Me & My Car: The Mercedes-Benz of the motorsport enthusiast

SINGAPORE – Mr. Lee Lung Nien regularly drives a 16-year-old second-hand Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG, which is a relatively modest choice given his station in life and his association with the adrenaline-pumping world of motorsport.

The 57-year-old is CEO of a large American private bank, a semi-professional drummer and an accomplished car and go-kart racer.

He is also Vice President for Asia of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) – the governing body of many global motorsport series (including Formula 1 and the World Rally Championship) – and a member of the World Motor Sport Council, which is responsible for setting regulations for all types of motorsport worldwide.

He is the first Singaporean to be elected Vice President of the FIA.

At home he was President of Motor Sports Singapore from 2016 to 2020; and in that role he met Mr Mohammed Ben Sulayem, a former 14-time Middle East rally driver and then Vice President (Middle East) of the FIA.

Mr. Ben Sulayem was keen to use Mr. Lee’s knowledge and ideas to develop motorsport in Asia Pacific and explore how the FIA ​​could improve.

When Mr Ben Sulayem later decided to run for the FIA ​​Presidency, he invited Mr Lee to join his list for Vice President. Mr. Ben Sulayem, Mr. Lee and their team were successfully elected in December 2021.

Mr. Lee’s interest in automobiles was sparked while accompanying his father to the Singapore Grand Prix at Old Upper Thomson Road in the early 1970s.

His first car was a 1973 Fiat 124 Sport, which he describes as “a rust bucket that spent more time in the workshop than on the road”. Since then he has owned many other cars.

The father of two children started racing quite late in life and only started karting in his 40s. But he more than made up for the lost time. He has competed in multiple countries including Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Italy and was crowned 2014 Singapore X30 Champion, 2015 and 2019 Rotax Asia Max Champion and 2017 and 2018 ROK Cup Singapore Veteran Champion.

Before the Covid 19 pandemic, he competed in 18 to 20 kart races a year. This year he will be racing again in the Malaysian Karting Championships.

Mr. Lee has also been an auto racer, having competed in a Honda Civic Type R in events such as the Merdeka 12-hour endurance race at Sepang in 2014 and in a Suzuki Swift in the Malaysia Championship Series.

But back to his 2006 SL55 AMG. He bought the car from a friend’s father in 2020 when he returned to Singapore after an eight-year work stint in Malaysia. The car has since undergone an extensive restoration, but Mr Lee says the process is still ongoing.

He says: “It’s in and out of workshops all the time because parts are coming in sporadically due to the pandemic. It is constant work and an affair of the heart.”

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