As one of the team members who has been involved since the start of the Singapore Grand Prix in Singapore in 2008, Jonathan Giesecke, Faithful+Gould’s Assistant Project Director for Track and Infrastructure, shares with you how his passion for motorsports leads to new opportunities, and the challenges in delivering one of the world’s iconic motorsports events.
I have had an interest in motorsports since the mid-80’s having grown up in Adelaide, South Australia, and being exposed to the Formula One Australian Grand Prix that was hosted there at the time. I can still remember how exciting it was to watch the likes of Keke Rosberg, Alan Jones, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, and Nigel Mansell from my dad’s shoulders as a child. Adelaide was host to some amazing races – like when Mansell had a tyre blowout that lost him the 1986 world championship and the 1994 Australian Grand Prix, which saw the infamous collision between Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill that decided the title.
Held at the Adelaide Street Circuit in Adelaide from 1985 to 1995, the Australian Grand Prix was renowned for being a great event with a great atmosphere, and it was hard not to get drawn into it. Because of that, my huge interest in motorsports was fuelled, leading me to become increasingly fascinated in cars and motorsports, involving myself in later years in club motorsport events with my self-restored 1967 Mini.
In 2004, I was presented the opportunity to support the project team delivering the Clipsal 500 Adelaide, an annual motor racing event for V8 Supercars using a portion of the old Formula One street circuit. Given my interest in motorsports, I jumped at the chance.
The Clipsal 500 was a very well-recognised event with established plans and schedules that were understood well by everyone involved and so, our team’s focus was to deliver a polished product. As a young engineer, I did not realise how dynamic and demanding the job would be, and along with the rest of the team, dedicated many hours to plan the installation of the infrastructure, coordinate contractors, and work closely with multiple stakeholders.
I certainly would not have anticipated then that I would have the chance to be posted to Singapore to deliver the first Formula One Night Race in a country where interest in motorsports was at an early stage.
Three years later, however, there I was, all set for a new adventure. Having arrived on this little red dot in 2007, I was geared up to gain international work experience and to offer new perspectives and contexts based on my knowledge and expertise. It was a total game changer, though. As a team with many government stakeholders involved, we had to establish all of the plans and schedules to organise the event from scratch. It required a huge amount of coordination and we worked collaboratively with our client, the government offices, race operations, Formula One Management (FOM), and Formula One’s governing body – the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) – a global organisation that aims to safeguard the rights and promote the interests of motorists and motorsport all across the world.
It was already an interesting task building the circuit for the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide; what more for a grander event in Singapore with its arduous location of the circuit, the high volume of traffic, the size of the roads, and the fact that it was an entirely new event proved to be a gargantuan task for the team and me. Nonetheless, I took it all on simply because I believe that new challenges in work represent an opportunity for growth, and as the saying goes, “Every project has challenges, and every project has its rewards”.
Fast forward to today, in my role as the Assistant Project Director for Track and Infrastructure, the biggest challenge remains as meeting the fixed event date. On other projects, you can sometimes negotiate extensions of time or progressive handover of completed areas. However, for the Singapore Grand Prix, everything must be ready for more than 250,000 spectators and the global TV audience of hundreds of millions. This sees the Faithful+Gould’s team managing works around the clock during the final weeks leading up to the event, which requires complex planning.
In addition, building a world standard Grade 1 FIA motor racing circuit in the middle of a functioning city can be complicated too, which is why we plan the installation of most of the infrastructure so that it sits adjacent to, and not on, public roads. This allows for progressive installation in the weeks leading up to the event without affecting the flow of traffic, and also minimises the work required to complete the circuit when roads are closed only 36 hours prior to the official Track Inspection. We also dismantle sections of the circuit every day and allow public vehicle access to selected areas to alleviate traffic congestion during the morning peak hours.
No doubt, the Singapore Grand Prix is a very intense but rewarding project to be involved. On a typical construction project, the design, construction and close-out can take years, but within a 12- month period, Faithful+Gould plans, installs, operates and dismantles the Marina Bay Circuit and its associated infrastructure, including the track barriers and fences, track lighting system, grandstands, corporate facilities, power distribution, area lighting, communication systems, security fencing, temporary buildings and pedestrian overpasses. It certainly entails a great deal of planning, and interestingly, it still surprises many people when they learn that we work year-round on the event just for a three-day affair.
Despite having been involved in the planning and implementation of 11 world-scale events, nothing really beats the excitement of the Singapore Grand Prix. I have been on the project since its inaugural event in 2008 and am fortunate enough to be working on the eighth Singapore Grand Prix. Hearing the Mercedes AMG V8 of the Safety Car for the track systems test, I know the race will run as planned and once again our team has successfully delivered another Grand Prix. I am proud that the Faithful+Gould’s team brings such energy, experience and best practice integrated project management to this unique project.
The Singapore Grand Prix project has provided me an amazing opportunity to live and work in South East Asia. I also consider it to be my “gateway” opportunity that has provided me the chance to work on a number of other projects throughout the region including hospitality, manufacturing and infrastructure projects in Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
For those who have an interest in working in motorsports – pursue it! You do not have to be an engineer like me who builds the circuit, but there are many different roles in the motorsport industry that are right at the heart of the sport. Throughout my experience, I have seen many of those who started as volunteers at motorsports events progress into full-time paid careers. Ultimately, if you have a passion and enthusiasm for it, there are opportunities.