Johore Grand Prix

One of the oldest races in Malaya, the Johore Grand Prix was first held in 1940. The next Grand Prix took place only in 1949, and was held between August and October. When the Malaysian Grand Prix (which took place at the Batu Tiga circuit near Kuala Lumpur) was introduced, the Johore Grand Prix was scheduled to take place a week after it in September to facilitate overseas participants who wanted to compete in both races. Due to the Confrontation and the state of emergency, the Johore Government prohibited the event from 1963 to 1966, and again in 1969. Thereafter, the event was not revived.

Organised by the Automobile Association of Malaya, the first Johore Grand Prix was held in November 1940 under the patronage of H.R.H. Sir Ismail Tungku Mahkota of Johore, in aid of The War Fund. It was a two-day event with four races each day. The circuit consisted of a portion of a newly built Johore bye-pass road (1.5 miles; 2.414 kilometres) and some connecting roads. Unlike subsequent Grand Prixs, participation at this race was by invitation only, and fifteen invitations were sent out for competitors who would represent the five states of Johore (includes Singapore), Perak, Selangor, Penang and Malacca.
The next Johore Grand Prix took place eight years later in 1948 with the newly established Singapore Motor Club (formed by a group of racing enthusiasts) taking up its organisation, similarly with the support of Tungku Mahkota who was himself a car enthusiast. The circuit was different from the 1940 circuit. Information on the Johore Grand Prix is sketchy except for the years from 1949 to 1952 and 1967 to 1968. 
The Johore Grand Prix was extremely well received with entries and spectatorship growing over the years.  In the early 1950s, an entrance ticket was priced at five dollars and available in Singapore and Johore Bahru. The number of participants at the race increased annually, with 88 entries in 1951 and 101 in 1952. And in 1952, there were about 35,000 spectators at the event. The scale of the event also grew from a one-day programme comprising four races in 1948, to a two-day programme in the late 1960s with motorcar racing on the first day and motorcycle racing on the second.

The Johore Grand Prix Circuit
With a lap distance of 2 miles 543 yards (3.7145 kilometres), the circuit was a section of a real road that went through parts of Johore Bahru town. It was a unique circuit that consisted of fast straights and slow corners. Racers began near the Johore Bahru Post Office with a gentle curving straight by the seafront along Jalan Tai Heng. They then head towards Zoo Corner, which had to be anticipated by braking well before it came into view as it was concealed by the gentle curve. Thereafter, a winding uphill journey along Jalan Gertak Merah lead racers towards Judges Crest. The road is slightly winding and presents a bump that takes vehicles off the ground. Landing back on the ground, racers then face a downhill ride to a 90 degree corner called Jail Corner. Exiting from Jail Corner is a big concrete-lined ditch on the road's edge which racers had to be mindful of. Up next is the only fast bend in the circuit along Jalan Ayer Molex called Garden Bend. Racers had to accelerate hard down Garden Bend, and then circumnavigate a tight left hand with a short escape at Sultans Corner. Once pass this last corner, racers go on a straight to the front of the stands. By 1952, four grandstands were built along the circuit to give spectators the best view possible - one each at Jail Corner and Zoo Corner, and two others at the start/finishing line. 

A tragic accident that took place on the circuit in 1963 led to the death of a popular Malayan racer Yong Nam Kee (affectionately known as Fatso Yong). Driving a Jaguar D-type at 200 kilometres per hour, Yong's car hit a pole and broke into two. The front half of the car flying over the cliff, killing Yong instantly.

Johore Grand Prix programme
In 1948, Johore Grand Prix was a one-day event with four races - two for motorcycles and two for motorcars. The two events for motorcycles were 350 cubic centimetres and under (5 laps) and 351 cubic centimetres and over (5 laps). The two events for motorcars were 1,500 cubic centimetres and under (5 laps) and the Johore Grand Prix for Formula One cars of 1,500 cubic centimetres supercharged and 4,500 cubic centimetres supercharged (10 laps). The motorcycle event for 351 cubic centimetres and over was a crowd pleaser. Another highlight was the Johore Grand Prix for Formula One cars, which had its distance increased over the years (it was 35 laps in 1952) to align it with international standards. The number of events increased from five in 1950 to seven in 1952. 
Singapore racers who participated in the Johore Grand Prix include Lim Peng Han (record holder for the fastest time of the day), Chan Lye Choon and Chan Lye Huat, Chia Eng Quee, Rodney Seow, Soh Guan Bee and Osman Abbas.

Johore Grand Prix  (1950) programme
10.00 am : Cars 1,500 cubic centimetres and under (15 laps).
10.55 am : Motorcyclists 350 cubic centimetres and under (10 laps)
12.00 pm : Johore Grand Prix for Formulae (25 laps) 
3.00 pm   : Production sports cars under 1,500 cubic centimetres (5 laps)
3.20 pm   : Motorcyclists 500 cubic centimetres and over (20 laps) 

Irene Lim 

Awards. (1968, September-October). Singapore Motor Club Gazette, 33. 
(Call Number: RCLOS English 796.705 SMS 1967-1969) 

Best motorists for Grand Prix [Microfilm: NL2498]. (1949, September 17). The Straits Times, p.11.

Davies, A. (June, 1970). The racing scene. Singapore Motor Club, p. 47.
(Call Number: RSING 796.705 SMS) 

Grand Prix: A crowd pleaser [Microfilm: NL2503].  (1952, August 2). The Straits Times, p.12.

Grand Prix attracts record entry [Microfilm: NL2502].  (1951, June 28).  The Straits Times, p.12.

Johore Grand Prix.  (1968, July-August). Singapore Motor Club Gazette, 37.
(Call Number: RCLOS English 796.705 SMS 1967-1969)

Johore Grand Prix again in August [Microfilm: NL2502]. (1950, June 3). The Straits Times, p.12.

Johore Grand Prix 1951 Supplement [Microfilm: NL3657].  (1951, August 4).  Singapore Free Press.

Johore Grand Prix Supplement [Microfilm: NL3667].  (1952, August 2). Singapore Free Press.

Malayan Grand Prix in aid of war fund [Microfilm: NL 1798]. (1940, October 10). The Straits Times, p.15. 

McKay, P.  (1996, November 23). Motoring: Classic Jag's record bid. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved March 31, 2008, from Factiva database.

Programme for Johore Grand Prix races [Microfilm: NL 1799]. (1940, November 16). The Straits Times, p.15.

Sultan says yes to Johore Grand Prix [Microfilm: NL2503].  (1952, July 10). The Straits Times, p.8. 

35,000 expected at Grand Prix [Microfilm: NL2503].  (1952, August 1).  The Straits Times, p.4. 

List of Images

Johore Circuit.  (1968, July-August).  Singapore Motor Club Gazette, 37.
(Call Number: RCLOS English 796.705 SMS 1967-1969) 

Johore Grand Prix pictorial. (1968, September-October). Singapore Motor Club Gazette, 18-32.
(Call Number: RCLOS English 796.705 SMS 1967-1969) 

The information in this article is valid as at 2008 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources.  It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject.  Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Automobile racing--Malaysia--Johore
Grand Prix racing
Sports, recreation and travel>>Motoring

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