By Cheryl Tay
SINGAPORE - Despite the lack of a permanent drift skid to practise on and weak commercial support, this year will see the most number of Singaporeans participating in Formula Drift Singapore.
Nine drift racers will represent Singapore next Saturday and Sunday at Changi Exhibition Centre, where the second round of the Formula Drift Asia series will take place.
Previously, the highest number of Singaporean participation was eight drivers in 2010.
Three new faces - Geoveen Hi, Vincent Ng and Alvin Tay - will join seasoned competitors Ivan Lim, Jansen Tan, Felix Lim, Benjamin Chiam, Winston Ang and Jason Tan.
After managing his own drift team - Team Exotic Drift - for the past four years, Hi decided to relinquish his team-manager role this year and get behind the wheel.
As for Ng, he was supposed to participate two years ago, but his car did not meet the technical specifications required.
Tay made the decision to take part only a few days ago, after participating in last Sunday's Team Westlake drift-clinic shakedown.
Ivan Lim and Felix Lim are the only racers to have taken part every year since the inaugural Formula Drift Singapore, held in 2008.
Said Felix Lim: "Formula Drift was relatively unknown to the average Singaporean when it first entered the scene four years ago. However, it has since built up a strong profile and awareness.
"The increased exposure is great, but the technical regulations are strict and not everyone has the budget.
"It would be awesome should a Singaporean stand on the Formula Drift podium one day. That will definitely encourage more Singaporean drivers to participate."
There are three former local participants who have fallen off the Formula Drift radar: Adam Toh, Colin Teo and Yusuff Shah, all of whom were part of the pioneer batch of Formula Drift Singapore competitors.
Teo last competed in Formula Drift in 2009, while Toh and Yusuff stopped after 2010. Said Yusuff: "With minimal opportunity to practise in Singapore, and lack of monetary and parts sponsorship, I decided to put drifting on hold to pursue my career as a commodities trader.
"Hopefully, I can make enough money to come back to the sport in the near future."
As for Toh, he is in the midst of transitioning his new drift car, and feels that he still has some way to go before his car will be competitive enough for Formula Drift.
He feels that there is a need to provide access to a feeder league, so as to cultivate interest and ensure qualification to Formula Drift.
The writer is a freelance motoring journalist and an established motor-sports blogger.
For more my paper stories click here.