Saito scores second successive Formula Drift Asia victory in Singapore

saito-scores-successive-formula-drift-asia-victory-singapore  The first 2011 Formula Drift (FD) Asia series in Singapore drew to a close on Sunday with last season’s Formula Drift Malaysia winner Daigo Saito emerging as victor over Thai drifter Saranon Pompatanarak in the finals. Saito who represented Team Spark Motorsport burst through the top 32, sweet 16 and great 8 rounds without breaking a sweat and eliminating his opponents one by one. In the final four’s first draw, Saito eased on to the last two to face off against Pompatanarak (Pop), while Saito’s team mate Ken Gushi would go against Malaysian Ivan Lau for third-fourth placings.

In the finals’ showdown between Saito and Pop, the Japanese showed better consistency and held the clipping zones with acute precision, and the FD judges’ decision favored him at the final reckoning. His skillful car control and ability to stay inch-perfect to his opponent’s car also won him the unanimous vote. Saito had dispatched Gushi earlier in the first final four round to get into the finals (above).

Going neck-to-neck with Pop in the title showdown, Saito was first to set the tone in the first tandem battle, chasing the Thai drifter and staying mere inches from the M150 drifter. In the second run, Saito simply sped ahead and left Pop in the mist of tyre smoke, eventhough Saito had the slower car. All three judges voted for Saito without any dispute at the conclusion, the 2011 FD Singapore title was the second successive FD championship for Saito, who won his first FD trophy at the Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur last year. “I am happy to have gotten off to such a great start. It is amazing to be racing on an F1 circuit and the crowd really got behind Formula Drift. It was an encouraging victory, considering that none of them have competed in Singapore before. I am planning on keeping up my performance for the whole series this year with the Spark Motorsport team,” beamed the jubilant Saito. The Japanese becomes nly the third driver to take the much-coveted crown of the fourth edition of Formula Drift Singapore.

Second-place Pop was not too disappointed with the outcome of the finals. “I came here expecting to be on the podium and am happy with my position in the race. To lose to someone like Daigo (Saito) who is usually racing in D1 and competing against the best in the world is not so bad.”
The Thai ace driver will be hoping to carry this form into the remaining rounds of the Formula Drift Asia championship, which will continue on to Indonesia, Thailand and finishing the year off in Malaysia.
Saito wasn’t the only bright spot for Team Spark Motorsports as Gushi managed to capture third spot from Lau in the 3rd-4th classification duel. Saito’s win and Gushi’s 3rd placing gave the team FD Asia’s inaugural Team title.
Having lost to his more experienced team mate in their final four battle, Gushi powered past Lau in their tandems for the final place on the podium. “Formula Drift Asia is a phenomenal series, with highly skilled and competitive drivers, I hope to get more chances to compete against them and raise my own game in the car,” Gushi commented.
Bright sunshine made for a welcome change from yesterday’s thunderstorms, as fans were once again treated to a world-class display of drifting prowess. With engines revving high and tyres burning furiously, the crowd had lots to cheer about the tandem battles. Unlike in qualifying on Saturday, which was based on the driver’s individual runs on track, Sunday’s event was the tandem drift battles where drivers do two laps in tandem, each taking a turn to lead and fighting for the best score across two runs. The drivers were judged on their speed, style, and ability to maintain their drift angle for as long as possible.