aston Martin DB3S (which had also won in Macau in 1958). Saw Kim Thiat (who last raced in the 1953 Johore Grand Prix!) had led for most of the race in the ex-Peter Heath Lotus 11 Climax 1100 but suffered from overheating problems. Saw however set FTD of 2:47 on lap 14, a lap time that would be bettered each year until it fell below the two-minute mark ten years later.

The event was renamed the First Malaysian Grand Prix the following April. Motorbikes dominated the Grand Prix with eighty-three entries. Eleven local riders had works rides from Moto Guzi and Ducati in Italy and Yamaha and Tohatsu in Japan. The track had also been widened by a few feet and completely resurfaced with "Barbergreen." While the organizers may have been looking forward to the event attaining international status, they were equally anxious to avoid commercializing the Grand Prix.

1962 also saw the appearance of the Formula Junior single-seater and the Jaguar E-Type sports car at the races. Chan Lye Choon’s Lotus 22 Formula Junior and Bill Wyllie’s DKW Tojeiro received a lot of attention but it was the Jaguar E-Type that would dominate. Local boy Yong Nam Kee (known affectionately to friends as Fatso Yong) won in an E-Type while Peter Cowling’s Cooper Climax single-seater set FTD.

Teisuke Tanaka in a Honda 247cc during the Motorcycle race for 126-250cc bikes held on Sunday 22nd April 1962

It was only from 1963 that the Grand Prix in Singapore featured in the World Motor Racing calendar. The motorcycle Grand Prix that was run over the same weekend as the cars had star billing due to its international status, and notable names present included John Grace, Chris Conn, Fumio Ito and Soh Guan Bee.

1963 Program cover with bikes on the cover. The motorcycle Grand Prix had been given international status by the Auto Cycle Union that year.

Jaguar’s dominance was being eroded by “Garagistas” and there were twelve Lotus compared to seven E-Type Jaguars. While those battles raged all weekend, the Japanese quietly slipped into the country with their “works” entries - ten 600cc Mitsubishi cars for the Saloon and Tourer race.

Speeds were increasing and lap records were being bettered each qualifying session. Peter Cowling’s 1962 lap record was smashed in qualifying by Saw Kim Thiat, Chan Lye Choon and Angus-Clydesdale, but it was Hong Kong’s Albert Poon who won the event in his Lotus 23 with Yong Nam Kee second in his lightened Jaguar E-Type and Mike Cook, who seemed to wake up at half distance to realize that a race was on, was third in the ex-Cowling Cooper Climax. Poon, backed by Team Harper, was involved in a thrilling duel with Yong’s E-Type for over half the race. Arthur Owen, the British Hill Climb champion, had gearbox troubles yet still completed the race to finish fifth in his Cooper Climax 1960. The car was then advertised for sale at $7,000 Straits Dollars in the local club newsletter. Owen would have a Brabham BT8A Climax 1980cc (chassis BT8 SC-1-64) for the 1964 event.

The third Malaysian Grand Prix of 1964 was rained out after seven laps. By the third lap, three of the fastest cars had been wrecked and a course marshal killed. This was also the year that saw the largest ever entry of foreign competitors in the East. More and more competitors would start to look at Asia as a stopover between Australia and the European racing season and the Formula Libre grid was increasingly becoming the domain of the single-seater.

For 1965 however, the only overseas competitors were Hong Kong drivers Albert Poon and Steve Holland, both racing under Richard Wong Wai Hong’s Racing Organization. The press speculated that the drop in foreign entries was due to the Singapore Government’s waning interest in holding such high publicity events in light of the Confrontation with Indonesia (which ended in 1966 after the overthrow of Sukarno).

Richard Wong had not just sponsored Albert Poon and Steve Holland with the latest Lotus 23 but had brought in some of the more exotic machinery ever seen in Asia, including the ex-Alan Hamilton Porsche 906 Carerra Spyder (which would also run in 1968). Poon, who referred to Wong as “The Wallet”, had also been planning to do the T.A.R. Circuit race in Selangor with Wong proposing that if Poon "...can make it, my team will import the latest Lotus - the V8 35 - for him to drive at KL." The Lotus V8 never did materialize but Poon did race with his Lotus 23B.

Albert Poon leading into Hairpin Bend in the Lotus 23B. Poon went on to take another win at the Singapore Grand Prix

Richard Wong in the ex-Hamilton 906 Carerra, Singapore Grand Prix 1969. The car eventually ended up with Teddy Yip in the Macau Museum.

1965 ended on a high note. Separation from Malaysia and the resulting independence of Singapore meant that there would be big events in both Singapore and Malaysia competing for the same sponsorship money. The next few years would evolve to be exciting years.

The Singapore International Grand Prix 1966 to 1973

From 1966 to 1973, the renamed Singapore Grand Prix became the main motor racing event on the local calendar each Easter. The 3.023-mile street circuit was a challenge from the start. Its narrow 24ft width offered little run-off area in a sport that was increasingly seeing faster speeds.

Vern Schuppan and John Macdonald both loved it. Never one to mince his words, Macdonald describes the track: “Flowing? In places, but 1 ½ hairpins were not exactly ‘flowing’. Dangerous? In those days no more so than expected and certainly safer by far than Macau. …Monsoon drains, yes. …Bus stops, one after that lovely curve on the straight, and a few lamp posts. None of these things got in the way and I did not go looking for them!”

Singapore’s first International Grand Prix of 1966 saw Lee Han Seng back in the Lotus 22, Rodney Seow in an ex-1962 works Formula Junior Merlyn Mk7 fitted with a Cosworth 1500cc pushrod and four fuel tanks and a shark nose, and Hong Kong-based John MacDonald in the ex-Hegbourne Cooper-Ford Formula Junior (Cooper-Ford Mk3A). Favorite to win was Australian Greg Cusack in a Brabham BT6 FJr (ex Henk Woelders Formula Junior chassis FJ-15-63) but the locals were ahead of the game with larger tanks for the 60-lap race, something Cusack had not prepared for.

The Cooper-Ford Mk3 Formula Junior of John Macdonald , Macau 1966. The seat was the whole fuel tank (hence the driving position). His earlier Lotus 18 Formula Junior was less than competitive and “I had to move forwards, though the Cooper was a rash move…”

Rodney Seow and the Merlyn Mk7 sharknose which they ran from 1964 to 1966.

L-R: Rodney Seow, Leslie Eu (Singapore Motors owner), Stanley Leong, Raymond Ong (Service Manager of Opel agents, Singapore Motors). The Merlyn was the ex-1962 works FJr fitted with a Cosworth 1500cc pushrod. The car was sold to Robert Lee of Penang, and then to Lionel Chan who crashed it and died in the 1972 Singapore Grand Prix.

Lee Han Seng won the main event in record time with Rodney Seow's Merlyn Mk7 second and Tony Goodwin's Lotus 20B third. Cusack set lap record but on lap 42, his Brabham spun into the embankment and was damaged. A total of eight track marshals aided Cusack in extricating the car out of the ditch at Long Loop and he managed to struggle on. Another competitor commented that Cusack “had turned up and just made a mince meat of absolutely everything, then lost it in the biggest way and went home.”

The main Grand Prix event had graduated beyond Formula Junior and in 1967 Rodney Seow won in his new Merlyn Mk10 with a Cosworth 1600 Twin Cam. Seow also made his mark by winning the Sports and GT race with an Elva Mk7S BMW-Nerus (ex-Bob Waters car - thanks to Rodney Seow for the correction).

Rodney Seow with a well deserved fag after his success in the Singapore Grand Prix of 1967 in the Merlyn Mk10

Rodney Seow in the Elva Mk7S BMW being chased by Team Hong Kong’s Steve Holland in the Lotus 47 at Range, Singapore Grand Prix 1968. Rodney’s Elva was the ex-Bob Waters car. Rodney was Service Manager at Singapore Motors, then agents for the Opel marque.

It was not until 1968 that Australian manufacturers started to venture to the Far East. Garrie Cooper of Elfin Cars won the 1968 Singapore Grand Prix in his Elfin-Ford 600C with a Ford Twin Cam. “Nobody had ever heard of Elfins,” said Frank Matich. “I remember...his mechanics sent Ron Tauranac a telegram of the result. Ron sent a telegram back which read: "What's an Elfin?" They sent another telegram saying: "A quick pixie."” Frank Matich in Legends Of Speed by Bill Woods.

Garrie Cooper's Elfin 600 Prototype now with Paul Hamilton and complete with 1968 Singapore Grand Prix trophy. Garrie sold the car to Hengky Iriawan soon after the 1968 GP. It then passed on to Tony Maw and finally to Paul Hamilton in the 1970s.

Garrie had also suggested that the Singapore Grand Prix be confined to Formula Junior and racing cars only and having qualifying times to limit the number of entrants and reduce the number of laps in the race from 60 to 50 laps. This suggestion was taken into consideration in the coming years but with a slight twist - two heats of 20 and 40 laps over different days.

One minute before track opened. Rodney Seow’s Merlyn Mk10 with Denis Geary’s Lota T70 in the background. The Merlyn was abandoned after practice in favor of the ex-Mike Knight Brabham Formula Junior. The Lola T70 would have been SL71/31 built in 1965 by Ron Bennett at the Lola Works for Sid Taylor, using a 5.0-litre Cevy engine. It was raced in 1966 with a 5.9-litre engine and carried T.S.7 as part of Team Surtees. Records of the car in Starkey's Lola T70 book.

Competitors were also beginning to find that import regulations for Asia somewhat cumbersome. That there had to be a prescribed number stamped on the chassis of race cars to be allowed into Singapore and Malaysia complicated matters by encouraging competitors to repeatedly use the same chassis numbers for races in subsequent years despite having different cars.

Local racers were increasingly sidelined by foreign competitors and sponsorship they received from airlines and tobacco firms. 1967 would be the last year a local competitor would win the Grand Prix event. In 1969, Graeme Lawrence won in his McLaren M4A FVA amid some very powerful machinery on the grid. Garrie Cooper raced his BOAC Elfin 600C with a 2.5-litre Repco V8 that the locals thought was a Formula 1 car, Roly Levis in his Brabham BT23C FVA, and John Macdonald in what was called a “new” Brabham BT10 FVA (which he raced in Macau later that year). “New to everyone but built in 1964,” according to Macdonald. The BT10 was the ex-Mike Costin car that was used for the development of the Cosworth FVA engine.

John Macdonald in the Brabham BT10, Singapore GP 1970. Macdonald finished second in the Grand Prix. The ex-Costin and Meek BT10 had sprouted a full complement of wings for this event. “They didn’t work very effectively because in Singapore I took them all off and ran without wings in practice.” John purchased the car in early 1969 (advertised in AS 10th Jan.69 as the Costin Brabham). John ran the car with the original Cosworth FVA with fuel injection before temporarily converting it to Vegantune Ford Twin Cam between March 1971 and September 1972 to suite the rules. The BT10 was first entered in the Singapore Grand Prix of 1969 (Pole, DNS). The original FVA (#002) was then used in his Lotus 47, never returning to the BT10. #002 was later destroyed together with the remains of the Lotus 47 after David Ma was killed at Macao while qualifying for the GP. The car and engine was dumped off the lighter returning from Macao to Hong Kong.

The Singapore Grand Prix marked its tenth anniversary in 1970 that saw a new sort of competitor – ones that were starting to travel from farther afield as such race series as the L&M F5000 and the Can-Am in North America. Frank Matich arrived in Rothmans Team livery with his McLaren M10 Traco Chevy 4992cc F5000 car that had recently won the NZ GP and still wasn’t competitive enough to make an impact or settle a score with Graeme Lawrence over the Tasman Cup. The Alec Mildren juggernaut consisted of Kevin "Big Rev" Bartlett in the Yellow Submarine Mildren with an Alfa V8 (2.5-litre 1969 Macau winning car), Max Stewart with the 2-litre Rennmax-Mildren Waggott, and Malcolm Ramsay now with the ex-Gerrie Cooper Repco V8 Elfin 600. Mildren was there to supervise, as was Merv Waggot, designer of the Waggott engine. Not to be outdone, Hong Kong’s Albert Poon had the ex-Piers Courage BT30 1,500cc FVA. While Matich wrecked his M10 in practice doing 160mph on the Thomson Straight, Lawrence went on to take his first win in Singapore in the ex-Amon Ferrari Dino 246T.

The Mildren Alfa V8 2500 that Kevin "KB" Bartlett used in Asia. The car won at Macao in '69 and ran in Singapore in 1970. This photo shows the car at the Tasman Revival at Eastern Creek, December 2006

Kiwi Graeme Lawrence enjoying a moment with P.H. Wong of Newton Enterprises. Wong ran a motorsport enterprise that also backed a numbers of racers.

Lawrence made it two out of two the following year with his Brabham BT29 FVC against formidable competition in the form of the Rennmax-Waggott Twin Cam, a couple of Elfin 600s, a Brabham BT21 and a Lotus 69 (run by Ken Smith). The big change from 1970 was that the single-seaters had to follow Australian F2/Formula B rules with maximum capacity of 1600cc, and no 4 valve FVAs or BDAs were permitted. This allowed Bob Birrell to run a Hawke DL2A Formula Ford that Birrell describes “understeered like a pig on wet grass, never using the same bit of grass twice”. The car finished seventh and Birrell was the first Singapore resident to finish.

Bob Birrell approaches Range Hairpin in his Hawke DL2A Formula Ford with the Coldwell GT of S.Y. Tam trailing. Birrell was also the Hawke importer into Singapore. The picture to the right shows Birrell in a Chevron F5000. When I grow up I want to be a Chevron said the Hawke to Bob.

Macdonald’s Brabham BT10 leading Viscount Errington’s #27 Elva Mk7s. Behind the Elva is the D. O’Sullivan’t Matich SR3

Kinoshita’s Formula Honda called a KY Special (a Brabham BT18 with an 850cc Honda engine) after an altercation with Kiwi Ken Smith’s Lotus 69. Smith tangled with Kinoshita's KY Special at Snakes on lap 32, sending the latter off to hospital with bruising. Singapore Grand Prix 1971

With the new rules set, single-seater racing would become the domain of the professional and semi-professional racer with sponsorship backing. Max Stewart arrived in the Mildren-Waggott in 1972 with the intention of selling the car after the event. For Stewart, it would be the first time he had finished a race in Asia and this would be his third try in Singapore. Winning the event and breaking Graeme Lawrence’s domination was very sweet indeed even though Lawrence had not attended the event because of a 155mph-crash he had had at the New Zealand Grand Prix at Pukekohe earlier.

There was a good cast for 1972 with likes of Kevin "KB" Bartlett, Max Stewart, Vern Schuppan and an underrated John Macdonald who had the ex-Graham Hill Brabham BT36-2 with a Rondel nose. Sonny Rajah “had struck up a partnership with the ex-Ronnie Peterson March 712-M” that he had recently acquired. Sonny was the local hero and looked the part with his long hair and Zapata moustache. To gain admittance into a country where long hair was associated with drugs, he had resorted to using a short-hair wig! A fellow competitor once remarked that “…he had brilliant car control but someone other then bullshit artists had to take him in hand! Natural talent (and character to boot)…I followed Sonny for the first few laps of a Macau race and remember…that he made contact with much of Macau’s scenery; that’s a very difficult act of itself.”

Sonny Rajah in the Team Rothmans ex-Ronnie Peterson March 712-M in 1972. Sonny went on to finish fourth in the race.

Singapore’s last Grand Prix was held in 1973 and was won by Vern Schuppan in a March-Ford 722. Schuppan vividly remembers the monsoon drains on the circuit. “It was a fast flowing circuit – a lovely race track. No one talked about lack of run off area because we were so young then.” Of Schuppan, John Macdonald said “Vern, of course, got to the top but probably never reached the absolute top because he’s too darned straightforward, nice, honest, and all those other good things that come up all too rarely.” The March 722 was the same one Schuppan had driven in 1972 but with up-to-date modifications.

Cathay Pacific-backed John Macdonald was another favorite and had a brand new Brabham BT40 delivered to him in Singapore ahead of the race. Macdonald called the BT40 a “magic car with a big BUT”. The team had a terrible time of it with fuel pick-up problems. A letter to Bernie Ecclestone (who by that time owned Brabham) resulted in a PR reply to say how he was behind them all the way! Once sorted, the car was a prolific winner in Asia.

Consummate professional John Macdonald with his Cathay Pacific sponsored Brabham BT40, with professional tennis player John Cooper and golfer Graham Marsh to his right. The publicity shot was for the airline’s in-house magazine Discovery. The photo to the right shows the BT40 in current guise - still with the Cathay Pacific livery in the hands of Neville Mc Kay at Eastern Creek, December 2006

In the race, Vern Schuppan was leading Malcolm Ramsey's Birrana at one point when the March kicked up some rocks resulting in a punctured fuel tank for the Birrana. Angus Lamont, who assisted John Macdonald, remembers this incident very well “….and Malcolm (Ramsey) soldiered on until the pain of the petrol burning his balls forced him to retire.” In reference to how lightweight the Birrana was built, Macdonald said that “…the car was full of holes…it was as if somebody had leveled a sub-machine gun against it.” Fittingly, Leo Geoghegan’s Birrana 273-007, the works car, set the final lap record for the circuit.

1973 Sg Gp program cover – the final Grand Prix in Singapore

1973 Sg Gp program cover – the final Grand Prix in Singapore. The landscape had altered sufficiently for two big sponsors to participate – Singapore Airlines and Malaysian Airlines post demerger from Malaysia-Singapore Airways (MSA).

The demise of racing in Singapore was somewhat sudden given the level of publicity and Government backing. The social and economic issues (the oil shock and terrifyingly rapid infrastructural growth) the country was facing may have contributed to this although a permanent track had been proposed that would have included an all-sports complex as well. This never did materialize in the end.


Eli Solomon – Snakes & Devil’s – The Golden Age of Racing In the Far East (unpublished)

Eli Solomon –

Photographs – John Macdonald; LTC Ret. Bob Birrell, Rodney Seow; Stanley Leong; R.M. Arblaster

Copyright Eli Solomon

April 1973 => March-Ford 722 - Vern Schuppan winner, 1973.

Graeme Lawrence in the Surtees TS15 at Surfers in February '73. Photo credit: Bruce Sergent - Sonny Rajah's race ended after 25 laps with a blown engine in his March 732 (aka 712-M). He had he set 3rd fastest time in practice with a borrowed engine from Ken Smith (his blew up at Batu Tiga). Sonny was out at 25 laps with the battery dragging behind the car.

The Albert Poon Brabham BT40 with Hart 416B Alloy block engine. L.C. Kwan purchased this one for Albert Poon. Four new BT40s took part in the 1973 Singapore GP with John MacDonald's taking 3rd. Fred Opert entered two - for Mike Hall and Brian Robertson.

Photo from Neville McKay
The Albert Poon Brabham. Photo taken in Macau in the 1990s. Diana Poon was the last one to drive this car. Note the rear wing with Equipe K.L.C. painted on. The scrutineering stickers can be see as well - last two visible stickers show it raced at the 79 Selangor and 80 Malaysian GP. Photo from Neville McKay The John MacDonald BT40 with the Hart 416B Alloy block engine in current guise with Neville McKay, painted in Cathay Pacific colors in Eastern Creek, Sydney, 2001. This car won the Macau GP in November 1973 with a lap record of 1:22.7. Photo from Neville McKay.

April 1972 => Max Stewart in the Mildren-Twin Cam wins.

Big Rev Kevin Bartlett in the Alex Mildren Racing Yellow Submarine at Warwick Farm. Kevin and Max Stewart in the other Mildren Alfa took 1-2 in the Warwick Farm race. The photo to the right shows the Mildren Alfa in its present form at the Tasman Revival, Eastern Creek 2006.

April 1971 => Winner - Brabham-Ford BT29/30 of Graeme Lawrence.

1970 => Winner - Ferrari 246T of Graeme Lawrence.

Graeme Lawrence in the 246T Ferrari, Teretonga January '71. Photo credit: Bruce Sergent - Graeme Lawrence in the 246T Ferrari winning at Batu Tiga in 1970 in the Selangor GP, having won the Singapore GP that year as well. Max Stewart's Yellow Submarine Mildren-Waggott took pole and FTD.

April 1969 => Winner - McLaren M4A of Graeme Lawrence.

April 1968 => Elfin-Ford - Garrie Cooper won the 1968 Singapore GP in an Elfin-Ford 600C (chassis 6801)with a Ford Twin Cam engine.

March 1967 => Lotus-Ford of Rodney Seow - 1967 winner Rodney Seow had a brand new Merlyn painted red with a Lotus Twin-cam engine.

Rodney Seow leads Dodjie Laurel's Lotus 41 into the hairpin.

April 1966 => Lotus 22 - Lee Han Seng won the First Singapore Grand Prix held at the Old Upper Thomson Road Circuit held over the Easter weekend of 9-11April.

Lee Han Seng in the Lotus 22 - George Lee Racing. This would have been the same car that Lee used in the British Formula Jr races in 1963!

@Copyright C2P Digital Films 2003-2005
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Posted on: 8 Mar 2007 12:36PM    Reply    

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