Formula Drift returned to Speed City Kuala Lumpur this year with an extremely diverse line-up of drivers from all over the world. Names like Ken Gushi from the US, Daigo “the Ninja” Saito from Japan of which has remained undefeated since the beginning of the Formula Drift Series, Local Malaysian drifting royalty Tengku Djan Ley of which owns the venue turned Battle grounds for this event, Japan D1 drifter Masao Suenaga and Frederic Aasbø
of whom is piloting the beastly V8 powered RS*R Toyota 86 were just some of the star studded entourage of superstars in the Drifting game that participated. This year’s Formula Drift Kuala Lumpur was a one day affair with preparations beginning Friday and Malaysia being a tropical country, it rai- no, it POURED. The first few hours of each of the days over the weekend were blessed with dry weather but as it neared the evening the grey clouds loomed in and just unleashed all its fury.
Practice runs and events booths started at 9AM when the gates were opened and the spectators started pouring in and lasted the entire Sunday until 8PM and were packed to the brim with exciting events. From International Artistes from Indonesia belting out their popular tracks to the many booths with the beautiful race queens handing out an endless barrage of cool freebies the spectators certainly got the absolute bang for buck experience.
One of the artistes from Indonesia was “Shae”, charming the crowd with her beauty and popular songs, of which were well accepted by the crowd. There was so much to see and do we didn’t know where to start, so we headed out to the designated areas around the track to sniper the drifting action.
There were a few mishaps over the weekend, minor contact with the walls that resulted in some light body damage.
Some collisions more serious than others.
Drivers from all over Asia came and fought tooth and nail, even during practice they are pushing their cars to the absolute limit like how Rocker Loh from Singapore in an S15 sponsored by West Lake, going “tripod” style through the course.
If there was a prize for the most unique car for the competition, the winner will be Tom Monkhouse whose chosen weapon was a borrowed Toyota Verossa. Even if it was not a car that was truly his own he managed to adapt to it with exceptional ease and clinched a second place victory over drivers that can describe their cars as extensions of themselves.
One of my personal favourite drifters of whom I manage to see every year since the first Formula Drift KL I covered is Robbie Nishida, seen here in the Achilles Silvia S13. I also managed to get a drift taxi ride from him during Saturday practice; the first time I have ever experienced a ride along from a professional drifter. It was truly spectacular.
This has to be one of the most well known Lexus’ out there, the Lexus ISC that is driven by the one and only Daigo “the Ninja” Saito. He maintained a rather reserved and mysterious attitude throughout the weekend, getting much less practice sessions down than his competitors, one of the organizers assuming he didn’t want to let other drivers figure out his tactics.
A returning contender to Formula Drift KL is Ken Gushi from the United States, in the Binter Toyota Chaser.
When I saw this car roll off the start the first thought that came to mind was “Is that a Porsche”? But then I realize it is the beautiful RE Amemiya kit for the FD RX7, driven by Nattawoot Krerpradab (Oat). This car is packing a gut wrenching 800 something horsepower, from an engine no larger than your regular household toaster it is a true testament that rotaries are certainly a force to be reckoned with. Team M150 from Thailand has been and still is ever supportive of the Formula Drift Asia series, with a whopping 6 car entry this year, one of which is piloted by the well known D1 Professional drifter, Masao Suenaga.
There were three participants that hailed from the land Down Under; Rob Whyte in a 350Z, Tom Monkhouse in the Toyota Verossa and Josh Boettcher in the GT Radial V8 powered S15.
Local professional drifters also got in on the action, Ariff Johanis, Ee Yoong Cherng and Bullzai to name a few. Every single one of the teams put up such an intense fight it literally had spectators on the edge of their seats or even on the edge of anything they could clamber up upon to get a better view of the action.
The usage of V8s in some of the finest chassis’ from Japan for a reliable and fast gain in power are quickly increasing in popularity, Ee Yoong Cherng’s car is an example of this trend; an R32 running a VH45DE V8.
A popular choice of car every year is the Nissan Silvia, whether it’s the older S13 or S15, A chassis that was seemingly almost purpose built for drifting; rigid, light and most importantly, rear wheel drive. After the practice sessions and tough scrutiny from the Judges and organizers of Formula Drift Asia, the Top 16 were chosen and the track suddenly became silent. This was a great time for us to check out the pits and get a closer look at all the machines and everything happening.
It was great to see such enthusiastic support from the locals and this boy certainly got my attention, with his heartwarming smile and passion for motorsports and meeting his favourite drifters. His favourite drifter is the local drift personality of whom is also from royal lineage, Tengku Djan Ley, the Prince of Drift.
Another thing that caught my attention and I believe the attention of everyone there were the presence of the race queens and girls of the sponsor booths.
How could one forget about the cars? This is what makes drifting so exciting; people are able to get up close and personal with their favourite cars and drivers, there are no barriers to stop you from meeting the best drivers in the world and that is one of the factors that keep people coming back year after year. A car that received a particularly fair bit of attention was the monstrosity piloted by Frederic Aasbø, a V8, no nonsense hardcore Nuclear Missile of a build, the RS*R GT86.
Josh Boettcher’s running a V8 car too, an S15 with a heart transplanted from a Chevrolet Pickup, with 850 rampant horses at his command.
So what if you don’t have a fire breathing V8? No worries, here’s your alternative; a giant can of NOS.
Precision is the key to reliability as seen here in the RE Amemiya kitted rotary rocket. They say blue is a colour that causes one to feel calm, but I’m not so sure about that in this case though!
The drivers were all over the place, some remained in their respective pits absorbing valuable input from their technicians before the final showdown, like Ken, listening attentively to his team and I managed to ninja this shot of him.
Each of the drivers had their own following of fans, as you can see from the reflection from Ah Fai’s shades, everyone snapping pictures of him and with him.
As tense as battles were, the drivers certainly engaged fans with a warm and friendly nature; just look at the beaming smile from Josh!
Some teams were busier than others; don’t be fooled by Tom Monkhouse’s Verossa seemingly parked there to show off to fans, he was actually delivering tyres and I quickly grabbed this shot before he made his way back to the pits.
As I was busy ogling at the cars and girls I noticed that a huge line had formed and it was time for the driver meet and greet autograph session!
The midday heat over last weekend was formidable; and the sponsor booth girls soon had a new job scope: umbrella girls.
One of the crowd favourites because of his good looks and insane drift car and skills, Frederic Aasbø.
Another local drifting hero, Mervyn Nakamura who drives the ISC suspension FD RX7.
As the last few spectators were ushered away from the meet and greet session the top 16 drivers returned to their respective pits to prepare for the tandem practice. Not long after the rumble of engines could be heard in the distance and as I stand alongside hundreds of other media personnel, our cameras locked and loaded, and waited for the beasts to be unleashed.
The A31 Cefiro were a fairly popular choice in the races as well, the primary reason is the affordability.
After the practice runs, the organizers quickly ushered the top 16 drivers off track so that they could prepare for the final battles and soon after a terrifying sight rolled in; the rain clouds have return again to watch drifting as well.
The Top 16 then lined up and headed out on the track accompanied by the dramatic music and the fervent storm clouds eager to unleash at any moment it was quite a cinematic moment. The drivers were then introduced one by one, each tossing freebies into the grandstands and around the track to zealous fans waiting with arms wide open.
The top 16 battles commenced, and resulted in 4 drivers that emerged to battle for top 3 and they are Tom Monkhouse, Ken “the Gush” Gushi, Tengku Djan Ley and Chanatpon Kerdpiam of Team Westlake S13 or by his simpler moniker, “S”. S managed to claim a first place victory with Tom Monkhouse in tow in 2nd place, and Ken in third with Tengku Djan missing out on a podium spot after an unbelievably close bout with Ken Gushi.
And that concludes this year’s action packed Formula Drift Kuala Lumpur. I cannot wait until they are back again next year!
Words – Eugene Chan
Photos – Eugene Chan