[Interview] Tengku Djan Ley: Spearheading Malaysia’s Challenge at Archilles Formula Drift Malaysia 2012

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Excerpt of an interview with champion Malaysian drifter, Tengku Djan Ley of Drive M7 Bridgestone team who will be spearheading Malaysia’s challenge at this year’s Archilles Formula Drift Malaysia 2012 presented by Canon. Courtesy of espnstar.com

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Source: Tengku Djan Ley
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Source: Tengku Djan Ley

You are widely acknowledged as Malaysia’s Hero on wheels, what sort of responsibility does the ‘National Champion’ tag carry?
Well I wouldn’t exactly call it a responsibility. The thing is there is a lot of pressure from a lot of parties expecting you to win; the general public expects you to win. That added a lot of pressure from the time I started drifting till about 2010. And my performance in 2010 wasn’t great, so we went back to the drawing board, see what the issues were and how to improve myself. Everyone expects me to do well, if not win, from my previous credentials, but I’m coming to this season very fresh and with a new approach – which consists of a lot of mental things like the mental preparation before an event, to make sure I’m calm, relaxed and focus in what I want to achieve. I think I’ll do well; I don’t know whether I’m going to win or not, but I’ll give it my best shot and fight to the finish.

It has been 7 years since your first big win in 2005, how has the Malaysian drift scene changed since then?
The drifting scene in South East Asia is growing very huge. Thailand is very big now; Indonesia is growing in the last 2 years and has developed in leaps and bounds. Malaysia is kind of stagnated at this point, but then again there are parties who are trying to revive the sport. Getting new blood in is very important, at this point in time, since the first day it’s been more or less the same faces, year in year out. So the key is to develop this sport and get new faces in.

As for the current drivers, we are doing our part. Whenever we are out competing, we are basically promoting the sport. Now with Speed City Kuala Lumpur, there are more opportunities for the general public to actually get involved with the sport. I think we will see a growth in the next couple of years, new blood especially, I personally am trying to get more circuit orientated drivers into the sport, as they come from a motoring background, so they have the basics in place and then we can turn them into world class drifters.

How does the Malaysian motorsport scene stand when compared to its regional counterparts? 
I think we have been overtaken by Thailand, with all their local championships going on. The level of drifting there and the support they receive is crazy. Every competition we go to there has no less that 40 cars, it’s very intense and their drivers are really good. Indonesia has also grown and the level has gone up; the drivers now are a force to be reckoned with. I would say that everyone in the region is now quite on par with each other, it really depends on the track layout now. Everyone also stands a good chance to win now.

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What is the difference between this year’s Speed City KL track compared to the previous Dataran Merdeka circuit? 
When I was in Dataran in 2010, the greatest challenge were the interlocking bricks, it’s something we don’t normally drift on. So to actually judge the amount of drift you can have been very difficult for a lot of us. Coming to Speed City KL, is back now to tar, and I think the most interesting thing about the Speed City KL course is that it is not a flat piece of tarmac, there’s a lot of natural undulations, so it will be challenging to everyone, but one aspect is that it is on tar, so you more or less have a similar base to work on as with any other course throughout the season.

Source: Tengku Djan Ley
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Source: Tengku Djan Ley

What are the cars your personal garage now?
Well I have a Toyota Aristo as my family car. Its quick, it’s comfortable, and it’s fun to drive. I also have a BMW E36 M3, it’s a streetcar, but we also use it as time attack battles; this is of course, outside of drifting.

I also have three competition cars in the garage which we will use. One is competition ready for Formula Drift Asia, and one is still being built. We still have the championship winning car which we haven’t touched; it doesn’t meet the new regulations, so we keep it as a demo car for now. We also have something called the ‘missile car’. It’s a pure practice car, and it’s really banged up! There’s no love for it, it’s more or less a stock car, and we drive hard with it, trying out new lines, banging walls, banging doors, like I said it’s purely a practice car!

What do you do with your free time off the track?
I spend a lot of time with my wife and newly born son. It’s a good form of relaxation; it just takes you away from all the pressure and issues associated with motorsport racing. I’m very much a family man, and I’m very thankful to have such a great family. My dad is a rally driver, I learnt driving from my dad, and he got me involved with motorsports since I was 5 years old. He doesn’t like to sit in my car because he thinks I drive badly!

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Have you chosen a protégé to impart your passion on?
It’s something I’m slowly getting into now, taking somebody under my wing; it’s somebody whom I think has the potential to really grow. I have somebody in mind, a go-karter, who has now built his drift car and we’re going to start drifting after Formula Drift Malaysia. He has a lot of potential, and he really enjoys drifting, but has never been involved with it, he’s still only 17. My brother also has massive potential which we discovered out of the blue; I gave him the car keys one day, just to have a laugh, but after 3 laps he was feeling it, driving really well, and we were all amazed at his driving. He has been involved in motor racing, but never drifted before, and only 2 months ago he actually step foot into a drift car!

What route should an aspiring Malaysian youth take towards his motorsport ambitions?
First of all, don’t take your motorsports down to the streets! It’s very dangerous, whether its two wheels or 4 wheels. And whatever you do on the streets is totally different from doing it on the circuit. If you want to get involved in motorsports, whether its driver training or drifting, come down to Speed City KL as we have training courses on Saturday to teach you the basics of drifting for you to further yourself in the sport.

We have all these opportunities to drive on the track, to drive fast, to drive hard, but the last place we want to do is to take it out onto the streets. It’s not safe, the speeds are low, and it’s not rewarding at all. If I want to do anything like this, I’d just take it down to Speed City over the weekends and just have fun!

Be sure to catch Tengku Djan in action at this weekend’s Achilles Formula Drift Malaysia 2012 presented by Canon

Ticket Details are as below:

Dates: 19 – 20 May 2012
Venue: Speed City KL, Selangor Turf Club, Kuala Lumpur
Time: 10.00am to 6.00pm
Tickets: (Pre-sale) Grandstand: RM $128, Walkabout: RM$28
(Event Day) Grandstand: RM $150, Walkabout: RM$35

Tickets are available from 27th April 2012 via www.ticketpro.com.my or by calling +603 7880 7999

For more information go to www.formuladriftasia.com

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