Formula Drift Asia growing into regional force

It has been five years since the inaugural Formula Drift Singapore in 2008 and the annual drifting competition has grown expansively.

Returning to where it all started at Changi Exhibition Centre, this year's Formula Drift Singapore on June 30 and July 1 is now part of a four-round South-east Asian drifting championship called Formula Drift Asia, which also takes place in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.

Awareness of the motorsport in this region has increased much, thanks to this event. It has brought in mainstream audiences with live broadcasts on international television, as well as well-known brands such as Casio, which is launching a limited-edition Formula Drift watch.

Said Mr Marcus Lim, co-founder of Formula Drift Asia and director of Driftpac which holds the franchise rights to the series: "Driftpac planned, organised and marketed the first Formula Drift Singapore at a cost of S$850,000.

"We've been fortunate to have ESPN Star Sports come onboard in 2009 as our event partners, lending us their broadcast muscle, along with their marketing and sponsorship expertise, that has helped us to grow significantly.

"Sponsorship is vital to the growth of the series and Formula Drift is a proven marketing platform for tyre distributors to showcase their wide range of ultra- high-performance products."

Agreeing with Mr Lim is Mr Alex Chua, marketing manager of Lam Seng Hang, the regional distributor of Westlake tyres.

The Singapore-headquartered company set up its own drifting outfit - Team Westlake Tyres. It also started a $200,000 drifting sponsorship initiative this year.

In addition to the team, the six-figure budget also covers sponsorship of Super Import Nights, an after-market car show in Singapore, and amateur drift events Westlake Drift Series and Racepod Challenge Series in Malaysia.

Said Mr Chua: "We decided to go into motorsport sponsorship because we believe it is one of the best marketing tools for us.

"It proves that if Chinese tyres can be used at the high-performance levels of drifting, they can be used for normal daily vehicle use."

The short-term plan is for Team Westlake Tyres to have two drivers each from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, while the long-term goal is to push up the standard of South-east Asian drifting.

It wants to eventually create a world-class drifting championship where the best drifters from countries like the United States, Japan, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore gather to compete.

On Sunday, there will be a Westlake Tyres drift clinic where Formula Drift American star Kenshiro Gushi and Thai drift champion Saranon Pornpatanarak will be the instructors.

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