One day she hopes to start up her own drifting academy and encourage more people to join the motorsports scene. Leona Chin picked up drifting through fellow Malaysians in forums and at drifting clinics, and has made a name for herself as one of the young budding female drivers in Malaysia.
The 24-year-old enjoys feeling the car move sideways and being able to control and maintain it sideways into a corner. The ultimate challenge for her is overcoming her weaknesses but the best way to learn is to make mistakes and not repeat them after that.
“I see that the popularity of drifting is growing but at a slow rate. I think there is a huge gap between the beginners and the veterans. The only way for the amateurs to improve is to have more local events conducted at the beginner level so they can brush up their skills, as the bigger events are too advanced for their level,” said Leona.
Focusing on circuit racing and rallying this year, Leona still performs drift demonstrations at events. Read on for more of Leona.
Q: How did you get started in drifting?
A: I started out as a spectator and often watched drift events near my place. One day I got a joyride from one of the drifters and I was hooked. My mum bought me a Nissan 200SX to drive to college then, not knowing that she had bought me a drift car! Inspired by Japanese drift king Keiichi Tsuchiya, I started drifting at the age of 20. Another Malaysian drifter Ser Ming Hui (also known as Ah Fai) taught me some basic moves and from there my passion became serious.
Q: What was your first official drift competition and how did you do?
A: My first official drift was actually for a television programme called X-tuned. I was up against a seasoned female drifter Jane Cheah. It was just a showcase between both of us, but as she has more experience and also a bigger engine compared to my CA18DET, I lost to her!
Q: How much have you spent on this drifting passion of yours? (excl. sponsorship)
A: Close to RM 20,000 – 30,000 per annum.
Q: Who are your sponsors and how much is each sponsorship deal worth?
A: My sponsors are SOL Helmets, Torqnm Lubricant Oil, V-Class Motorsports, Eneres Events, ST Wangan, R-One Racing, Puma and others. The contracts are in both cash and in kind.
Q: What are your future plans for drifting?
A: If possible, I would like to upgrade into another proper drifting machine that is more competitive, one that matches the competition standards in today’s industry. Of course, I hope a generous investor or sponsors will support me! I will continue drifting as long as I am fit and competitive in the sport.
Q: What are the three qualities that a drifter must have?
A: A nice presentable and competitive car, strong competition spirit and super smoky tyres.
Q: If I tell you today that I want to learn drifting, what are the basics I must have?
A: A manual transmission rear-wheel drive vehicle, many spare rims and tyres and the will to learn because it’s not easy.
Q: Do you participate in other motorsports?
A: This year I’m focusing more on circuit racing and rallying. I also kart on a leisure level.
Q: What sports do you engage in?
A: I go bowling for leisure. In fact, I used to bowl competitively before I started liking cars.
Q: What sports do you watch?
A: Formula 1! My idol is Kimi Raikkonen although he switched to rallying this year.
Q: What do you do in your free time?
A: During my free time, I do household chores, clean my car or meet up with my buddies for a ‘yumcha’ session. If the weather is fine, I will head to the karting track.
Q: Is it essential, or at least useful, to have a partner who shares or understand your passion?
A: It would be nice to have to share the same passion with someone; someone who can and will understand that racing is part of my life.
Q: What do you think about females competing in motorsports?
A: I think it is a positive thing because a lot of females have proven that they can be as competitive as males, despite motorsports historically being a male-dominated sport. At present, motorsports is a sport for both genders.
Q: How do you feel about being the rare female in competitions?
A: I feel like any other competitor, there to compete and to prove a point.
Q: Have you faced any form of discrimination for being female?
A: Probably behind my back there might have been some, but most of the time people are very supportive.
Q: What do you think about the stereotype that females make lousier drivers than males?
A: I think it is true unfortunately. Ladies tend not to see as far ahead as males and not check their mirrors while driving, especially the left mirror. However, women are able to multi-task in the car, like everywhere else.
Q: What do you think of male drivers then?
A: Males use the car as a tool to show off to the opposite sex. They will make more effort to show off that they are skilled drivers on the road by tailgating a car, driving with one hand or no hands, or taking a corner really fast in to show how brave they are. As a result, this over-confidence sometimes leads to accidents!
Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages about being a female in such male-dominated territory?
A: The advantages for female drivers is having more media attention and also more fans, which in turn leads to more exposure for sponsors. As for disadvantages, the males get jealous and bully females during competitions.
Name: Leona Chin Lyweoi
Occupation: Entrepreneur (Sales and marketing in my family business)
Personal car: Nissan 200SX