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Old 11th January 2011, 07:22 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Revving interest in track cars

Revving interest in track cars

Above: Mr Jason Ang, director of LTM Performance, with two unregistered track cars. The white car on the right, a Honda Integra DC5, belongs to him, while the blue Subaru belongs to a customer.

Workshops get more enquiries on costly cars ahead of motorsports hub's opening next year.

By Hedy Khoo
Mon, Jan 10, 2011
The New Paper

HE WAS so keen to own a real race car, he sold owff his own car, pooled his money with three other good friends and bought an unregistered track car which can be used only on race tracks.

Said motorsports enthusiast Edric Lee, 27, an assistant account manager: "My other friends called me crazy for giving up my own car to buy a car I cannot even drive to work. But I'm serious about racing and it's worth the money and sacrifice."

The first race event at the Changi Motorsports Hub is more than a year away, but interest in owning track cars is already revving among motorsports enthusiasts here.

Unregistered track cars require no COE, road tax or insurance, and are not allowed on the roads or to be parked at public carparks.

But despite being COE and road tax-free, they do not come cheap.

While these cars usually cost around $40,000, they will need modifications costing an average of $100,000 to meet racing requirements, said Mr Jason Ang, 39, director of LTM Performance.

Although registered cars can also be modified for better performance, the degree of modifications that can be made to those cars are limited as they have to be kept within regulations set by the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

More unregistered cars

Singapore Motor Sports Association (SMSA) records show that 27 unregistered cars were brought here in 2008. In 2009, there were 15 and last year, 26.

According to SMSA general manager Raymond Cheong, these vehicles, which were inspected by the SMSA, all had roll cages installed at the time of inspection.

Roll cages are a feature of cars meant for use on the track.

Mr Ang estimates there could be as many as 50 to 60 unregistered track cars here now.

He bought his first track car, a Subaru Impreza, for $20,000 in 2007 and spent more than $200,000 modifying its engine parts, wheels, and brakes, among other parts.

For that money, one could buy a decent Japanese performance car here.

He started selling unregistered cars in 2008 and has sold seven since. These cars are currently kept at his garage.

The monthly storage fee is $200 a car, which includes services such as having a mechanic warm up the engine daily.

Workshop owners expect the demand for unregistered track cars to go up in anticipation of the motorsports hub.

Said Mr Ang: "Having a race track here means there are more opportunities to use the track car and not just a few times a year in Sepang or Pasir Gudang. So motor enthusiasts are more open to the idea of buying a track car now."

One of them is Mr Vincent Lee (right), 35, an IT business owner who currently owns two registered cars.

One is a heavily modified Mitsubishi Evo X which he uses only on the track. It is not road legal, so he hires a tow service to transport it between his home and the workshops he patronises. His other car is a Mini Cooper, which he uses on the road daily. He plans to add a track car to his collection soon.

Towing costs

Said Mr Lee: "Currently, track car owners have to pay to tow their cars to Sepang on track days or for races and the fee is $1,000. When Singapore has its own track, I need pay only $80 for the towing service. I will probably stop going to Sepang or Pasir Gudang."

Buying a track car is not as simple as walking into a dealership and putting your money down for one. Not many workshops sell track cars, and those which do will deal only with regular customers. You also can't get a car loan to finance the purchase of these cars.

Said Mr Ang: "This is a business based on trust and hard cash. We have to know the customers are able to pay for the car once it arrives."

Workshop owners say owning an unregistered track car is an expense mainly for those with deep pockets.

A day's outing to the track at Sepang can easily cost more than $2,000 when one adds the cost of the towing service, track tyres, brake pads and fuel.

The majority of track cars here belong to workshop owners, who use the car for races, not only out of passion, but to boost the image and reputation of their workshops.

Mr Desmond Soh, 34, a partner at ST Powered, who has three unregistered track cars, said: "Winning races definitely helps to boost the image of the workshop and attract customers."

Workshop owners say track car owners are mostly in their late 20s to 50s. They are usually the sons of the wealthy, business owners or high-earning executives.

Said Mr Wong Soon Leong, 32, owner of car workshop JMotowerkz and better known by his alias, Joker: "Track cars are rich boys' toys. Buying a track car is like a woman buying a very expensive ball gown. It is going to be kept away in your cupboard, and you're hardly going to put it on to go out."

Mr Wong owns two unregistered track cars.

Despite the high costs involved, Mr Ang has had about 20 enquiries among customers who are keen to buy, while 13 of Mr Soh's regular customers have expressed interest.

Said Mr Soh: "We are still at the baby stages of this trend of people buying track cars. One reason is because the circuit is not yet ready, and the cost is prohibitive.

"Owning a track car is an exclusive sport. Golf is an expensive hobby. Even then, there is no point of comparison. You can buy a golf set for $1,000 and it will last you a long time.

"But $1,000 in motorsports is only the cost of hiring a tow truck to transport your track car to Sepang and back."

"Currently, track car owners have to pay to tow their cars to Sepang on track days or for races and the fee is $1,000. When Singapore has its own track...I will probably stop going to Sepang or Pasir Gudang."

Sharing their dream car puts their friendship to the test

Mr Edric Lee, Mr Steven Fong, Mr Dwayne Foo and Mr Fandi Johan pooled their money to buy the 17-year-old Honda Civic EK 9.

Bought for $18,000, this 17-year-old Honda Civic EK 9 is cheap by track car standards and it still gives its four co-owners a thrill just to sit in it.

They even have a name for it: The Q Car.

Said Mr Fandi Johan, 32, a civil servant: "I'm happy just sitting in it even though it isn't moving and is parked in the workshop.

"It's not the fastest machine on the track, but it's a step closer to fulfilling our dream to take part in races when the track here opens."

They bought the car in anticipation of the opening of the Changi Motorsports hub and have spent $30,000 so far on modifications to make it fit for use on the track.

Like the other three co-owners, Mr Fandi said his monthly salary doesn't afford him to be the sole owner of a track car.

All four co-owners live in HDB flats and draw monthly salaries of less than $5,000 each.

One of them, Mr Steven Fong, 47, a researcher, said: "We're all average Joes. This is a sport of the rich, not a heartlander's hobby. But we're serious about racing, and sharing our resources is one way to overcome the financial limitations."

The cost of the car, bought from LTM Performance, is equally shared among the four friends, including Mr Edric Lee.

To raise cash for the car, Mr Lee sold his Toyota Vios in December 2009. He had bought it new in 2006 for $48,000, including COE.

The other co-owners sold off parts and accessories from their own cars to help pay for the track car.

Mr Fong, who drives a 15-year-old Subaru WRX, sold his set of performance brakes, suspension and clutch for about $2,000.

Said Mr Fong: "Since we were going to have a serious track car, there was no need to have these features installed in our own cars."


Mr Ang of LTM Performance said it would take another $40,000 of modifications before the car is ready to compete in races.

The friends hope to enter races in two years' time, when their car is fully modified and they have honed their driving skills. They even have a team name: Skunqwerx.

But the car isn't just a test of navigating the race track. It is also a test of their friendship. Said Mr Fong: "We didn't come together to buy the car. We are a group of good friends who felt our friendship is strong enough to become a partnership."

It's no easy task sharing a track car.

Said Mr Lee, chuckling: "Deciding to get the car was worse than getting married. The four of us had extensive discussions for half a year before coming to a decision.

"In a divorce, people are worried about losing their assets. The asset we were worried about losing is our friendship. No point buying a car and losing your friends."

Honda Integra Type R (2007 model)

Normal use
Cost of car now with COE: $80,000
Annual road tax: $1,500
Annual cost of insurance: $2,500
Monthly maintenance fee: $200-$300

Unregistered (For track use, no COE)
Cost of car: $40,000
Miscellaneous administrative charges: $2,000
Minimum cost of modifications to make it a basic track car: $10,000
Minimum cost for race-fit modifications: $100,000
Cost of one track day in Sepang: $3,000
Cost of towing service to Sepang and back: $1,000

The owner of an unregistered track car can also expect to pay for any damage to the car. Damaging the engine, for example, could easily cost $30,000 in repairs.

All figures given are estimated average figures.


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Old 12th January 2011, 12:11 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Revving interest in track cars

cant wait for the changi track to open . surely got a lot of event .

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Old 13th January 2011, 12:17 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Revving interest in track cars

wasn't there this report on the people behind the changi track being investigated for misappropriation of funds or something like that? tsk tsk

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Old 17th January 2011, 11:19 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Revving interest in track cars

dispite tat the track is still going to be build n open... cant wait 4 it to open too... bery sianz of going up sepang n pg already... yawnz....

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