The Merdeka Square in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia or Dataran Merdeka as the locals refer to the monumental landmark, was the stage for the season-ender of the 2010 Formula Drift Asia championship. It is perhaps one of the most important landmarks in Malaysia as it was where the country marked its independence from British rule in 1957. Malaysian driver Tengku Djan Ley leads the championship going into this final round in his hometown in a specially designed street track smack in the middle of the square and the Sultan Abdul Samad Building. Judging the event were Formula Drift USA official judges Andy Yen and Anthony Angelo, and Formula Drift USA competitor Daijiro Yoshihara.
The track seemed easy with a long straight running into a hairpin at first look. This all changed when I was taken around the track on a scooter by Filipino competitor David Feliciano after the qualifying session for a closer look at the elevation changes of the seemingly 'simple' track. Competitors had to go full speed into the first clipping point at an ideal speed with their car virtually going airborne into the second clipping point as they switch to take the third clip which follows into a lollipop hairpin. This was actually the first time organizers have run an event on such a unique track with limited space.
Forty-two world-class drivers from 10 different countries from as far as half way around the world in Brazil came to heart of Kuala Lumpur to take on the challenge of Goodyear Formula Drift Malaysia 2010. Only a few of them will be able to enter the Round of 32 on the official competition day to determine who will be the best among this elite group. To ensure viewer safety, 650 tons of concrete barriers and 2-kilometers of safety metal fencing were used by the organizers along with its 300 person event staff.
Ten drivers represented the title sponsor as Team Goodyear, these include local drifters Ariff Johanis Ahmad, Jane Abdullah, Hanizam Hamzah and Michael Gan, they are accompanied by some of the region's top drifter such as Charles Ng (Hong Kong), Ryuji Miki (Japan), Daynom Templeman (New Zealand), Kokae and Pop (Thailand), and the Philippines' very own David Feliciano and Norman Agojo (Philippines). Agojo's car was unfortunately stuck in Malaysian customs and was unable to make it in time for the qualifying session.
Practice and qualifying saw some drivers having close encounters with the barriers early on. Filipino driver Feliciano was no exception as he went into a slight argument with the wall early on in Saturday practice causing some damage to the left rear of his DMF Drift-Goodyear Nissan S13. However the highlight crash of qualifying round was Charles Ng aboard the Goodyear Spark Motorsorts Toyota Chaser causing significant damage to both the front and rear of his car after carrying too much speed into the clipping point of the hairpin and bouncing into another concrete barrier.
The qualifying session was just as dramatic as the carnage; the top competitors bested each of their runs to decide who topped the judges' scoresheets for the top three positions as the drivers swapped positions. It ended with Kiwi driver Templeman taking the top spot scoring 91.7 and logging a top speed of 112.2km/h aboard his Goodyear Mazda RX7. Thai competitor Kokae took second aboard his Goodyear-Koh Kae Nissan Cefiro A31 garnering a score of 85.7, edging local favorite Tengku Djan Ley who scored 83.8 aboard his FX Federation D Nissan S15. Filipino representative Feliciano nearly missed the cut making it at 31, in the challenging track where even former D1GP champion Ryuji Maki almost didn't make it through.
The day ended with a driver's briefing held at the Sultan Abdul Samad Building where the qualifying results were also announced. Judge Andy Yen briefed competitors on the specific things they were judging and what they wanted the drivers to do.