35 degrees of heat from the sun did little to deter more than 6000 spectators from turning up at the F1 Pit Building at Marina Bay on Sunday, Jun 12. Instead, these fans were there for hotter things – race queens and ultimately, the blazing action and speed at finals of the VIP Formula Drift Singapore 2011.
The racers blasted off early at 10.30am in the morning, in anticipation of wet weather in the afternoon. Thankfully, the rain never came and a safe, slip-free drive was in store for the drivers.
The Round of 32 saw tandem battles among drivers from Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Japan and even America. Drifters had maneuver through 3 tricky bends in attempts to outrun one another. Points taken from 2 races would be aggregated and the winner of that round would move on to the Sweet 16.
However, it was certainly not a day of celebration for Singaporean driver Jason Tan. Tan, who qualified at 31st place, was knocked out of the Round of 32 by Malaysian rival Ivan Lau, who would make his way to 4th place later.
As noon crawled by and more drivers qualified for the Sweet 16, one driver found his chances of carrying on with the race jeopardised. D Kohkae from Thailand saw the front bumper of his vehicle come off after he and Malaysian drifter Ariff Johanis of Goodyear Sync Optima collided round the 2nd turn.
Still, he showed resolve and strength to drive on instead of waiting to be towed away. His spirit and determination paid off, as he was declared the winner of the round. There was a gentlemanly side to competitor Ariff as well, as he apologised to D Kohkae for causing damage. Fortunately, technicians ruled that the Thai would still be able to carry onto the next round, as the car was still operable.
As the Round of 32 came to a close and things started to cool, out on the track came Grace, the girlfriend of Singaporean drifter Adam Toh. Looking puzzled, she stood on the tarmac after the announcer told her of her ‘win’ at a ‘lucky draw’.
Confusion ensued when a car spun past Grace, doing donuts around her before finally screeching to a stop. Then out of the car emerged Adam, holding a bouquet. Speaking into the microphone, he proposed to Grace, to which she accepted.
Look who’s the lucky one now, Adam.
At the same time, in support of those less lucky, competition judge Daijiro Yoshihara agreed to perform donuts around a race queen. Each time he successfully did so, $100 would be donated to charity. Proceeds would go to help rebuild his home country, Japan, which was ravaged by the triple disaster in March.
After these festivities died down, out rolled the Sweet 16 contenders. One racer, Ah Fai, gamely tossed out a T-shirt to the fans in the stands whilst driving past. The Malaysian, whose real name is Ser Ming Hui, later lost out to Dean of Indonesia.
The show progressed as quickly as the cars went and soon, the battle was between 4 racers – Japanese Daigo Saito, Malaysian Ivan Lau, Thai driver Non and American-born Japanese Kenshiro Gushi, who goes by his shortened name Ken Gushi.
It was the 25-year-old’s debut ride on Singaporean soil and he faced off with his Team Spark Motorsports compatriot Daigo Saito. Saito claimed victory over Gushi, while on the other hand, Non beat Ivan Lau.
Gushi and Lau fight for third place was no easy feat for both drivers. Gushi created a huge gulf between him and the driver of car number 59 in the first round, before being overtaken by the Malaysian in the second. But it was still enough to ensure that Gushi clinched 3rd place – a fitting consolation for the Asia debutant who has been racing in America since the start of his career.
The final boiled down to two contenders – Daigo Saito and Non. The first round saw Non go ahead of Saito by a small gap, but Saito dominated in the second. That proved vital as he was unanimously proclaimed the champion of the competition.
Popping his bottle of champagne and gulping it down the next moment, Saito was clearly pleased with his feat of retaining the very title he won last year. Speaking through Gushi, his translator, he said he felt very pleased with this year’s event and was looking forward to the next.