Part One

'Uniquely Singapore' is the strap-line on the country's tourism website, and that mentality is exactly what the organisers of the first Singapore Grand Prix hope to apply to the Formula One experience when it touches down next September.

Although racing in the Far East, on a street circuit or in an anti-clockwise direction aren't exactly new concepts, combining them is - and the organisers aren't content at stopping there either, as they will also throw in the original addition of floodlights as Formula One prepares for its first ever 'night' race.

A Singapore Grand Prix was first mooted as far back as 2005, when the national Electric New Paper reported that talks had taken place between the Singapore Motor Sports Association and the tourist board about a street race on a 2.4-mile layout around the sea-front, and incorporating a number of Singapore's more prominent landmarks, including the Raffles Hotel and the Victoria Concert Hall.

Little more was heard for a year or so, until a contingent from Singapore travelled to Monaco in May 2006 to hold discussions with Formula One paymaster Bernie Ecclestone and representatives of the sport's governing body, the F?d?ration Internationale de l'Automobile, about staging a race on an extended 3.1-mile layout.

Although Formula One has always been keen to expand its boundaries, particularly eastwards, the queue to join the circus was already lengthy with hopefuls, and there remained the question of whether a race around the streets was even viable. However, after further talks, approval for the proposed layout was officially granted in September this year, several months after tacit approval and, subsequently, confirmation of the race's place on an unexpanded calendar.

The issue of a night race was, at the discussion stage, very much in the realms of fantasy, but grew stronger after Ecclestone's comments that perhaps far-flung races should fall in line with European time zones to pander to the sport's biggest audiences. The comment was seen as a sop to those disgruntled by the fact that F1's history was being uprooted in favour of more lucrative markets, where investment was readily on tap to build new venues, but soon became a focal point for various events east of the international date line.

While Melbourne discarded the idea, the Singapore organisers quickly took it up, sensing an opportunity to make an immediate impact on the F1 world. Confirmation that the race would indeed take place under lights came in May, following detailed proposals of how floodlighting would work and track tests elsewhere - notably Indianapolis and Paul Ricard - to determine the practicality of the idea.

All the while, work has been pressing on, with the track layout being finalised - and slightly altered from the original - and the infrastructure gradually put in place to ensure that the event lives up to expectation.

Slated for 28 September 2008, the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix is set to be the biggest sporting event the republic has staged, and it knows it has to be ready to welcome the eyes of the world, especially as it has given itself an even more spectacular stage on which to take its bow.

"We have pulled out all the stops to ensure that the teams and spectators get a first-class experience at the inaugural grand prix come September 2008," Colin Syn, the deputy chairman of Singapore GP, insisted. "The street circuit will ensure that the visitors are right in the heart of the racing action. It is also minutes away from the Marina Bay's shopping, accommodation, entertainment and fine dining districts - further enhancing the whole race day experience for all the visitors."

Part two to follow on Friday...



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