It was a good day of drifting at Dataran Merdeka today, where 40 drifters and their machines battled to get into tomorrow’s top 32 showdown, where the men and machines will go head-to-head (or rather door-to-door) in a cup format to be the winner of Goodyear Formula Drift Malaysia 2010. This event is part of a three-leg Formula Drift Asia series, with the earlier rounds held in Singapore and Thailand.

Along with those who made their way to the Dataran, this writer is thankful for today’s cool and cloudy weather. The skies threatened to open up, and although it didn’t rain, there was plenty of thrills and spills. As a recap, FD Msia 2010’s course is along Jalan Raja, sandwiched by the iconic Sultan Abdul Samad building and the Dataran Merdeka, which makes for a spectacular backdrop. The start line is at the Jalan TAR/Jalan Tun Perak junction, where cars accelerate across the bridge and draw an ‘S’ before ending with a hairpin. There are three rear clipping points along the way.

Local favourites from Federation D, Mervyn Nakamura, Tan Tat Wei, Ivan Lau and defending champ Tengku Djan kicked off qualifying with mixed results. TTW and Djan scored points – the latter set an early bar with 71.2 pts – but Mervyn and Ivan scored zeros. Each drifter gets two chances, and both made it through on the second try, with Mervyn qualifying sixth overall with a 64.8 score.

The Thai Overdrive Team was the biggest contingent with seven entries, but it was Nattawoot Krerpradrab a.k.a. Oat who caught the eye in his FD RX-7. He qualified fifth with 69 points. The other black/yellow M150 liveried cars weren’t as good, but they were still better than Hong Kong’s TRC Racing Team. Except for Japanese star Daigo Saito (fourth best, 75.2 pts) the red Toyotas of James, Harris and Sampan were embarrassing.

Team Goodyear Malaysia had a mixed afternoon. Ariff Johanis scored zeros in both attempts and his wife Jane couldn’t get more than 30.9 points, which was what privateer Kevin Rajoo did to scrape in the top 32. As usual, Hanizam Hamzah a.k.a. Loyai was the best in the team; both he and Michael Gan will be in action tomorrow.

Other local scene regulars that will feature tomorrow are Nazrul Afifi, Mohd Fazreen (FXOpen stickers on his car replaced by Pemuda UMNO!), Hashiguti Anderson, Ee Yoong Chern (super loud V8 powered R32), Zai “Bullzai” Hamdan, Ser Ming Hui (Ah Fai), Lim Zee King and Lee Kim Wan. The latter two crashed in their second runs; here’s hoping the damage is not too severe to affect tomorrow’s battle.

The foreign big guns closed the show, and they justified their top billing. Thai guy Kokae’s car brought many smiles as it was sponsored by the famous Thai snack Koh-Kae, but his performance was no joke – fast entry, close to wall, big smoke, he was the second best qualifier with 85.7 points, ahead of third placed Tengku Djan’s 83.8. New Zealand’s Daynom Templeman had the best run of the day – the Kiwi and his Bardahl sponsored FD is No.1 with 91.7 points.

Favourite Ryuji Miki put pressure on himself with a ‘0’ for his first run, but sealed qualification with the last run of the day – his 61.3 points put him in ninth. FD USA drifter Charles Ng was driving a huge Toyota Chaser and managed to damage both front and rear ends of the JZX100 in his second try. He’s through, but we wonder if his car is fit for tomorrow.

Tomorrow, there will be some intriguing battles that await us. Oat vs Ivan Lau, Ee Yoong Chern vs Loyai, Mohd Fazreen vs Charles Ng and Tengku Djan vs the aggressive Ah Fai will be among the first tsuiso battles. Templeman and Kokae should have no problems getting past Kevin Rajoo and David Feliciano in their first hurdles, but you’ll never know. Will rain add a twist? Tandems start at noon tomorrow, see you there!