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The fastest way to go green
YUEY Tan might just be the Robin Hood of the fun karting world. The Founder of The Karting Arena @ Bukit Timah says: "I've always felt that people are overcharging for go-karting in Singapore. I know what the business looks like on a spreadsheet and it's just money- printing, which isn't fair."
The Karting Arena, located behind Pasarbella in Turf City, charges S$25 for a session. Each session lasts eight minutes, which can equate to about 15 laps of the 500-metre track, making it the cheapest go-karting circuit in Singapore.
The best part? It's all electric, which means you can forget about the exhaust fumes and roaring noises usually associated with petrol-based go-karting tracks. The karts also handle a lot better, allowing you to make full use of the combination of sweeping corners, a hairpin turn and a chicane at the 7.2 metre-wide track.
Mr Tan, 33, says: "Our karts have a chassis based on a racing machine, not like the karts you find at an amusement park. Using electrical energy means you have a lot of torque, which contributes to much better overall performance."
The Karting Arena certainly believes in paying attention to the overall quality of the experience. While most karting circuits in Singapore use karts that cost about S$4,000, Mr Tan, whose experience investing in the now-defunct Changi Karting Circuit prepared him for this venture, reveals that The Karting Arena's Birel electric karts are imported from Italy and Japan and cost almost S$20,000.
He explains: "I didn't want to spend the money on a big building or a fancy grandstand; that will grow as the sport does. I believe getting the right infrastructure is more important."
Mr Tan, who moved to Singapore from Adelaide in 2000 to do his National Service (NS), also made sure that the safety implications were minimal. To that end, he has had Tecpro barriers installed at The Karting Arena, the same brand used by the Formula One Grand Prix races all over the world.
Another safety feature goes hand-in-hand with the electric nature of the karts and the track. The speed limit for anyone with a driving licence is 50 km per hour, as mandated by the government. If things go wrong for any reason, the karts can be controlled remotely, meaning that they can be made to slow down or even shut off.
"Another feature we're going to introduce is something that'll slow down the karts when they enter the pit lane, so no one will be hurt - ever," quips Mr Tan.
For people who aren't confident enough to take a spin around the circuit from the get-go, The Karting Arena has installed eight go-kart simulators. While they don't handle exactly the same as a real kart, the simulators have not just international race tracks but also a pre-programmed replica of the actual track just outside.
The first Singaporean to win Class B of the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia (PCCA) in 2014, a support race to the F1 Singapore Grand Prix, Mr Tan has had a keen interest in all things motor-racing since he was a child. He recalls: "I think I learnt to read from car magazines because by the time I was four years old, I could name every single make and model of car."
Upon finishing his NS, Mr Tan fell in love with Singapore and decided to stay on and start his own hardware design and manufacturing company, Neuston, which then changed its focus to software because China started to contract its manufacturing services to the world. He eventually sold his company in 2006 and invested some of the money into his passion for driving. Two years later, he was racing in the PCCA.
He says: "Looking back, it wasn't really something I planned, it just kind of happened, and I think my experience with distribution of media really helped in racing because we're in the business of advertising."
The Karting Arena is different not just because of its electric karts but also because of its location. The central location of the track means go-karting no longer has to be the focus of the day's activities but can, in fact, be a filler.
Mr Tan says: "I believe fun karting is the business of selling happiness, and there's a lot of happiness to be found in this area. Turf City has sporting activities and a lot of really nice food, so it fits well. If we were located in an industrial area, I don't think it would really be a happy place.
Mr Tan is confident the sport will catch on. "Go-karting as a recreation is hugely popular and everyone's tried it once before. If people can spend S$25 on a box of sugary confection, why wouldn't they spend it on this?"
He adds with a grin: "If people aren't that keen, maybe we'll just start selling macarons here."
The Karting Arena @ Bukit Timah is at 200 Turf Club Road, #01-01B The Grandstand. It is open from 10am to 10pm daily, and prices start from S$25. For more information, call 9627-6711 or visit www.thekartingarena.com