I just returned from a seven-day trip to Thailand to catch Ronds 3 and 4 of the All Star Professional Drift Thailand series. I was in Hua Hin for the launch of the Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric II and Directional 5 (which I will blog about separately) then I returned to Singapore for one night for karting training with my girls, before going back to Bangkok for All Star.
Some people asked why I didn’t just stay on all the way after Hua Hin, but I couldn’t miss training with my girls for the world. As captain of the team I have a responsibility to be around at official trainings so the extra inconvenience is nothing.
Believe it or not, I’ve never watched drifting in Thailand before! I missed both Formula Drift Thailand events previously as they clashed with other events then, so going up for All Star this time made it my first exposure to the Thai drifting culture.
Early July when I went for the Michelin Energy XM2 tyre launch in Pattaya, I extended my stay in Bangkok and was brought to BRC (Bangkok Racing Circuit) so that was a little insight into the Thai drift culture. But I have to go to a local drift event to understand more about the scene right?
Jeremy and Benjamin of Driftpac (rights holder to Formula Drift Asia) are the judges for All Star so I wasn’t alone.
In fact, Max took such good care of me that I felt right at home at All Star. The organisers of All Star are Motor Tracks, who are the ones behind the famous motorsports DVD magazine. They have been secretly filming me at Formula Drift Singapore and Malaysia, so they already know who I am! They are glad to finally get the chance to meet me proper instead of secretly filming me, so I stayed on for four more days after All Star to do filming with them for their next issue. More about the filming in a separate post..
All Star is actually what was formerly the Goodyear International Drift Series that was held in Thailand last year. Goodyear pulled out and Motor Tracks thought it was a pity to throw the series away just like that so they renamed it All Star. There is another national drift series in Thailand called M-Max Drift Party or something like that, but that is not FIA regulated and is pretty much like Ace Drift in Malaysia where you see 70 over drivers compete.
The format for All Star differs from that of Formula Drift, which I’m so used to. Formula Drift holds practice and qualifying on Saturday and then Top 32 battles on Sunday morning followed by the Top 16 battles in the afternoon and all the way to Top 2 in the evening. A typical day ends in the evening at about 5-6pm.
But with All Star, they actually hold practice, qualifying and all the battles in a day! Hence, Round 3 was held on Saturday and Round 4 was held on Sunday. That effectively means holding a 4-day event in 2 days.. you get my drift? (pun FULLY intended) That also means that day goes on very long, till night.
The track layout is different on both days, though at the same venue. For example, Round 3 had a long straight high-speed entry and the speed is taken at the initiation. Round 4 on the other end is a low-speed entry into a hairpin and the speed is only taken at the last clipping point.
Held at Wonder World Park (which was also the venue for FD Thailand), the taxi driver that took me from my hotel (I had the chance to stay in a 2-bedroom suite at lebua at State Tower!!!) got us lost and I had to wait for Max to rescue me. In case you don’t know who Max is, he was the emcee for this year’s Formula Drift Singapore where I got to meet him for the first time.
He’s a close friend of Motor Tracks and he’s the hub of Thai drifters… having lived in the US for 28 years, his English is perfect hence he plays the role of translator one time too many.
There were over 50 drivers who competed that weekend at All Star, largely from places all over Thailand, except for two familiar Malaysian faces – Tengku Djan and Ser Ming Hui (Ah Fai) – and a Kuwait guy called Nasser.
This is Ah Fai’s first time drifting at Wonder World Park:
I didn’t feel too much of a stranger there as I already know the Thai drifters who have taken part in Formula Drift Asia – teams like M150 Overdrive, PTT Performa, Red Bull etc. I don’t know if they were surprised to see me there; they didn’t show it even if they were!
At the last round of All Star (ie. Round 2), it rained too hard and the water level was ankle deep hence they had to postpone the Top 4 battles. As a result, Round 3′s qualifying was limited to just the Top 16, instead of Top 32. Increased pressure!
The Top 16 who qualified were:
1. D Kohkae, 85.70 pts, 91kph
2. Ju Red Bull, 81.20 pts, 91kph
3. Tengku Djan, 79.80 pts, 89kph
4. Nu, 77.10 pts, 94kph
5. Non Overdrive, 75.40 pts, 87kph
6. Ser Ming Hui, 67.60 pts, 85kph
7. Aek New Folder, 65.50 pts, 88kph
8. S Goodyear, 63.80 pts, 82kph
9. Oat Overdrive, 63.70 pts, 85kph
10. Neung RJ, 63.60 pts, 87kph
11. Pat Goodyear, 61.90 pts, 82kph
12. Joe PTT, 61.70 pts, 92kph
13. Keak Overdrive, 61.00 pts, 87 kph
14. Mai Overdrive, 60.40 pts, 82kph
15. Kiki Red Bull, 58.70 pts, 78kph
16. Pan Overdrive, 56.80 pts, 78kph
There were a lot of crashes because of the high-speed initiation but thankfully there were these large cushions before the concrete barriers to absorb the impact. Otherwise, a lot of these cars would have gone flippin’ over.
There were some interesting battles like Ju versus his own team-mate Kiki. During the Top 16 drivers’ parade, the two of them were acting all ready to fight each other.
But they are friends and team-mates after all.. see, they even went round the track together just before the battles started.
During their battle, Ju made a huge mistake when chasing. He went wide on the first clipping point when chasing Kiki, costing him valuable points there and eventually costing him the win.
D Kohkae fought his way to the final 2, beating a string of Overdrive drivers – Pan Overdrive in Top 16, Oat Overdrive in Top 8 and Non Overdrive in Top 4 – along the way. On the other side of the battle bracket, Mai Overdrive beat Tengku Djan in the Top 16 and boy was that one hell of a tight battle. Mai Overdrive then beat Pat Goodyear and Neung RJ to make it to the last 2. Fighting for third place was Non Overdrive and Neung RJ, where the latter won as Non’s gearbox spoilt and he had to switch to his spare car.
D Kohkae and Mai Overdrive battled for the top place and it was D Kohkae who won Round 3. He then had to get his car ready immediately as the Top 4 battles of Round 2 was ran right after Round 3 concluded. In the Top 4 for Round 2 were D Kohkae, Non Overdrive, Tengku Djan and this Hankook driver whose name I forgot. The final battle was left between Djan and this Hankook driver (sheesh I better go find out his name) when something really unfortunate happened.
Djan was up to lead first and he was blaring down the high-speed straight when he suddenly swerved and rammed straight into the concrete walls. A cone was carelessly overlooked and left on the middle of the track right where the initiation point is. Djan had two options – either to slow down and risk having the chase car smash into him, or swerve to avoid the cone.
He decided to try and avoid the cone but he failed to avoid it and the cone ended up under his tyre. You should have seen how furious Djan was man… That was it for the night. Djan’s car got whacked up pretty bad but it was repair-able so he could return to compete in Round 4 the next day. It wasn’t about first place, it wasn’t about the car, it was about the stupid cone that was lying in the middle of the track.
Anyway, the battle for first place was abandoned and so the victory for Round 2 was shared between Djan and the Hankook driver (I promise I will get his name). Third place for Round 2 went to Kiki, with D Kohkae in fourth.
The day ended at about 9pm – phew.