BY CHERYL TAY
For a moment it seemed like Indonesian Rio Saputro Budihardjo might cause an upset at last weekend's Formula Drift Singapore. Relatively new to the Formula Drift Asia scene, Rio made his Formula Drift debut at last year's Singapore leg and has not graced the podium yet — although coming close when he finished fourth at Formula Drift Indonesia last October.
After qualifying an astonishing second place last Saturday, Rio went into the tandem battles on Sunday and impressively beat the likes of Malaysia's leading drifter Ser Ming Hui in the round of 16 and American-Japanese Ken Gushi in the Top 8. It wasn't easy going against Ser though — it was only after two One-More-Times (term in drifting used for a re-match) before Rio was awarded the win.
Meeting Hanizam Hamzah from Malaysia in the semi-finals next, Rio got past that and found himself in the top 2 against Daigo Saito. Daigo is the reigning Formula Drift Asia 2011 champion who has won every single round of Formula Drift Asia since he made his debut in Malaysia in 2010. This is not the first time that Rio is going against Daigo, having met him in the Top 16 battles at Formula Drift Malaysia last December and losing to him, but this time Rio was a little more confident.
Unfortunately, Rio spun out in the first run with Daigo leading. That mistake was evened out however, when Daigo straightened out at the final clipping point in the subsequent chase run. Going for One-More-Time, Daigo gained the advantage when he put up a strong lead run, leaving Rio in his smoke. During the chase run, Daigo applied the pressure onto Rio and caused the latter to spin. That gave Daigo the win — his sixth consecutive Formula Drift Asia win.
"Daigo is a stronger competitor and a very consistent one, so I just tried my best to push my car. His car is a lot more powerful than mine but I believe anything can happen in this world and I could have stood a better chance if I was calmer and more focused. Nonetheless, winning second place was fantastic, especially when I did poorly at last year's Formula Drift Singapore and did not qualify at all. I am looking forward to the next round as I feel that I have not fully maximised my potential," said Rio.
Of the nine Singaporean drivers who participated in Formula Drift Singapore, eight of them qualified in the Top 30 and Jansen Tan was the only one who made it to the Top 16. He said, "I am working on my comeback since last competing in 2010 and it is great to see progress. I got slaughtered at Formula Drift Malaysia where I only qualified 23rd. This time I qualified 10th and I think it's a pretty good improvement. I was hoping to better Top 16 but I lacked the tandem experience and lost to Ken Gushi. Most importantly though, I enjoyed myself as I had nothing to lose going against Ken and in my opinion I put up a good fight. I'll keep working on my car and of course, on my own skill level."
The next round of Formula Drift Asia will be in the fourth quarter of the year in Thailand, before the finale in Indonesia.
Passionate about cars and motorsports, Cheryl Tay is a familiar face in prominent local, regional as well as international automotive titles. More of her at www.cheryl-tay.com.