But that’s just how unpredictable and in some ways, unsurprising, motorsports can get.
Drifting is a harsh sport, where a spin is an immediate score of zero. It may be easy to be awed by the fanciful displays of smoking rubber and screeching tyres, but a lot more goes on behind the wheel.
The third and final leg of the inaugural Formula Drift Asia 2010 series was held at Dataran Merdeka in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
43 drivers challenged for the title of Formula Drift Malaysia champion on a unique track layout – with three rear clipping points including a hairpin – never seen before at Formula Drift Asia.
Sadly, there were no Singaporeans within the competing field. Other than the 17 Malaysians, there were 13 Thais and the rest of the drivers hailed from Japan, Indonesia, Brazil and New Zealand.
The weekend was off to a promising start for the Malaysians as 14 of them 17 qualified for the top 32, along with nine Thais. Malaysia’s Prince of Drift Tengku Djan Ley – who won last year’s Formula Drift Malaysia – was looking good after scoring 83.8 with the fastest speed of 114.4km/h to qualify in third place.
Unfortunately, Djan’s journey did not last very long when he spun during the chase run against fellow Malaysian Ser Ming Hui in the round of 32.
Ser, only one of two Malaysians who progressed to the top 16, went on to beat Hashiguti Anderson Toyoshi of Brazil but lost to Rifat Sungkar of Indonesia in the round of 8 after knocking the wall and causing his rear right wheel to suffer from positive camber.
Top qualifier Daynom Templeman of New Zealand pleased the crowd and impressed the judges, scoring 91.7 with entry speed of 112.2km/h in his Mazda RX-7. He later lost to Ryuji Miki – 2004 D1GP champion and 2008 Formula Drift Singapore winner – in the top 8 battles.
Miki met Daigo Saito – 2008 D1GP champion who was at his first ever Formula Drift event – in the semi-finals and it was Saito who won and moved on to the finals instead.
It was a bumpy journey to the finals for Saito though.
In the Toyota Aristo sponsored by Hong Kong team TRC Racing, Saito first met Davide Dorigo of Thailand, before meeting another Thai Wattanaporn Phungpearn (otherwise known as Joe) who almost took Saito out of the competition.
During the second run when Joe was the lead car, Saito made a mistake and stopped midway in the hairpin. It was Joe’s battle to lose and indeed he did when he crashed into the wall as he exited the hairpin. The judges did call for one more time, but damage to Joe’s car ruined his second chance.
Saito met a third consecutive Thai challenger Non Saranon – where the judges called for one more time too – before meeting Miki in the semis.
Up against Saito in the final was Terdthoon Ruayjaroensap (D Koh-Kae), the Thai King of Nuts – Koh-Kae is a famous brand of peanuts in Thailand.
D Koh-Kae did very well, qualifying in second with 85.7 points in his Nissan Cefiro AE31. He defeated David Feliciano of the Philippines, Charles Ng of Hong Kong, then Rhenadi Arinton of Indonesia before meeting Rifat in the other semi-final.
This is his first year of competitive drifting but D Koh-Kae has made it to the finals in only his second Formula Drift competition – the first was at Formula Drift Thailand. It was a heart-pounding battle as D Koh-Kae put up an aggressive fight against Saito, eventually losing when he spun at the end of the hairpin.
“Making it to the finals was more than what I expected. I knew it would be a good learning experience as there are professionals like Saito and Miki, as well as Djan. I’m very proud of myself for being able to keep up with Saito when I was chasing, although I made a mistake at the end,” said D Koh-Kae after the event.
He added, “Finishing in the top three is a bonus for me, next year I will take part in every Formula Drift Asia event!”
Relieved and happy to be at the top of the podium of his first ever Formula Drift, Saito commented, “I’ve always wanted to compete in Formula Drift and I finally found an opportunity. I came with the aim to win and although there were close shaves along the way, I was lucky and I’m happy to have won. I will return for more Formula Drift competitions if there are opportunities.”
Rounding up the podium is Miki in third place after he won Rifat. The latter was given a subsidiary award for the "Most Competitive Driver".
No Malaysian went home empty-handed at the end of the day though. For accumulating the most championship points over the three rounds in Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia this year, Djan was awarded with the overall Formula Drift Asia title.
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