Statistics show that between July 1958 and June 1959, some 73,134 people arrived in Singapore by air or sea with another 76,400 transit passengers (excluding traffic from the Federation of Malaya) . With such numbers, the Ministry of Finance took the view that Singapore "was no tourist paradise and any expenditure in promotion by Government was not worthwhile". A Department of Tourism, which was started only in 1958, was duly closed on 1 September 1959. The functions of the erstwhile department were however not forgone entirely but were transferred to the Department of Information Services of the Ministry of Culture to be discharged on a more "modest and realistic scale" .
The officers in the Ministry of Culture took on their new tasks with enthusiasm and optimism; putting up proposals and making efforts in many areas such as increasing hotel capacity as well as improving shopping and transport facilities to meet the needs of tourists. An extensive advertising campaign was also run, utilizing travel trade magazines as well as pamphlets and newsletters .
It was against this backdrop of boosting tourism that the first Singapore Grand Prix was conceived and organized as part of a series of sporting events during "Visit Singapore - The Orient Year" in 1961. Sponsored by the Ministry of Culture , and organized by the Singapore Motor Club, it was held from 16 to 17 September 1961 at Old Upper Thomson Road, leading into New Upper Thomson Road.
The two-day event saw a total of nine races for cars and motorcycles on a 3-mile (4.8km) circuit, distinguished by four bends called "Snakes" and a dangerous rounded V-bend named "Devil's Bend" . An encouraging number of drivers and riders - 200 in all - participated in the event .
On the first day, seven races were held: three for motorcycles, two for cars of different engine capacities, one for vintage and post-vintage cars (those made from 1 January 1931 to the start of World War II, September 1939), and one for saloons and tourers.
The main motorcycle and car races were held on the second day. The victors were Chris "Prof" Proffitt-White, a Singapore Royal Air Force technician, on a Honda motorcycle, and Ian Barnwell, a rubber planter from Pahang, in his Aston Martin DB3S.
In subsequent years, the races - renamed the Malaysia Grand Prix from 1962 to 1965 - were held over the Easter holidays. Inche Yusof bin Ishak, the Yang Di-Pertuan Negara was invited to open the Grand Prix , and Puan Noor Aishah, wife of Inche Yusof bin Ishak presented the prizes to the winners . In 1966, the Grand Prix was renamed the Singapore Grand Prix, after Singapore's separation from Malaysia . The status of the event was raised to international standards and the prize money was also increased.
After a successful run of 13 years, the GP was called off in 1974 due to safety concerns . The motor racing tradition in Singapore was revived almost three decades later in 2008 with the inaugural Formula 1 (F1) night race. F1 is the highest class of automobile racing that is approved by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), the governing body for world motor sport and the federation of the world's leading motoring organisations, and operates under strict safety rules. Singapore made history when it hosted in 2008, the first-ever F1 night race in the history of the sport. The highly anticipated race was such an overwhelming success, drawing unstinting praise from the racing drivers and various international media. Bernie Ecclestone, Chief Executive of the Formula One Group, which manages the F1 described the Singapore GP as the "crown jewel of F1" .
The F1 Night Race is now in its 9th year, and continues to draw world-renowned drivers and racing enthusiasts from around the world.