Catch my drift

SINGAPORE - The noise hits me.

The aggressive roar of engines. Tyres squealing as though they're being tortured.

I'm about to experience the motor sport of drifting and here, tyres are punished.

I've watched Initial D and Tokyo Drift, but to glide a car around a bend myself? Well, there's a first time for everything.

My chance comes, thanks to the inaugural L2Drift, a workshop organised by DDF Race School, at Marina Country Club in Punggol.

Mr Nicholas Cho, 35, one of the founders, has a clear objective. "Our aim is to make motor sports accessible to everyone, and having in-house race cars makes it easier for anyone to pick up the sport".

Mr Cho has gathered two local instructors, Mr Ivan Lim, 32 and Mr Benjamin Chiam, 21, to help turn drivers into drifters.

Armed with a helmet and my cameras, I'm pumped up, especially after seeing two cars drifting in tandem so skilfully.

A spectacular sight, but it's not spectacular weather today. The clouds are darkening to a filthy grey, and the wind smells of scorched rubber.

The tarmac lot - littered with coils of shredded tyre - is smaller than expected.

At one end are the advanced drifters and their line-up of flashy rides. I head for a metallic blue 2001 Nissan S15 owned by Mr Smith Foo, one of the tandem drifters.

The 34-year-old insurance manager bought the car a year ago for $70,000.

He has another S15 tucked away in Kuala Lumpur and it is used only for races.

The other half of the lot is for beginners. It's less fluid, with stalling engines and cars 180-ing to a stop.

As I walk over, the heavens open with rain just shy of torrential. This is good and bad.

Less screeching and less wear on the tyres - there can be multiple tyre changes on a dry day as the rubber melts off.

Rain also means more spray for pictures, but it also means a soaking.

A line of eager faces huddle under the tentage waiting for their turn to take two less flashy (but no less noisy) cars, which belong to the race school, around the cones.

Mr Phua Yong Lin, 20, found out about the event through Facebook.

The ITE College West student has had a few goes already and is raring for more.

"It's a challenge controlling the car when it's trying to go out of control," he enthuses.

The crowd is mostly male, but I spot Ms Shayna Heng. Aside from her petite frame, the slogan on her T-shirt - Girl Drifter - catches my eye.

Says the 21-year-old finance and marketing student from the Singapore Management University: "I've been to other drifting events where it's more of a competition than a class. It's rare to get an event that's about learning."

Ms Heng's boyfriend is a local drifter but she's only been a passenger so far. Her stint starts with halts and skids, until she suddenly lives up to her T-shirt slogan and drifts figure 8s.

"Drifting is more adrenaline pumping than (being on) a roller coaster," she beams.

Well, if she can do it...

My experience

With my helmet on, I clamber into the passenger seat of an awaiting black Toyota Altezza with my instructor, Mr Ivan Lim at the helm.

My lesson starts with a screeching tyre spin. It's hard to concentrate on my technique when I'm lurching and the scenery is spinning.

It's exhilarating, but over too soon. Getting out, I notice the steam coming from the tyres. They may be wet, but they still emit an incredible amount of heat. The question is, will my driving be as hot?

I swop positions with my tutor. Now he's at my mercy.

Let's just say it's a squeeze to get in and out, and I realise that you need core strength for drifting.

The less said about my first, stalling, expletive-filled attempts, the better.

But I get another try, this time in a dirt-splattered, track-ready white Nissan S13.

I line the car up. Ivan gives me more tips through hand gestures. This is it.

With my left hand poised for action, I step on the gas. I gun for the cones. Passing them halfway, I punch the clutch, yank on the handbrake and turn.

The back of the car whips out and I nail it... or so I think. There's a fine line between drifting and skidding to a standstill.

It's hard to fight every instinct telling me to counter the slide so as to not lose control.

After my third or fourth round, Ivan tells me to floor the gas pedal instead of feathering it.

I spin the car on the spot - Initial D, baby.

Except it's D for donut. And I can't stop doing them. After another few rounds of dizzying donuts, my turn is over.

Time to make way for other aspiring drifters.

I share my virgin experience with the other beginners, who are eagerly sharing tips on achieving that perfect drift.

I'm determined to get it right.

In fact, throughout the rest of the day, I'm imagining a handbrake on my left and tapping a clutch that isn't there.

I think I've drifted into drifting addiction!

Get The New Paper for more stories.