Finally, after sorting through the photos that I took during the inaugural Formula Drift Malaysia event last weekend, it's time to have a look at some of the key battles between the competitors... [read more]

After the Saturday qualifying session, the Top 32 battle is on. Most of the seeded drivers managed to get past their opponents and progressed into the Sweet 16. Malaysia's Ariff Johanis are among the seeded drivers that didn't make it, as he spun during his run and lost to Indonesia's Rhenadi Arinton, also seeded. Mad Mike, Ryuji Miki and Tengku Djan made light work of their opponents in the tandem battle as they easily won their respective battle. The most impressive performance in the Top 32 battle was by Ryuji Miki, when he easily despatched Thailand's Narubet Sajapala.

The highlight of the Sweet 16 is definitely the battle between Mad Mike and Ryuji Miki. Mike and his RX-7 was an instant favourite with the crowd. Everybody loved the sound of the normally aspirated quad-rotor rotary engine. Who wouldn't?

Mike's car sounded more like a high revving single seater race car, rather than the typical turbocharged engines. Without a doubt one of the best I've ever heard! Mike had the best looking car, the best sounding engine and he is one of the coolest guys around.

Mike qualified poorly in 19th place as opposed to Miki's 3rd, so he was placed in the same tree as Miki and had to meet him very early in the competition. And what a contest between the two hot favourites. They both thrilled the crowd with an intense battle. Miki led the 1st run and Mike followed closely. The outcome was pretty similar when they switched, as Miki followed Mike closely throughout the course. The crowd shouted one more time and all the judges agreed. Unfortunately, Miki was unable to repeat his performance and Mike's consistency saw him through to the Elite 8. Although it's a pity that they had to meet so early, Miki had to give way as others made it into the Elite 8.

Although Malaysia's Tan Tat Wei had an advantage against Thai's Drift King Sak Nana Kiki when he led in the 1st run, he made a mistake in the 2nd run, handing Kiki a place in the Elite 8.

Ser Ming Hui put an impressive display against Thailand's Chaiyos Chaiyosburana, opening a big gap while he led and then pressuring Chaiyos throughout the course when he chased. He joined Tengku Djan, Mad Mike, Mervyn Nakamura, Ivan Lau, Kiki, Nazrul Afifi and Hanizam Hamzah in the next round.

Djan had no problem disposing Nazrul Afifi as he goes through to the semifinal. So was Mike who were up against Ivan Lau. Ivan's entry speed into the 1st left hander was too fast, so he had to correct his car as he understeered, leaving a space for Mike to get through. He repeated the same mistake again in the 2nd run while chasing Mike, so the judges unanimously voted in Mike's favour. Mervyn and Kiki also progressed to the Final 4 after beating Ming Hui and Hanizam respectively.

On to the Final 4. Djan, Mad Mike, Kiki and Mervyn. First up was Djan against Mervyn. Mervyn exceeded everybody's expectation by making it to the Final 4, but with Djan in such an impeccable form, it would need something special from Mervyn to halt Djan's advance. Djan led the 1st run with Mervyn chasing. It was a no contest as Djan's entry speed was clearly a lot faster and Mervyn struggles to keep up, thus leaving him in the trail of Djan's smoke. In the 2nd run, it was just a formality for Djan as he had the edge on Mervyn and easily tailed Mervyn very closely until the end. Out goes Mervyn and Djan is in the Big 2.

The hot favourite to meet Djan in the final was Mike. The only thing he had to do is stay focused and keep up the pressure on Kiki. Mike had the advantage on Kiki in the first run, and in the second run it was time for Kiki to lead and Mike to chase. All is looking good for Mike in the first left hander, but in the run in to the second right hander he made a mistake and bumped Kiki from behind. His aggressive and somewhat robust approach finally lost him a place in the final.

Kiki spun and they both stopped on the track. Mike got out of the car, acknowledged his mistake and raised Kiki's hand to the cheering crowd. A very sporting gesture. All the judges ruled in Kiki's favour and Mike is out. In the press conference after that, he admitted that he made a mistake because he couldn't see Kiki in front of him amidst the cloud of smoke from Kiki's tyre and apologized. Kiki cooly replied, "No problem man, he's the man as well. He's the man!" while pointing at Mike and they share a good laugh with the media in the press room. Great sportsmanship between both of them!

So it's Djan against Kiki in the Big 2. The odda are against Kiki, as Djan's consistency in every run prior to the Big 2 are devastating and he never made a single mistake. He looked in control, very relaxed and in his element from the get go in the Saturday's practice and qualifying session. With more than 12,000 people cheering him on, Djan kept his cool in the lead during the first run even though Kiki did a commendable job of keeping up with him. Djan initiates his drift earlier than most, but Kiki managed to keep Djan in his sights in the first left hand turn, but it is in the second right hander that Djan clearly had the edge over Kiki.

In the second run, Djan already had the win in the bag when he easily kept up with Kiki throughout both turns. Although one more time was called, the outcome was the same in both runs and the judges unanimously ruled in Djan's favour. But I wonder what if Mike had made it into the final, as I reckon that only Mike and Miki are the ones that are able to take the fight to Djan. But unfortunately that wasn't meant to be, so Djan rightfully claimed the winner's trophy for the inaugural Formula Drift Malaysia. And hats off to Kiki for putting on a great show for the crowd with his determination and cool purple smoke!

All in all, it was a great event and the organizer did a great job. As a spectator, I enjoyed it a lot. But as a photographer, I was a bit disappointed because the organizer didn't provide us with a proper place to take photos and no photographers were allowed onto the track, not even 10 feet behind the barriers, which I reckon are pretty safe. Otherwise, the video guys wouldn't be stationed there.

Unfortunately, I had to compete for places with the spectators, whom have every right to stand where they want to because they paid for the tickets. The only place photographers were allowed to shoot photos was from the grandstand and the walkabout ticket area, which made me wonder why they issued a photographer's pass in the first place. However, since this is the first time the event was organized here, there were bound to be some complications. Hopefully things will improve in the future. Formula Drift Malaysia concluded this year's motorsport calendar for me and I wish they will return next year. 2009 was a great year, looking forward to 2010!

Photo/Editorial: Anas Zakaria

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