Hi John, what is your connection with Malaysia, how did you end up here in the first place?
Well, in the year2000 I was working in the States as a contract engineer when I was contacted by Lotus ad offered a position in Malaysia to the Gen2 design team.
After your contract ended and you went back you eventually came back to Malaysia in 2006. Did you miss Malaysia so much or what happened?
Before I left Lotus, I was tasked with coming up with a plan to globalise the company. Due to differences of opinion among the Management, the plan was shelved. I have always looked on this as unfinished business.I had a vision, and I want to see it materialise. My vision is to set up an institution based initially here, utilising Sepang F1 as the hub. It would leverage on partners both local and international, and would utilise both the physical and the virtual in spreading it's message, and selling it's services.
An institution? Like a university?
Exactly! I have put together a professional quality presentation, with graphic support from SAMA SAMA which I have uploaded for public viewing. The University would be Motorsport driven, however the skills learned would not be just Motorsport specific. For example you could run a media module using the amenities available, and use the same techniques learned in the general area.Interestingly, Silverstone in England have recently agreed to build a campus on their circuit.
So you think the Sepang F1 circuit is a suitable location for a campus like that?
Sepang is a state of the art circuit,with loads of free land capable of being developed. It has an airport next door, and great links by rail and road. It is situated in a country which aspires to be a regional education hub. So yes it has great potential.
On your quest to get support for this vision you are staying in the small hostel Red Palm in Bukit Bintang, what makes you choose such a place instead of the usual expat setup?
Staying at Red Palm offers me a good location operated by a knowledgeable and friendly staff. In many ways it beats the 'Usual" ex pat set up. I prefer informal and friendly, not to mention it is competitively priced!
Apparently you're not the usual hostel guests, what is the normal crowed that chooses places like Red Palm?
In the main it's young backpackers mainly from Europe and the States, it does have Asian and others too. Sometimes you get "Families" from the Philippines, mixed in with the odd business person like me who prefers this type of accommodation to a hotel.
What have you seen of the country yet, any favourite places?
Locally, I'm in Jalan Alor most days. I train at Alberts Gym, who will charge travellers a daily rate to use his gym. In addition Jalan Alor has more places to eat than any other street I know! I have travelled outside of KL for diving on the Islands. Perhentian is a favourite with backpackers. And Red Palm is often used as a base by the "Dive masters" when they are in town.
So you also have your daily meal at Jalan Alor or what is your daily food routine? You like the local food?
Food, my favourite subject! Conveniently, next to Red Palm there is a cheap 24 hour Indian Restaurant. So most days I have at least one meal there. You sit in the courtyard of Red Palm, and tell the guys next door what you want, and the pass it over the wall... Very civilised!
What happens if you get a craving for western food, or doesn't that happen anymore?
Well, I'm quite happy with the local food. However 200 metres away they do fish and chips at lunch time in the Corona Inn. 500 metres in the opposite direction you have a street with English, German, French and other restaurants. So food from home isn't an issue.
What local alternative can you recommend to a traveller who takes the usual bread & butter or cornflakes breakfast at the hostel?
Roti Telur from the "Indian" next door to Red Palm is good. It's egg cooked in flour, and normally comes with a curry sauce, wash it down with a teh Tarik (pulled tea) made with condensed milk... LOVELY!
Ooooh, now I'm getting hungry too. Before we wrapped this up and head over there, a few last questions. Compared to living in Europe and the States what do you appreciate most staying in Malaysia.
Service with a smile, without the expectation of a tip! The weather is also a huge bonus
Among other in Asia, or even the world, what makes Malaysia different, makes it unique? Why should people spend their holidays here?
From a western perspective, it is easy to get about and plan your holiday. English newspapers and tourist literature ensure you can do what you want with ease. Most tourist industry workers speak better English than I do (Not hard) so if your here to visit a rain forest, try out acupuncture, lay on a beach, it's all relatively easy to arrange.
So in your view, the fact that most people are fluent in english in Malaysia is the unique selling point for the country?
Unique, no, but it does make things much simpler. Malaysia has a diverse culture, and ecology which is in many ways is it's unique feature.
Having the vision to set up a motorsports university at the Sepang Circuit, I assume you will go and watch the F1 race this weekend. What is your expectation of the race?
This will be the 2nd year without Shumacher, a Malaysian favourite! I expect Kimi to be trying hard to fill his boots. Lewis Hamilton will be trying to make it two in a row.
Thanks John for taking the time to sit down with me, enjoy the race and good luck with the project.
If you wanna read up on John's vision, have a look here:
Bernama news clip on the Motorsport University and John Mansfield: