A formula to get sponsors drifting in

SINGAPORE - It might not have the glamour of Formula One or the street credibility of the World Rally Championship, but cars slipping and sliding sideways in tandem offer sponsors the most value for their dollar.

That's the verdict of Asia's drifting supremo Marcus Lim.

Said the CEO of Driftpac, the regional franchise holder of American motorsports brand Formula Drift: "If you are a Singaporean company and you want to sponsor an F1 team or a Grand Prix, it's going to cost you millions.

"But in our sport it's not going to cost you as much, but the exposure offers more bang for your buck than any other motorsport event.

"Canon knows that, they were involved in F1 before and they've come onboard with Formula Drift this year because, at the end of the day, we give them the eyeballs they want.

"You can count how few motorsports have live TV coverage and we are one of them with ESPN STAR Sports broadcasting the races and being an event organiser."

Driftpac is responsible for the relatively new sport of drifting in Asia and Australasia bar Japan, the birthplace of the sport where it is practised at a very technical level.

While the sport might be technical in nature and not premised on finishing fastest like most traditional motorsports, it has begun to develop a following with the fans and traction with sponsors.

Said Lim: "When we started out five years ago, the sponsors were all very endemic - like car companies or oil companies.

"But today we have shifted to include companies like Canon and X-mini who have nothing to do with the auto industry, but they recognise the entertainment value of the sport.

"I tell people we are like WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), but the races are not rigged.

"It's like a visual show, we don't want to push it as a motorsport event, we want to push it as an entertainment event.

"When F1 comes to town, it's a pure race, going from point A to point B. But this is different - what goes on on the track is one thing and what happens off it is another.

"There is an entire lifestyle surrounding drifting."

That lifestyle was prevalent at the Malaysian leg of the Formula Drift 2012 Asia Pro Championship at Speed City in Kuala Lumpur last month as undaunted by the pouring rain, the 2000 "motorheads" unleashed their umbrellas and thronged the side of the track for a close-up look of the coasting action.

Their core fan base who Lim describes as "16- to 40-year-olds who enjoy good show" might be sucked in to the sport, but what's the formula to get other fans drifting towards the sport?

Said Formula Drift co-founder Ryan Sage: "The biggest challenge is getting people to recognise and appreciate the subjective nature of this sport. In traditional motorsports, it is pretty straightforward - who gets from point A to point B first wins.

Hybrid

"But with drifting, which is more subjective, it is like skateboarding or BMX - the X Games crowd. Essentially, it mixes traditional motorsports and action sports and that's why it's such a great hybrid sport.

"Also, there's is the aesthetic factor, just watching cars slide sideways which is an entertainment within itself."

Singaporeans can get their fix of cars sliding sideways action at the Singapore leg of Formula Drift 2012 Asia Pro Championship which will be held at the Changi Exhibition Centre on June 30 and July 1.

Tickets are on sale from Friday at Sistic with pre-sale grandstand tickets costing $55 and walkabout passes $30. Purchasing tickets on event day itself would cost $10 more for both grandstand and walkabout passes.

dilen@sph.com.sg

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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