Text by Cheryl Tay
Photos courtesy of Jane Cheah
Jane Cheah is not a name unfamiliar to the world of Goodyear and drifting. The Goodyear Racing female drifter is a constant sight at regional drift competitions and so far, has been the only female participant in all the rounds of Formula Drift Asia.
Her cheerful and chirpy soul will not fail to appeal to you and the ready smiles she hands out like sunlight are infectiously optimistic. Adding to her uniqueness is her husband Ariff Johanis, a leading drifter also on the Goodyear Racing team. This Malaysian drift couple have created waves of all forms in the region and if you have not heard of them then you must be missing out a lot on the drifting scene here.
Google Jane’s name (either Jane Cheah or Azrina Jane Abdullah) and you will find a flurry of interviews and features of her. We all know she is Malaysia’s top female drifter and when she’s not busy with her work (no she is not a full-time drifter) or taking care of her baby girl, she is somewhere smoking tires.
Having been an active lady since she was young, Jane was engaged in surfing, wakeboarding, roller hockey and jet-skiing. Her mother used to get worried whenever she was off to a surfing trip or some potentially risky activity. Adventure-driven and adrenalin-inclined, it wasn’t difficult to get Jane keen in motorsports.
Her interest in drifting kicked in when she was involved as organiser for a related event. “I started to learn how to drift by sitting next to Ariff when he was also just picking it up back in 2003. After he attained his second drift car – the Nissan Skyline R32 GTS – I took over his first drift car – the Nissan Laurel C33 – and started competing in drifting from there,” said the 33-year-old mother of one.
Being the great Xena the Warrior-like girl at heart she is, Jane’s first official drift competition was the D1GP Exhibition Round in 2005. Still new to drifting, she was just expecting to gain some exposure and take home the experience. Indeed, her efforts were recognised and she got herself a trophy as “Best Try-er Drifter” for the day.
She went on to compete in all levels of drifting – from the grassroots level all the way to the professional Formula Drift Asia series. Together with hubby Ariff, they run their own drift academy and hold clinics for people who want to start drifting.
Having Ariff by her side as her mentor, friend, advisor and shoulder to cry on, Jane is proud to be a Goodyear ambassador and also the only female who has ever competed in Formula Drift Asia. However, she has never met with any form of discrimination and is well-liked across the circuit by both fans and competitors alike.
Having last met her at Formula Drift Singapore, let’s get to know Jane better through the following questions…
Q: How do you feel about being part of the Goodyear Racing team?
A: I’m ecstatic about being part of the team and it is great to see global multi-national corporations sponsoring motorsports, especially drifting. A Goodyear driver is selected based on several criteria – driving skills, professionalism, personality and most importantly, the ability to be a good ambassador for the brand.
Q: What is the greatest challenge in drifting?
A: One of the greatest challenges is the need to constantly improve ourselves and our skills. Because drifting is a rather new phenomenon in this region, there aren’t many events in which we could polish as well as showcase our skills. This is one of the reasons why we’re grateful to Goodyear for promoting drifting and raising the awareness of the sport with its sponsorship of drivers, as well as creating its own drift series to encourage more people to step up and try.
Q: What do you think of the drifting scene in Malaysia as well as in Asia and how can it be improved?
A: The drifting scene is quickly gaining popularity and is arguably the fastest growing form of motorsports in Asia and in Malaysia. We’re seeing a lot of interest in this sport and it has become one of the most popular forms of competitive motorsports. We’re thankful that companies such as Goodyear are sponsoring such events. This is an important step forward when it comes to uplifting the standards of the sport.
Q: Do you think sharing the same interest strengthens the love?
A: For me, I am a simple person and as long as I can find a partner who can share everything from passion to interest to work, he will be the one.
Q: What are some of the comments you’ve received about being a husband-wife team?
A: We get a lot of couples coming up to us and the husbands would tell me that they want their wives to learn drifting from me. I’m honoured to be setting an example and inspiring others.
Q: How do you feel about being the only female in Formula Drift Asia so far?
A: Being the sole female drifter in Formula Drift Asia is testament to the fact that drifting is gaining popularity – even among women – in the region. It’s not difficult being a woman in such a male-dominated sport. Most people are actually surprised to see a woman but I receive a lot of encouragement from other male drifting competitors and I do not get despised!
Q: Do you think there are any advantages or disadvantages about being a female in such male-dominated territory?
A: There aren’t any real advantages being a woman in drifting or racing – being good at the sport isn’t determined by gender but rather, by skill, passion and commitment.
Name: Azrina JANE Abdullah
Team: Goodyear Sync Optima
DOB: 21 June 1977
Spoken languages: English, Malay, Mandarin, Japanese
Car: Nissan 180SX
*This was first published in Goodyear Singapore’s trade newsletter.