By Chan Han Keong
New car build, no problem. Japan's Daigo Saito underlined his dominance in the Formula Drift Asia series yesterday, as he retained the Achilles Formula Drift Singapore title at the Changi Exhibition Centre.
The 32-year-old defending champion from the Achilles Drift Team edged out Indonesia's Rio Saputro Budihardjo in a tense final, which needed a re-race in order to decide the eventual winner.
In the first tandem run, Budihardjo spun out to put Saito in the lead, but the Japanese was penalised for straightening out at the final clipping point in the reverse run, forcing the re-race.
The 20-year-old Indonesian, who races for the GT Radial Drift Team, spun out again in the reverse run to hand the title to the jubilant Saito.
"I think I was calmer during the re-race," Saito said, after the race. "Thank goodness I quickly forgot about my initial mistake and concentrated on doing another good race.
"Considering that I'm still getting used to my new car build, and that Rio is in great form in this competition, I'm really happy to be able to retain this title."
Saito had switched from a Lexus Altezza race car to a Lexus IS-C this year, and it has already won him the Malaysian leg of the Formula Drift Asia series.
While the Japanese basks in another triumph, Budihardjo remained cheerful about his second placing, insisting that he had not expected to do so well over the weekend.
"I never underestimate other racers, but this will definitely give me more confidence in my racing," he said.
Malaysia's Hanizam Hamzah finished on the podium after beating the United States' Robbie Nishida in a tight battle for third place.
Over 9,000 drift-racing fans attended the two-day competition, which saw the first Canon Nations Cup won by Nishida and Ken Gushi of Team USA last Saturday.
The Achilles Formula Drift Series will now move on to the third leg in Bangkok in September, with the final leg set to take place in Jakarta in November.
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