April 12 2011
By Cheryl Tay
IT IS not difficult to appreciate drifting, with its visual excitement of smoking tyres as a car is taken sideways.
Regarded as a modern form of motorsport, drifting is the art of making a car go sideways at high speeds through a marked course.
Judged on speed, style and execution of line and angle, a typical drifting competition will comprise tsuiso runs, or tandem battles, between two cars – they drift alongside each other as closely as possible.
In Malaysia and Singapore, drifting has become a popular spectator sport. But while drifting has taken off in Malaysia in great fashion, the same cannot be said of Singapore.
Long before drifting surged in popularity on the wings of blockbuster movies like Fast And Furious 3: Tokyo Drift in 2006, it was already recognised as a motorsport in Malaysia.
Hypertune magazine organised its first drift event in Malaysia in 2004 and, two years later, came the highlight of Malaysian drifting, as Japan’s D1GP professional drift series held a five-round series in Malaysia.
While D1GP never returned, Malaysia became recognised as a key drifting platform in Asia, with regular drift competitions and events of all levels, which received proper commercial support.
For example, the FX Open Drift Series was started last year, backed by the Russian forex brokerage FX Open.
In Singapore, drifting came into prominence in 2008, when local tyre distributor Binter & Co introduced the American professional drift series, Formula Drift, to this part of the world.
However, other than Formula Drift Singapore and the occasional drift clinic by privateers, there are no other drift events or competitions for local drifters to hone their skills in.
At last month’s FX Open Drift Series in Malaysia, only one Singaporean – Vincent Ng – took part.
When asked why there is so little participation from Singaporeans, he said: “It’s not cheap to compete and there is a lack of support from sponsors. I was very lucky to have received funding from Hong Tsui, the boss of 9tro magazine.
“It also doesn’t help that Singapore has very strict controls on vehicle specifications, unlike Malaysia. Moreover, there is a lack of space to hold drift events and for drifters to practise in, as well as a lack of initiatives for drifting to be taught the right way.”
Benjamin Khoo, technical director of Driftpac, the company which owns the rights to Formula Drift in Asia, said: “It’s a chicken-and-egg story. There is a drifting community in Singapore with followers and enthusiasts who are keen to master the basics of drifting.
“However, various factors hold them back and thus the lack of drivers might be a reason why no one is actively promoting drifting as a competitive form of motorsport.”
With such difficulties, it is no surprise that local drivers find it tough to compete. In Formula Drift Singapore, only a fifth of the participants are from Singapore, with none making it to the top eight.
The event is slated to return for a fourth time in June. With less than two months to go, it seems like it will again become a spectator event for the public, instead of a competitive ground for our drifters to shine.