Five years ago, not many would have known what drifting is, but now, the average person on the street may be more aware of this modern form of motorsport is.
Unlike in most motorsports, where competitors are judged on speed, drifting is more about completing a marked course in the best style. Indeed, drifters, as participants are called, are judged based on their style, angle, line and also speed, as they coax their machines sideways.
Professional drifting series Formula Drift Asia was created in 2008 when Marcus Lim, general manager of regional tyre distributor Binter Pte Ltd, bought the franchise rights from the North American drift series Formula Drift and set up Driftpac Pte Ltd.
That year, Lim plough in S$850,000 to plan, organise and market the inaugural Formula Drift Singapore. Part of the money also went into the creation of his own drift team.
His endeavours have paid dividends. Over the last four years, Formula Drift Singapore became part of a multi-round Asian drifting series as the championship expanded to Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
The second round of this sporting and commercial behemoth -- the 2012 Formula Drift Asia Series -- will take place in Singapore on 30 June and 1 July (Saturday and Sunday).
The event is not just growing commercially; The skill levels of the drivers have also increased by leaps and bounds, as the cars become more powerfull. As a result, top names in the circuits, such as Japan's Daigo Saito and Manabu Orido, as well as Malaysia's Prince of Drift Tengku Djan, will all be strutting their stuff in the full series this year.
In Singapore, next to Formula 1, Formula Drift is probably the next highest profiled in terms of the media coverage and participation. It was held at Turns 1, 2 and 3 of the Formula 1 Marina Bay street circuit the last two years, but will return to the place where it started, the Changi Exhibition Centre, this year.
Lim attested to the growing popularity of the sport when he pointed to "the sponsors that have come onboard", such as Canon, X-mini and Casio.
Speaking at the Team Westlake drif clinic held on 17 June, he added, "I firmly believe that the platform we have provides the best bang for buck in terms of media promotion and brand awareness as compared to any other form of sports."
Besides Lim, the event was also attended by Formula Drift USA's Kenshiro Gushi and Thailand's Saranon Pornpatanarak.
Gushi was in town that weekend to launch the new team that he will be representing — G-Shock Kumho Tires. It is the first time Casio is sponsoring a racing team in Singapore and a limited edition 300-piece Formula Drift G-Shock watch was also manufactured to commemorate the sponsorship.
Having been competing in Formula Drift USA since 2004, Gushi made his Formula Drift Asian debut at last year's Singapore leg and clinched third place on the podium. He has also drifted in other places around the world including Qatar and Dubai.
Sharing his thoughts on the drifting scene in Southeast Asia, Gushi said, "Formula Drift Asia is relatively young compared to the parent series Formula Drift USA which has been around for almost a decade.
"The drivers out here in Asia are definitely talented and able to easily put out a good fight in the USA. Just give them time and experience. The audience in Southeast Asia is different too — back in USA the crowds are very loud and connected to us drivers. We get pretty personal with our fans and treat them as friends, whereas the fans out here seem to be more quiet and conservative. I want them to open up; they are more than welcome to come and hang out with us!"
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.