9tro issue #6
Text by: Cheryl
Photos by: Cheryl
In less than two years after he first discovered the art of going sideways, Terdthoon Ruayjaroensap (nicknamed D Koh-Kae) made it to the finals of Formula Drift Malaysia – the third and last leg of Formula Drift Asia 2010 held in mid-December. With only one year of competition experience, D Koh-Kae never expected to go against Daigo Saito (2008 D1GP champion) – at least not so soon.
Upon hearing that there will be professional drifters like Daynom Templeman of New Zealand, Malaysian’s drift prince Tengku Djan and former D1GP champions Daigo Saito and Ryuji Miki, D Koh-Kae knew he had to perform and at least qualify into the top 32 for a chance to meet them in the tandem battles.
Indeed, D Koh-Kae did exceptionally well – he qualified in second place and then worked his way through the battle bracket to the last two standing, eventually finishing second.
“My main objective is to gain experience and prove myself, pushing myself to higher levels with each step. Making it to the final two is a bonus, beyond what I expected. If I came with an aim to win, that would have put pressure on me and I don’t want that. I prefer to take a step at a time and do my best always,” said the 34-year-old Thai who is actually the factory director of the famous Thai peanut snack Koh-Kae.
The youngest of three sons, D Koh-Kae manages the production facility of this family business whilst his two older brothers oversee the international distribution and domestic operations. He also has a sister.
Back home, D Koh-Kae drives an Isuzu truck that has a canopy so he can transport his tyres and tools around for his drift car. In addition, the truck is of a manual transmission so he can practise his heel-toe and other driving techniques.
“I drive a truck because I need to save up money to go drifting! I would love to have more sponsors. So far, Goodyear Thailand has been very supportive of me and I’m very grateful to them. I have to keep selling more nuts so I can buy more tyres; right now I’m not making enough nuts to buy tyres!” he added.
Initially, D Koh-Kae’s father was not entirely sure about his third son’s newly-found interest but has since been rather neutral about it. How did D Koh-Kae progress so quickly? What are his motivations?
9tro has the answers…
Q: How did you know about drifting?
A: I discovered drifting through the movie Initial D and then I started drifting in July 2009. I’ve always had an interest in motorsports though; I’ve been karting since I was young.
Q: Who taught you how to drift?
A: I learnt drifting by myself; seeking advice from the better and more experienced drifters in Thailand. Each time I find a mistake, I will immediately find ways to correct it by asking questions. Sometimes I get three different answers from three different people, so I’ll try all and find what suits me best, before adapting it to suit my style.
Q: Where do you usually practise? Is it true that you clear out the factory car park so you can practise there?
A: Nope, that car park is not suitable as I can only drift in first gear. It’s not wide enough! There are two or three usual drifting quads in Thailand where I practise.
Q: What is on your mind each time you go out to drift?
A: I always tell myself to have no fear (of course, bearing safety in mind) and to just go all out and test the limits. Each time I’m at a new track unfamiliar to me, I will try to go all out full throttle, full power at least once to see how far I can go.
Q: What other drift competitions have you taken part in?
A: 2010 is my first year of competing in drifting – I competed in the M-Max Speed Party where I finished second overall, the Goodyear International Drift Series in Thailand where I finished third overall and was the winner for rounds three and four, and Formula Drift Thailand where I qualified fifth and finished in the top eight.
Q: How much have you spend on drifting so far?
A: About THB 5,000,000 over one and a half years since I started.
Q: Why did you choose this car?
A: I have been using the Nissan Cefiro A31 to drift since day one. Some of the professional drifters recommended this car to me.
Q: Who builds the car for you?
A: My mechanics are from Lek Motorsports. They are just an ordinary automotive workshop with no experience in building drift cars. Together, we went through trial and error with my car – trying and testing, changing and improving until the set-up is right. For example, I will put in a three-inch intercooler then try the car, put in a four-inch one then try the car, put in a five-inch one then try the car. I get involved and I work my hands on my car, cutting and welding, making adjustments and changes to keep improving the car.
Q: What advice do you have for aspiring drifters?
A: There are five important factors: 1) Passion – You must love drifting and be crazy about it; 2) Money – You need to have the budget; 3) Practice – Get a lot of practice so you can keep fine-tuning your skills. When I first started out I practised three times a week. Now I don’t practise as much, but instead I spend more time working on the car set-up; 4) Good mechanics – It is crucial to have a good team to support you and your car; 5) Fitness – Be disciplined and clock some hours for physical training. My aim is to quit smoking!
Q: What are your future plans?
A: I want to join every drifting competition there is in Asia. There’s the M-Max Speed Party, Goodyear International Drift Series and Formula Drift. My dream is to compete at D1GP – the professional drift series in Japan. I might also be changing car for 2011 or in the next two years.
FORMULA DRIFT MALAYSIA INSIGHTS
Q: Who was your biggest competitor at Formula Drift Malaysia?
A: Djan, Daigo and compatriot Non.
Q: How did you feel when you went up against drifting sensation Daigo in the finals?
A: To be honest, I had no fear. Daigo has deep technical knowledge and he can brake with his left foot. I told myself to just do my best and try to beat him. However, bear in mind that this isn’t Daigo’s usual drift car. He’s not familiar with it and has never tried it till this weekend. Nonetheless, I feel proud of myself for being able to stay close when chasing and also for being able to pull ahead some when I was the lead car. Unfortunately, I made a mistake in the last three metres and spun.
Q: Of all the tandem battles, which was the most challenging?
A: The one with Daigo. I was looking forward to going up against Djan actually; I’m disappointed that he had a bad weekend and didn’t make it!
Name: Terdthoon Ruayjaroensap
Nickname: D Koh-Kae
Occupation: Factory director of Koh-Kae
Marital Status: Married with a five-year-old daughter