Motivated by the high-revving engines, the freedom of style, the billowing smoke trial and the chicks, young and eager Benjamin Chiam tells CHERYL TAY why he made drifting his life
His foray into drifting was sparked off by Goodyear. It all began when Benjamin Chiam used to see his neighbour’s Goodyear-stickered up car in the driveway.
“Goodyear Racing’s Ivan Lim, Singapore’s top drifter, is my neighbour and in the past I used to see his Goodyear-branded Toyota Chaser whenever I was coming home from school. We became friends and he explained about drifting to me. That’s how it all started,” said the 19-year-old full-time National Serviceman.
Before he got his official driving licence, Benjamin was already getting real adrenalin-pumping action as he participated in drift competitions around the region since the age of 17.
“I’ve always loved slamming on the rear brakes and sliding all over with my bicycle, and in computer games I often slide my cars in corners, but I never knew there was such a thing as drifting until I met Ivan,” said Benjamin.
Under Ivan’s guidance and influence, Benjamin progressively became more involved in the sport. Ivan introduced him to other drifters from Malaysia and Thailand during Formula Drift Singapore 2009. With these friendships, all of them helped Benjamin in one way or another, teaching him how to drift.
“I didn’t know anything about cars when I first started drifting. I learnt how to drift before I learnt how to drive, so instead of moving off slowly, I was spinning tyres straightaway!” he chirped.
In the early days, Benjamin would borrow his uncle’s Nissan 350Z Fairlady to practise his drifting. He also followed Ivan to his events at Changi Exhibition Centre to gain more exposure, and then moved to Malaysia to attend drift clinics given by Goodyear Malaysia’s drift team members Ariff Johanis and his wife Jane Cheah.
Picking up the basics of drifting there, he completed the beginner’s course before moving to Thailand. Under the tutelage of Goodyear Thailand drifters Jatuphon Manputtrapong (Pop) and Nakorn Cotraviwat this time, Benjamin stayed for a month to learn more about drifting, as well as about cars and their set-ups. But his love for the sport deepened to the extent that he decided to pursue a full-time drifting career, so he packed his bags sometime mid-last year and moved to Thailand.
“In Thailand, I spent a lot of time practising and I was also at workshops learning about cars. I liked it so much that I ended up staying for more than a year! In fact, my first competition was in Thailand at the M-Max Drift Series. I qualified sixth out of 10 novices and got beaten by the better drivers, but it’s about the experience that I gained,” Benjamin shared.
His first major competition was Formula Drift Thailand last year, where he crashed his car during practice and had to tow it back to the workshop for repairs before the next day’s qualifying. Within the span of one year, Benjamin went on to participate in Formula Drift Malaysia 2009, Formula Drift Singapore 2010, Goodyear International Drift Series Thailand Round 1 and the M-Max Drift Series Thailand.
Through it all, Goodyear has been supporting Benjamin. “The only tyres I’ve ever used in my life are from Goodyear. My favourite is still the RS Sport for its grip. But it’s not just about Goodyear’s excellent tyres, it’s the people from Goodyear. Everyone at Goodyear Singapore and Goodyear Thailand has been helping me a lot and I’m very grateful!” said Benjamin.
Having invested about $250,000 on his love for the sport, Benjamin currently has three drift cars: the Toyota AE86 that’s based in Singapore and two others, the Nissan A31 Cefiro from Thailand and the Toyota Supra from the USA. At the moment, Benjamin is back in Singapore as he has to temporarily halt his training to serve the nation for two years.
“I’ve lost quite a considerable amount of weight in my first three months of army. Everyday I’m itching to go drifting! After I’m done with national service, I will go back to being a full-time drifter. I hope to take part in bigger competitions like Formula Drift USA and D1GP Japan someday!”
Name: Benjamin Chiam Jun Wen
DOB: 12 October 1991
Hobbies: Computer gaming, cycling, motorbikes, hip hop, remote-controlled cars, golf, model cars