By SARENRAJ RAJENDRAN
Photos by ABEL CHI
It’s not every day you get to watch some of Asia’s best drift racers in action performing their inch-perfect swerving manoeuvers. Well for us BRATs, we got to actually be in the car with those drivers.
Last Saturday, Malaysia’s “Price of Drift” Tengku Djan Ley and Japanese drift star Robbie Nishida took the BRATs on a spin around the circuit of Speed City Kuala Lumpur.
When we got to the tarmac, the smell of burnt rubber and high octane fuel immediately hit us. The drivers were in Malaysia along with other superstars of the sport like Daigo Saito, Masao Suenaga and Fredric Asabo for the Malaysian leg of the 2013 Achilles Formula Drift Asia series, which was taking place the next day.
The pit lanes were already a hive of activity, with teams busy preparing and fans standing around hoping to get pictures taken with their favourite drift racers.
We BRATs however, were busy getting strapped in the passenger seat of some mean looking machines for our very first drift experience. By now, we had already seen some demonstrations on how these drivers swerve mere inches away from the safety barriers at high speed. It was hard not to be nervous.
First up was BRATs 2011 graduate Abel Chi, whose “driver” for the day Tengku Djan, the Formula Drift Asia 2010 champion and runner-up in 2012. Up next was yours truly, who rode with Nishida.
The minute they waved that green flag and the drivers floored their accelerators, we were instantly locked to our seats by the G-force. They said the thrust generated by the cars at the starting line is similar to that of a roller coaster – and we’d have to say it felt pretty similar too.
While the drivers were swerving through the course, they also gave us quick lessons on how drifting is induced on their cars. It wasn’t easy to pay attention, though. We often felt like the car was about to swerve completely out of control, only for the drivers to easily and expertly drift them in and out of some pretty tight spots.
the opportunity to experience the sport up close, so they can have a better feel for the motorsport that he is so passionate about.
But Tengku Djan, who is also a vehicle dynamics engineer, knows it’s not a sport just anyone can get into.
Getting a rear-wheel drive car (which you need in order to drift) alone will cost about RM40,000 to RM50,000. After that, there are the safety modifications and various tune-ups, which would put a professional car at over RM150,000.
And having an engine that pumps an average of up to 600 horsepower is not the result of a one time modification – it requires regular maintenance. Aviation grade fuel is used on these powerful machines, with market prices going up to RM20 to RM25 per litre, depending on quality.
“Drifting can be a costly sport. But it’s all about how you climb the ladder,” said Tengku Djan, who was first introduced to the sport by his father.
“Participate in local amateur tournaments where skills matter more than the cars. Winning those tournaments will get you, step-by-step, closer to sponsorships.”
For more photos of the BRATs’ drift experience with Tengku Djan Ley and Robbie Nishida, log on to our Facebook page (facebook.com/starbrats).