Karting: S'pore to stage regional race

SINGAPORE - It has taken 20 years but international karting is finally racing back into town.

The Straits Times has learnt that over the weekend of Nov 30-Dec 1, Kartright Speedway will host the final two rounds of this year's Asian Karting Open Championships (Akoc).

This will be the first international karting event held in the Republic since the Castrol International Kart Prix at Kallang car park in August 1993.

"It is good that besides Formula One, we can also attract other regional and international series to Singapore," said Tan Teng Lip, president of the Singapore Motor Sports Association.

Kartright director Allan Teo, meanwhile, noted that the Akoc's arrival will help raise the sport's profile in a country which has approximately 300 kart owners - 80 of whom race competitively.

"Karting is still at a developmental stage and bringing such an event to Singapore is the next logical step forward," he said.

He added that the weekend in Singapore will also open the door for local karters to gain some experience without having to spend the $10,000 or so it costs to compete in a single overseas race.

"This is a chance for them to see where they stand against other karters from the region," said Teo, whose 14-year-old daughter Gabriella is currently third in the Akoc Junior standings.

That said, one burning question is whether size does matter when it comes to karting circuits.

Located along Upper Jurong Road, Kartright's 750m track is considerably shorter than that of other Akoc venues.

Macau's Kartrodomo de Coloane, for example, has a 1.2km circuit, while the Carmona Race Track in the Philippines is approximately 1.1km long.

But Akoc managing director Johnny Tan is confident that this will not be an issue.

"The track at Kartright is tight and twisty, which will be technically challenging for the drivers," he said. "All of us are looking forward to a solid weekend of not one but two rounds."

Introduced in 2002, the Akoc currently boasts some of the most promising young racers from the Philippines, Hong Kong, Macau, Indonesia and Singapore.

Among them is the Republic's very own Nasri Naufal, better known as Opai.

The 25-year-old holds a 33-point lead over Daniel Miranda of the Philippines in the Senior standings and is looking to wrap up the title in his own backyard.

"To win the championship on home soil would be a real honour," said the Kartmaster Drakar Racing Team member, whose biggest win to date came in the 2006 Macau International Kart Grand Prix ROK Senior class.

"If I can accomplish that, it would rank among my proudest achievements."

fabiusc@sph.com.sg

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