Formula Drift S’pore 2011: Team SPARK Motorsports dominates podium

Written by Cheryl Tay on . Posted in Cheryl Tay Blog | Blog Post of Cheryl Tay

I have been waiting for Formula Drift Singapore to arrive and finally it did! I had a greater role to play in this year’s Formula Drift Asia series – writing the official guidebook, managing the photoshoot for the drivers and their cars, and of course, taking photos for the event. 


SPARK Motorsports really went all out this time, filling up their team with foreign talent like D1GP 2008 champion Daigo Saito and Formula Drift USA regulars Ken Gushi, Robbie Nishida and Charles Ng. It was a pity they dropped Singaporean Ivan Lim, leaving the Singaporean team with no local representatives!


They really knew how to take care of their drivers though – with race queens decked out in orange skin-hugging outfits to shelter the drivers and provide tissues as well as cold water to help them tolerate the heat.


Providing complimentary umbrellas to the public, the bright orange SPARK Motorsports umbrellas were life savers at the event which poured relentlessly on Saturday afternoon and scorched hot on Sunday.


For the benefit of those who cannot see the text in this tiny battle bracket, I will go on to report on the individual battles. Complete with pictures, carry on reading!


FDSG_-_Battle_BracketTop 32 Battles: Fight for Top 16

The Top 32 battles were brought forward by an hour to 10.30 am on a bright Sunday morning. The crowds were only just started to fill in, as the gates opened to public at 10.00 am. In the 16 battles in this round of 32, there were no One More Times being called but some spins and a tiny incident were witnessed. 


Presenting the 16 battles of the Top 32:


1. Tan Tat Wei – Bye: Tat Wei wins

Because there were only 31 drivers who qualified, highest qualifier Tan Tat Wei of Goodyear Malaysia had a bye and just did one run by himself.


2. Daigo Saito vs Bullzai: Daigo wins

Many people dream of meeting their idol, but getting to compete against their idol is a whole new sensation altogether. Thrilled at getting to go up against Saito – one of Bullzai’s favourite drifters – Bullzai (Muhammad Zaiham Hamdan) called it an “awesome” experience! 


3. Oat Opt vs Dean: Dean wins

Oat (Kulachart Rhuvatana) of the Red Bull Drift Team Thailand was up against Dean (Raden Muhammad Bachtiar Akbar) of Indonesia, who was taking part in Formula Drift for the first time. The newbie did well to win Oat and move to the top 16. 


4. Ah Fai vs Armando: Ah Fai wins

Armando (Muhammad Rulli Armando) of Indonesia is also new to Formula Drift. A household name in Malaysian drifting, Ah Fai (Ser Ming Hui) took the win.


5. Daynom Templeman vs Jo: Jo wins

Daynom has always been a strong competitor, it was Jo (Wattanaporn Phungpearn) in the ‘police car’ that went on to the Top 16 instead.


6. Josh Boettcher vs Charles Ng: Josh wins

First time in Formula Drift, Josh Boettcher beat Charles to the Top 16, as Charles made a mistake and went off course at the first clipping point.


7. Ken Gushi vs Pond: Ken wins

Kenshiro Gushi is only 24 years of age but has been drifting for years already! Although it’s his first time in Singapore and first time at Formula Drift Asia, his experience at Formula Drift USA proved useful as he adapted quickly to the track and won Pond (Daychapon Toyingcharoen).


8. D Kohkae vs Ariff: D Kohkae wins

This was the first incident of the day as both cars collided (at fairly low speeds as they were exiting the hairpin) and D Kohkae (Terdthoon Ruayjaroensap)’s car suffered some damage. The win was given to D Kohkae, while Ariff felt bad about the incident and apologised to him after.


9. Ivan Lau vs Jason Tan: Ivan wins

Jason Tan was the only Singaporean who made it to the Top 32, just making it in 31st place. He meets Malaysian drift household name Ivan Lau and fails to make it to the Top 16.


10. Pop vs Michael Gan: Michael wins

Pop (Jatuphon Manpatarapong) is hard to be missed with his loud Toyota Soarer JZZ30 that’s running on with the 1UZ-FE V8 engine and NOS! His car goes ‘POP!’ ‘POP!’ ‘POP!’ just like his nickname! Unfortunately, he spun and hence Michael was awarded the win.


11. Mai vs M. Hermawan: Mai wins

Mai (Chaiwat Panthayangkool) meets Formula Drift rookie Muhamad Hermawan of Indonesia and wins him to move on.


12. Amandio vs Robbie Nishida: Robbie wins

It is such a pity that these two had to meet so early in the battle bracket as they are both good enough to be in the Top 16 at least. Amandio is only 18 years of age and was only 16 when he first participated in Formula Drift Asia. Finishing overall third at last year’s Formula Drift Asia series, Amandio was all ready to battle Robbie, who has far more experience than him. It was a close run and Amandio felt a One More Time could have been called, but the judges didn’t think so.


13. Ee Yoong Cherng vs Lim Zee King: Yoong wins [*All-Malaysian battle]

Zee King unfortunately understeered and went off course at the first clipping point when he was leading, giving Yoong the win.


14. Kiki Sak Nana vs Mick: Kiki wins [*All-Thai battle]

Red Bull Drift Team Thailand leader Kiki Sak Nana (Drift King of Thailand) is eager to do well and gets one step closer to his goal by winning Mick (Nattapol Tiawphaibul) of the PTT Performa Achilles Team who spun!


15. Non vs Tong: Non wins [*All-Thai battle]

Drift God of Thailand Non (Saranon Pornpatanarak) of the M150 Overdrive Team ran against Tong (Nakarin Tawachpakdi) of the Red Bull Drift Team Thailand and lived up to his reputation.


16. Rhenadi Arinton vs Ju: Ju wins

Known as Rowdy now, Rhenadi Arinton of Indonesia went up against Ju (Somchai Aroonrung) and unfortunately lost when he spun.


Top 16 Battles: Fight for Top 8

There was an interval after the Top 32 battles before the Top 16 battles, giving everyone the chance to grab lunch and also collect drivers’ autographs during the public pit walkabout. 


During this interval, Singaporean drifter Adam Toh proposed to his wife-to-be Grace Tai (see other report) and Dai Yoshihara did donuts for charity (see other report too). 


The Top 16 then came out for a drivers’ parade:


After lining their cars up in front of the crowd, introductions of the drivers were made before they returned to the pits and prepared for the Top 16 battles!


1. Tan Tat Wei vs Daigo Saito: Daigo wins

This was a little controversial as Daigo spun on his chase run at the last corner. However, Tat Wei did not chase hard enough and that was a bigger penalty. Calling for One More Time, Daigo made no mistakes this time as he chased close and led far.


2. Dean vs Ah Fai: Dean wins

This is the first major upset of the day I felt, as rookie Dean beat Ah Fai and goes into Top 8 after the latter made a costly mistake.


3. Jo vs Josh Boettcher: Josh wins

Jo messed up his own run by going wide at the first clipping point when chasing Josh.


4. Ken Gushi vs D Kohkae: Ken wins

This was another good battle, both aggressive and fierce. It was Ken’s experience that prevailed.


5. Ivan Lau vs Michael Gan: Ivan wins [*All-Malaysian battle]

Ivan managed to stay close to Michael when chasing but conversely, Michael wasn’t able to keep as close to Ivan.


6. Mai vs Robbie Nishida: Mai wins

Robbie and Mai had a rather close run and One More Time was called. Mai was really performing as he put up a good run to win it.


7. Ee Yoong Cherng vs Kiki Sak Nana: Yoong wins

This was the loooooooooongest battle of the day. In the first battle, Kiki made a soft impact with Yoong as they slowed down into the hairpin, causing Yoong to spin. One More Time was called, but both of them kept taking turns to make mistakes and another One More Time was called. Their battle dragged into the Top 8 battles, some of which ran first while waiting. Finally, it was Yoong who progressed, leaving a rather pissed Kiki behind.


8. Non vs Ju: Non wins [*All-Thai battle]

What can I say? Non is indeed good.


Top 8 Battles: Fight for Top 4


1. Daigo Saito vs Dean: Daigo wins

Clean run and no mistakes from Daigo! Pulling so far ahead when leading and coming in oh-so-close on the chase…


2. Josh Boettcher vs Ken Gushi: Ken wins

Ken was on form as he took the Chaser round the track in brilliant display.


3. Ivan Lau vs Mai: Ivan wins

It was a good battle between both… until Mai spun at the last corner.


4. Ee Yoong Cherng vs Non: Non wins

Non was consistently performing well, taking Yoong quite easily.


Final 4 Battles: Fight for Top 2


The final four names in the competition were Daigo Saito, Ken Gushi, Ivan Lau and Non. Too bad Daigo and Ken were on the same side of the bracket and had to meet in the semi-finals.. wouldn’t a final between them be interesting?


I enjoyed the battle between Daigo and Ken, where Daigo proved to be too good for anyone that day.. save for the few mistakes he made throughout the weekend.


Non then became the highest Thai finisher when he beat Ivan to meet Daigo for the championship title fight.

Before the exciting final, Ivan and Ken battled for 3rd/4th placing first, where Ken confidently took the win. Speaking to Ivan after the event, he didn’t seem all that satisfied and felt that he could have done better.


The Thai drifters – across the different teams – have one thing in common: their admiration for Daigo. When Davide Doringo and Jo of the PTT Performa Team met Daigo at Formula Drift Malaysia last year, they were over the moon at being able to compete against their idol. Jo was this close to winning Daigo, if only his accelerator didn’t get stuck.


Likewise for Non, he was super overjoyed at the opportunity to go against Daigo and was very honoured to compete against him and learn from someone so experienced. Non gave his best but Daigo was really too strong that weekend and sealed the win.


I like Daigo’s crazy no-fear style of drifting – he swings into corners at high speeds and comes dangerously close to you on the chase. That’s called style.. wild style.


So it was a Team SPARK Motorsports dominated podium with Daigo in first and Ken in third. Sandwiched between them was Non, who is proud to be on the podium of Formula Drift Asia.


At the press conference, Ken admitted that he was not expecting to be on the podium and hence was ecstatic about the podium finish. Non was absolutely thrilled about going against his idol. As for Daigo, he was a little worried as he made some mistakes (such as spinning on the wet track during his first qualifying run and having to keep it safe on his second run; and also spinning at the last corner in tandem battles) but managed to keep his performance levels high to secure the win.


As there is also a team championship now – just like Formula 1 – SPARK Motorsports was given the award for this round.


Some people were asking me about Malaysia’s Prince of Drift Tengku Djan. 2010 Formula Drift Asia champion Djan was at the event but as a spectator/observer and not as a competitor. Rifat Sungkar of Indonesia was also present but not as a driver. When will these two be back?


The next round of Formula Drift Asia will be in Indonesia for the first time in October. 


Meanwhile, you can catch Round 4 of Formula Drift USA in New Jersey this weekend! Watch it ‘live’ on

Cheryl Tay

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Singapore’s only female full-time motoring and motorsports photojournalist. Independent automotive consultant and prominent local motorsports personality Cheryl Tay is uniquely passionate about all things cars and motorsports. She also has a strong passion to share her interest and knowledge, hence having a dream to become the ‘Oprah Winfrey of cars and motorsports’ and create a multimedia platform for her sharing. - A female in a male-dominated world, Cheryl Tay is Singapore’s only female full-time motoring journalist and motorsports blogger and she regularly writes for prominent titles in Singapore, Asia and internationally. (See full list of titles that Cheryl Tay writes for here.)

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