That Langkawi doesn’t subject import duties on vehicles imported and registered on the tax-free island is common knowledge. That the rich and well-heeled purchase supercars and luxury vehicles there to avoid import duties is also no secret.
Nonetheless, these vehicles are mostly restricted to the island itself and are only allowed a total of 90 days each year to be driven around peninsula Malaysia. That’s not a lot of time to unleash all those tax-free prime ponies on the road for the unfortunate wealthy folk that avoiding paying tax on their extravagant purchase.
Therefore, by some skewed logic the conclusion was to build them a resort-style private country club for automotive enthusiasts with a FIA Grade 2 circuit on state land.
A statement by the Menteri Besar of Kedah; Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor, clarified that the circuit will obviously not be for racing or motorsports but instead cater to the owners of tax-free vehicles by allowing them access to explore the limits of their performance vehicles in a safe environment for a fee.
Dubbed the OPen Road International Circuit & Integrated Resorts (yes, it’s OPen and not a typo), the facility will be built in the Bukit Malut region; just 7.0km from Kuah town. The entire project is a joint effort between state investment arm Permodalan Kedah Berhad (PKB) and OPen Road Asia with a completion target in the third quarter of 2023.
Some sleuthing led us to a website for OPen Road Asia but details are scarce. From the scant information on their site, they seem to be in the business of performance and luxury vehicles as well as professional storage of said machinery in Langkawi.
The circuit itself will comprise a 5.8km layout with infrastructure that meets FIA Grade 2, FIM Grade B and CIK-FIA certification standards. This enables hosting of “all world-class motorsport-related events” such as GT racing but with the exception of Formula One.
Nonetheless, the facility itself isn’t intended as a venue for sanctioned motorsports events. Instead, the circuit will be complemented by luxury facilities for its esteemed members in the mould of the Monticello Motor Club in New York or the Ascari Race Resort in Malaga, Spain.
OPen Road International Circuit founder and group advisor; Datuk David Goh, likened it to “the Nurburgring of the East.” Clientele, customers or members (call them what you want) will comprise “motorsport enthusiasts, racing teams, car owners and automakers” worldwide that descend on the motorsports country club for testing or spirited driving.
According to the statement, the island is currently home to about 1,600 performance vehicles that, legally, should be on the island for about nine months a year. That makes the proposed premise of owners jetting in for the weekend with family or sugar baby in tow, flogging their supercars on the circuit and ordering room service.
Questions remain if this will be another government-linked white elephant, seeing the niche clientele proposed and the belief that these vehicles actually remain on the island nine months a year.
Furthermore, the government is unlikely to benefit much from the lavish spending of the wealthy at the facility or on the island as import duty isn’t imposed.
The local motorsports scene has been in dire need of circuits precisely in this mould but without the fancy hotels and resort. Simply put, Malaysian motorsports needs more accessible circuits for the grassroots to flourish but instead, we get a track that will obviously cater for the well-heeled to perfect their heel-and-toe technique in comfort.
That’s all well and good but it begs the question of why is it being built on state land?
The road to hell is paved with good intentions.