Going fast - and even faster in Malaysia

Almost every month, car enthusiast Niki Tham drives across the border in his Mitsubishi Lancer to a petrol station near the Second Link.

It is barely 6am, but there, the 32-year-old meets five to six friends to get ready for a long drive north. Their destination? The Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia.

Mr Tham runs Lifestyle Motorsports, which organises track days where as many as 70 car lovers go for a spin on the Formula One circuit at each event.

But it is the road trip north which has drawn renewed attention after a crash last Sunday killed two Singaporeans in a Porsche 911 Turbo.

Many Singaporeans like Mr Tham cover the 400km drive to Sepang in a far shorter time than the usual four hours, satisfying their racing thirst.

They usually travel in small convoys and each group has its own rules on how to navigate the North-South Expressway.

Clubs for supercars like Ferraris and Lamborghinis hire outriders to clear lanes for them.

Others on souped-up Japanese sports cars like the Nissan GTR Skyline and Mitsubishi Lancer Evo make sure there is no overtaking, designate lead and sweeper cars, and use walkie-talkies to communicate.

"We keep to a speed limit of 120-130kmh," said Mr Tham, who said he cautions his customers against speeding.

While this is faster than the 110kmh general speed limit of the expressway, it is still tamer than the blistering speeds some drivers can go.

Said Uber Garage co-owner Adrian Ho, 33: "If you want to play, you have to play responsibly, not on the streets."

But the allure of open roads can be too attractive for some - and track event organisers say it is mostly the younger, hot-headed drivers who drive dangerously.

"Out of 10, you get one or two who will drive faster than usual," said Mr Lester Wong, 42, owner of workshop HKS Garage R.

One Suzuki Swift driver said he travels at 180kmh on average and speeds in excess of 200kmh are not uncommon.

"One good thing about Malaysian cars is that if you high-beam them from far, they will move away and you can speed," said the 38-year-old.

A Lamborghini driver, who did not wish to be named, added that doing 200-250kmh on the North-South Expressway "is not too difficult", and short sprints of 300kmh are not unheard of.

Fines and summonses are no deterrent to speeding either. "If you get pulled over by the police, just RM50 (S$19) will do," said the Swift driver.

Singapore-registered vehicles topped the list of foreign automobiles that were issued summonses between 2011 and last year in Malaysia, taking up about 84,000 of the 120,000 summonses issued.

"The problem is, there isn't any track (in Singapore) for us to run," added the Swift driver.

"If you modify your car, definitely you want to race. But in Singapore, you zoom a little bit and have to stop at traffic lights."


This article was first published on Nov 17, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.