Effort to revive glorious icon [NSTTV]

The Pasir Gudang International Racing Circuit, once a beacon for motorsport enthusiasts, now stands in stark contrast to its former glory days.

The 3.86km track, established in 1986, has witnessed international motorsport events, namely the Formula Three Motorcar Championship and the Malaysia Grand Prix.

Its structures, once certified world-standard, now lie dilapidated and vandalised.

During its glory days in the 1990s, the circuit housed a three-storey viewing tower, fitted with a VIP floor that offered a panoramic view of the track. It also housed a restaurant with al fresco seating.

Now, all that remains is a mouldy, run-down area with a pungent smell coming from stagnant water due to its collapsed roof. There is even a tree sprouting from the VIP viewing deck. Vegetation can be spotted growing out of the cracks and potholes on the racetrack.

The beginning of the end for the circuit occurred on March 16, 1997, when Singaporean racer D. Krishnan, 43, died when he crashed into the barrier while competing in a Touring Car event.

After the incident, motorsports bodies declined to participate in events organised at the circuit. They claimed the track was bumpy and its surface uneven, posing a danger to racers. They also claimed the situation worsened whenever it rained as the surface of the track became slippery.

In March 1998, the then Dorna Sports director Roberto Nosetto, who held the commercial rights to the motorcycling sport of Grand Prix racing, recommended that the track be resurfaced and homologated, before it was allowed to host another grand prix.

However, it is learnt that the then owners of the circuit faced financial constraints and the track was never resurfaced.

A former racer at the circuit, who spoke to the New Straits Times on condition of anonymity, said there were attempts made by the owners to get investors.

They organised Malaysia's first night racing event to attract fee-paying participants, hoping to generate revenue to fund the necessary expenditures.

"They tied up with government agencies, government linked-agencies, and motorsport clubs to allow non-licensed-racers, including motorcycle enthusiasts, to use the track and curb illegal racing among mat rempit," the source said but this further damaged the track.

The source revealed that there were efforts to revive the circuit, by attracting local and foreign investors, but there were several disputes with the state government, including on land ownership rights and grant titles.

Now, however, the state government is again looking at reviving the circuit.

Recently, state Youth, Sports, Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Committee chairman Mohd Hairi Mad Shah said he and Menteri Besar Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi would seek an audience with the Regent of Johor, Tunku Mahkota Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, soon to present him the plan to reopen the circuit.

Pasir Gudang City Council mayor Datuk Asman Shah Abd Rahman, meanwhile, told the NST the circuit was privately-owned.

Pasir Gudang member of Parliament Hassan Abdul Karim is keen to get the circuit revived, as it will enhance tourism prospects.

"I brought the issue up to the attention of the Johor Baru District Action taskforce and the Pasir Gudang Municipal Council (now, Pasir Gudang City Council) president some five years ago," he said.

"I urge the Youth and Sports Ministry and the state government to collaborate in reviving the circuit and the Shah Alam International Racing Circuit."

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