Curiosity first nudged Richard Tan to get behind the wheel of a kart about 10 years ago. Tempting fate as he raced at top speed at the now defunct Jurong Kart World, the adrenalin rush flooded his veins. He was hooked.
The 54-year-old businessman says: “It was an incredible feeling. I was so crazy about it that I was karting whenever I had spare time.” Tan is the managing director of Arina International Holding, which provides infrastructure for events. Past projects include the Barclays Singapore Open golf tournament and National Day Parade events.
But, after finding himself queuing at least 15 minutes each time just to get behind the wheel for all of 10 minutes, the initial passion fizzled. It reignited in 2008 when the Formula One night race debuted in Singapore. His company was contracted to build and install street lighting around the racing circuit, which meant his schedule was packed.
When the workload eased up in 2010, he roped in business associates and started annual karting competition KF1 Corporate Challenge in 2011.
It did little to satisfy his racing addiction. His solution? Build a karting track so he could race any time he wanted.
Tan hired renowned Formula One circuit designer Hermann Tilke and, last December, the $3-million, 960m-long KF1 Karting Circuit was completed. Facilities include a paddock to store over 200 karts, a grandstand, as well as a personal shower and rest room for Tan, who has three karts that cost between $11,000 and $15,000.
The circuit is also the first karting track in Singapore that meets the minimum length of 800m required to hold international races.
Extreme? Well, this isn’t the first time he has indulged lavishly in hobbies. The avid badminton player built the $1.5-million, state-of-the-art Singapore Badminton Hall in 2011 at Geylang, after the iconic namesake building nearby shut down in 2008.
“My family thinks I am crazy to have gone this far for my hobbies,” says the father of five sons. But it’s not all for fun.
He uses the track to entertain and talk business with clients, just as other corporate captains do on the golfing greens.
For his family and friends, it has become a focal point for quality time and just to have fun. Although they had misgivings about his indulgence, his family has since taken a liking to karting.
“My family thinks I am crazy to have gone this far for my hobbies.”
“My son, Lewis, celebrated his 21st birthday there, and he and his friends had a ball of a time racing.
“Even my wife, Pauline, who did not think much of the track and complained about petrol fumes, is a regular kart racer now.”
Says Tan, who goes there two to three times a week: “The KF1 track is a good place to socialise and network with people I have never met before. I take friends and customers there, and they’ve forged new friendships. While I indulge in personal fun, it is serving me well on the business front too.”
The circuit is open to the public but, to Tan, recovering costs is irrelevant. “I invested in it so that I can kart any time I want to, even after closing time. It is not intended as a business venture.”
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