By Cheryl Tay
Australia is usually the first stop in the annual Formula One calendar, so it comes as no surprise that the country has an active motorsports scene.
One of its most popular race series is the Australian V8 Supercars and, earlier this month, I attended its World Time Attack Challenge (WTAC) in Eastern Creek, a suburb of Sydney.
The annual event draws drivers and teams from Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Britain, as they compete across different categories with only one goal - to achieve the fastest lap time around the track.
Even here, in the outskirts of Sydney thousands of kilometres from Singapore, I found that there were still many Singaporeans taking part in the event.
Mr Henry Lim, 33, who owns car-tuning business Cosmic Performance, based in Melbourne, was supposed to enter a Subaru WRX race car built by him, to be driven by Australian Peter Fuller, in the Open Class.
However, last-minute mechanical issues saw a withdrawal of entry.
Nevertheless, he has been actively involved in Australia's automotive aftermarket and motorsports scene, since he moved there for tertiary studies 12 years ago.
He said: "One main difference between the Australian and Singaporean automotive scene is how people in Australia are more willing to share their knowledge.
"For example, in Australia, I was supplying my services to three workshops located within 2km of each other. In Singapore, they would probably prefer to hold you exclusive to one workshop.
"It would be good if Singapore can have more motorsports events that are regulated, to provide the public a safer environment to operate from. There is a healthy number of enthusiasts in Singapore."
Over the two-day-long WTAC, I was impressed by the cosmopolitan crowds that included Australians from other parts of the country, as well as international visitors.
Mr Ben Wong, 26, a student from Singapore, flew out to Sydney just to catch the event.
He said: "My life revolves around cars and motorsports, and I have a great passion in modified cars, specifically in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.
"I've been following WTAC since 2010. This year, I wanted to see last year's champion team, Cyber Evo, making their final run.
"It was a pity that they faced issues and didn't put up a good performance, but I enjoyed the event and am already planning to come back next year."
Mr Leonard Lee, 33 - a Singaporean who lives in Newcastle, New South Wales - travelled about 170km just to attend the event.
He said: "I've attended WTAC for three years now and the atmosphere keeps getting better year after year, as fans have the freedom to roam into any pit to get up close and personal with the drivers, mechanics and race cars.
Also, the amount of research and development put into these cars is tremendous, as shown by this year's winner, Nemo Racing."
Agreeing with Mr Lim about the culture of sharing in Australia, Mr Lee added: "The knowledge that's shared by the mechanics - when you get to sit (and chat) with them - is amazing and helps me decide on the design and types of ground effects to use for my own vehicle."
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