The first ever target-style drifting event in the country, MSF Drift Gonzo, took place on December 2 as part of the MSF Finale 2017 event. Held at the Sepang Circuit Paddock carpark, a total of 26 entries made it to the event and thus being part of Malaysian motorsports history.

The course this time featured a fast 120 km/h entry into a left turn, for which to score maximum points the drifters were expected to initiate the slide 60 metres earlier. The course then tightened into a right, with a front clipping point, then a flick left for another front clipping point, and then into a figure eight with a rear clipping point exercise and two more front clipping point targets.

This exited into a “Walkway”, a narrow 15 metre pathway section which the drivers had to hold the car in a slide while going straight, before taking a left for another rear clipping point. Then finally drivers were required to enter the Donut Box and perform a donut, Ken Block style, and pass the timing beams at the exit.

In a nutshell, here’s how MSF Drift Gonzo was scored:

  • Every drifter had 2 runs for which to score points
  • Each run started with 10,000 points
  • The wall ride had marking cones every 10 metres for a total of 5 cones. Each cone that they drifted past at speed doubled up in score, starting from 500 points for the first cone, then 1000 points for the second, and 2000 points if they passed the next, all the way for a maximum of 8,000 points for all five cones
  • Front clipping points had two targets to hit, one at 1.5 metres and another at one metre. If they hit one they received 2,000 points, if they hit both it was 4,000 points in the bag
  • Rear clipping points had only one target to touch with the rear portion of the vehicle, and this was worth 4,000 points
  • The Walkway was worth 10,000 points
  • The Donut Box was worth 10,000 points
  • Each cone dropped resulted in a deduction of 1,000 points
  • Each time a driver failed to continue the drift or straightened out of drift, further points are deducted
    The baseline time for the course was 50 seconds. Every second below that scored an additional bonus of 1,000 points per second

Morning was the practice session, and for many of the drifters it was the first time that they had encountered such a technical course. The skill of driving the car forwards but still drifting throughout the course that ebbed and flowed, tightening and opening and twisting left and right, was alien to some.

However, given that many of the drivers in attendance that day were some of best drifters in the country, it did not take them long to develop a feel and acclimatise. By lunchtime, they were coming into the first turn at full throttle with a short clutch-kick, carrying phenomenal speed through that left sweeper.

Once the competition proper got underway, all the drivers had a better understanding what was required of them and their machine, and had risen to the challenge of Drift Gonzo.

The top guys put in some amazing runs that afternoon, their finesse and delicate car control on display for the 2,000-strong crowd that had turned up to witness the drifters doing their dance. No one drift run was the same between any one driver, such was the difference in skill, setup, and driving style.

The Street category was won by Muhd Zaiham (nicknamed Bullzai) – an international-level drifter who represented Malaysia at the first ever FIA Intercontinental Drift Challenge two months ago – at the wheel of a V8-powered Nissan Cefiro. Bullzai made great use of the big engine’s torque to stomp through the course in 43 seconds and a perfect run, also making the top score of the day with 64,000 points.

Second was Johari Mat Salleh, in his beautiful diamond red Nissan Cefiro with a high-revving turbocharged RB26 straight-six. Johari put in clean, fast runs but was unable to completely tie it all together in the way Bullzai did. Rounding off the podium was Lim Zee King, one of the fathers of Malaysian drifting – he represented Malaysia back in the 2005 D1GP World Finals together with Tengku Djan.

“I’m just here to have a good time, as this event sounded different and really interesting,” said Zee earlier in the day. Zee showed off his trademark smooth drifting style, making an almost perfect run – only let down by his time of 46 seconds as his Toyota Chaser is a True Street machine.

The Super 1600 category was won by Fattah in his TE71 Toyota Corolla. Do not take this lightly, as the Super 1600 category cars would always face a power and torque deficit compared to the turbo or large-capacity machines, and required a very distinct and committed driving style through the course. Fattah was extremely flamboyant in his little machine, flinging it from clipping point to clipping point at full throttle, keeping the revs up and keeping the power flowing. Very entertaining!

The Pro-Comp category saw the hardcore, full competition drift beasts spectacularly smoke up the Sepang paddock with lurid, high-speed entries and full-throttle slides. Champion of the first ever MSF Drift Gonzo Pro-Comp category was Ivan Choo with his turbocharged Nissan 350Z. Ivan’s first turn entry had to be seen to be believed, as he threw the car completely sideways on the lock stops at over 120 km/h.

You could tell from the way that that Nissan moved that Ivan was giving it his maximum, scrabbling for grip and gunning it from point to point – it was an amazing display of raw speed and attack-style drifting, and when Ivan cut the timing beam in 41 seconds the spectators lost it. Such an incredible run, no mistakes, and so fast!

Second in Pro-Comp was Lawrence Lee, who piloted his Nissan 180SX as if it was a cruise missile, Lawrence was quick, attacking all the way, and flamboyant in style. Lee Mun Hong scored well to take 3rd place, visually a very fast and smooth drifter in his Nissan Silvia S14, making it look effortless.

Mun Hong also took the unofficial award for best buddy of the day, loaning his car to Wilson Chang to play when the latter’s own 180SX hit technical problems halfway around noon.

With the success of the Preview Round of MSF Drift Gonzo, it is confirmed that it will run three rounds next year as a championship, together with the double-day weekends of Malaysia Speed Festival. The dates are April 7, September 1 and December 1, 2018. Certainly not to be missed!