A race to remember

A race to remember
SPEED DEMONS: Racers taking part in the 60-lap Race 9 of the 1964 Malaysian Grand Prix. Mr P.H. Shershall (No. 79) is in the lead, followed by Mr R.J. Perry (No. 16), Mr Lee Wing Sang (No. 75), Mr F.D. Dingle (No. 141), Mr A. Stephenson (No. 57), Mr M.A. Hamid (No. 28) and Mr Soh Guan Bee (No. 7).

Did you know that the 1964 Malaysian Grand Prix car race, run on Singapore roads, was cancelled because the track was deemed "too dangerous for racing"?

The National Archives of Singapore recently launched the Citizen Archivist Project, an initiative that invites Singaporeans to help caption photographs from Singapore's past that have been digitised and posted online.

The New Paper is featuring photographs from the archives, and this week, we focus on the local racing scene.

The pictures featured are believed to have been taken on March 29 and 30, 1964, during that year's Malaysian Grand Prix.

The event, earlier called the Singapore Grand Prix, was renamed after the merger with Malaysia in 1963.

Organised by the Singapore Motor Club, it was first envisioned as a sporting event to attract tourists.


The race then became an international event and was the first Grand Prix to include both motorcycles and cars.

About 100,000 spectators turned up for the first Singapore Grand Prix in 1961.

Finding a suitable circuit was a difficult task for the organising committee, as road closures would affect too many residents.

They settled on a stretch of roads in Thomson and parts of the Thomson circuit quickly gained racing nicknames.

There was "Devil's Bend" - a sharp V-shaped bend that was the most dangerous part of the circuit, and "Murder Mile", a stretch of road where many racing accidents have occurred.

It was because of such treacherous racing conditions that the car race of the 1964 Malaysian Grand Prix was called off. But the motorcycle races continued.

The road had been wet from a storm and delaying the race did not prevent three crashes from happening that day.

Grand Prix enthusiasts were disappointed the race was stopped, and one even wrote to The Straits Times to complain: "What a tragedy that the Grand Prix race for cars was stopped after its tardy start... A less juvenile attitude should be adopted in what is an adult sport."

The event claimed seven lives over the years before it was cancelled in 1973. Other reasons for pulling the plug on the Grand Prix were rising event costs and a bid to discourage illegal racing in Singapore.

Motor racing did not return to our roads until Singapore obtained the rights to host the Formula One Grand Prix in 2007. Today, Singapore remains the only F1 circuit to feature a night race.

Some of these photos here have no captions. If you are a racing enthusiast, contribute to the archives by logging on to The Citizen Archivist Project website at www.nas.gov.sg/citizenarchivist/ and captioning the photos there.

Join the archiving process


The Citizen Archivist Project is an online portal launched by the National Archives of Singapore (NAS) to encourage citizens to help make records more discoverable. It is open to anyone with an interest in Singapore's history and heritage.


Register for an account at www.nas.gov.sg/citizenarchivist/ and help identify and caption old photographs or transcribe handwritten documents.

This article was first published on April 13, 2015.
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