By Fathol Zaman Bukhari
Mention Rothman’s Corner and it brings back fond memories of the country’s first racing circuit at Batu Tiga in Selangor. It was opened in 1968 and the winner of the first ever Malaysian Grand Prix was Hengkie Iriawan from Indonesia.
Batu Tiga Circuit was venue for the Superbike World Championship and the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix from 1990 to 1997. It was closed for a brief period in 1977 after an accident that killed six minors. It became redundant after 1997. In 2003 it was sold off by the Selangor state government to a developer who turned the 143-acre site into a housing estate.
The circuit had a 3.96-km track with 14 sharp turns of which the Rothman’s Corner was the most famous or infamous, depending to whom you speak to. The majority of today’s kids, however, do not know much about Rothman’s Corner, although they might have heard of it from their parents.
I was one of the many spectators who positioned ourselves at a vantage point overlooking the said corner during the motorcycle grand prix of 1995. If you wish for action, the Rothman’s Corner was the place to be then. On that fateful day a number of high-powered bikes crashed into the barriers after spinning out of control due to a wet track. It was mayhem, something which most had come to see.
So that was the infamous Rothman’s Corner of Batu Tiga. But has anyone heard of Ipoh’s own Rothman’s Corner? The Ipoh version may not be as prominent as the original Rothman’s Corner but its notoriety is as bad or even worse. It is not within a racing circuit but at a busy road junction where Wisma Taiko is located. It is at the point where Jalan Kompleks Islam merges with Jalan S.P. Seenivasagam and where a 10-storey hotel is fast taking shape.
Of late the corner has witnessed many accidents involving cars and motorcycles, especially during peak hours. Once while having a drink on the verandah of the Royal Ipoh Club, overlooking Ipoh Padang, I saw a nasty accident which caused a pile-up.
Motorists from Jalan Kompleks Islam are well advised to be on high alert when turning into Jalan S.P. Senivasagam. Speeding cars from their right may not make way for them. I have had several close calls in the past when negotiating this bend. The fact that construction works take a chunk of the road is mind-boggling, to say the least.
Who do we fault, the contractors doing the works or the people responsible for allowing the building project to proceed? It does not take a rocket scientist to identify the culprit or culprits. The blame falls squarely on the authorities for allowing this to happen in the first place. Obviously, these people, who are supposed to protect the rakyat, do not really care whether you and I are maimed or killed.
If greed is the buzzword then we are in for a nasty shock. A terrible accident is waiting to happen and when it happens, finger-pointing, a favourite game among Malaysians, will begin in earnest.
Meanwhile, the musical chairs game continues with the loser(s) waiting to be hammered. Ipoh’s Rothman’s Corner awaits its victims.