ED LIB

Edric re­calls his good times on a road that will soon dis­ap­pear.

Torque (Singapore) - - CONTENTS - WITH THE LOSS OR EMASCULATION OF MOST OF SIN­GA­PORE’S DRIV­ING ROADS, EDRIC WILL HAVE TO LOOK ELSE­WHERE FOR HIS DRIV­ING THRILLS. XBOX PER­HAPS?

THERE was a sense of loss as I read about the im­pend­ing ac­qui­si­tion of a large chunk of the Lim Chu Kang area for the ex­pan­sion of Ten­gah Air Base – not so much for the 80,000 graves that will be ex­humed or the farms that will have to re­lo­cate, sad as that is, but for the fact that a stretch of Lim Chu Kang Road which was cen­tral to many of my early motoring mem­o­ries is to be re­aligned beyond all recog­ni­tion.

If for noth­ing else, I at least had Na­tional Ser­vice to thank for in­tro­duc­ing me to this ar­row­straight, six-lane road (three lanes each way) that stretched lit­er­ally as far as the eye could see – for well over three kilo­me­tres, in fact. Never mind that the road was sur­rounded by ceme­ter­ies and that the air hung thick with the smell of chicken dung from the nearby chicken farms, there was some­thing sur­real about find­ing this stun­ning, vast ex­panse of tar­mac in the mid­dle of nowhere.

It formed the high­light of my daily early-morn­ing drive to my Sungei Ge­dong Camp – I got a thrill each time see­ing just what my little Fiat Uno with its 45bhp 1-litre en­gine could muster down that seem­ingly pur­pose-built drag strip.

Of course, the road hadn’t been built for drag rac­ing, but as an al­ter­na­tive run­way to serve Ten­gah Air Base in an emer­gency – hence its “puay kee lor” (air­plane road) nick­name.

But that didn’t stop wouldbe Ayr­ton Sen­nas, starved of a proper venue to stretch the legs of their mod­ded VTEC Civics, WRXs and Evos, from grav­i­tat­ing to this re­mote stretch for il­licit late-night “40 tiang” (Hokkien for 40 lamp­post) sprints, cre­at­ing quite a sig­nif­i­cant Satur­daynight rac­ing sub­cul­ture there through­out the 1990s. Some of these “40 tiang” devo­tees, in fact, met the same fate as Senna, the un­for­giv­ing ditches and lamp­posts lin­ing the road hav­ing claimed a few lives over the years. Just how these chaps man­aged to veer so vi­o­lently off a per­fectly straight, flat road has al­ways baf­fled me, al­though pre­dictably, some have blamed these in­ci­dents on dis­turbed spir­its in the ceme­ter­ies (guess the sound of a Spoon ex­haust is enough to wake the dead) or their hav­ing been fool­hardy enough to race dur­ing the sev­enth month.

In­ci­den­tally, rac­ing on this road is still rife – just this July, it was re­ported that two chaps in BMWs were ar­rested for do­ing just that, notwith­stand­ing the speed cam­era that the cops had, a cou­ple of years back, in­stalled smack at the road’s half­way mark. Even motoring journos weren’t im­mune to the draw of this place, oc­ca­sion­ally us­ing it for im­promptu ac­cel­er­a­tion tests and for track­ing shots (where the sub­ject car is pho­tographed in mo­tion from an­other car mov­ing along­side) that the straight, end­less road lent it­self per­fectly to. That Lim Chu Kang Road was also the gate­way to some other great driv­ing roads was an­other rea­son I loved it.

There was al­ways this air of ex­pec­ta­tion as you cruised down the stretch at night, know­ing that you were ap­proach­ing the de­li­cious, end­less curves of Neo Tiew Road as it took you to Kranji Dam, or the in­tri­cate maze of de­serted lanes that made the Lim Chu Kang Farmway area such a petrol­heads’ play­ground.

Puay kee lor, you will be missed.

Sin­ga­pore’s “air­plane road” will be re­aligned and thus taken off the fun-driv­ing map.

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