Drifting has taken the world by storm, particularly with the boom of the internet. What was once an exclusive culture in Japan has now become a global phenomenon with an ever-growing number of enthusiasts and fans alike. Malaysia and the rest of the South East Asian region have not been spared from its influence and with that, developed its own home-grown talents in drifting. Meet Tengku Djan Ley Tengku Mahaleel, an everyday nice guy who is appropriately known as the Prince of Drift, not only because he can trace his heritage to the Kelantan royal lineage but also by being the de facto man in the Malaysian drift scene. We collaborated with the man himself, to have a peek into his world and to understand his history and vision for the sport.
Djan has a resume that even pro drifters would be envious of. Not many can boast of not only participating but also having podium finishes in drifting and other racing events around the world, from his home country Malaysia to countries such as Singapore, Thailand, Australia as well as the Middle East, Europe and of course the USA. Such of his showmanship and skills behind the wheel, he was bestowed the nickname Tandem Assassin as he dispatched the popular American pro drifter, Vaughn Gittin Jr during the Top 16 at the 2006 D1 World All-Star Championships.
We asked him his history with cars and more importantly how he got hooked into competitive racing. As with other more distinguished racing drivers, the passion started at a young age and Djan is no exception.
My dad was into rallying and I had the privilege of following him around in his rally car for practice sessions and events since the age of 5. My first direct involvement was with bikes when I learnt riding with then Malaysia’s No 1 GP rider, Mr Oh Kah Beng. I was only 14 then and we used to go to the now defunct Batu Tiga Speedway Circuit. But in the end I never did race bikes as my parents did not approve of it. When I got my driving license at 18, I auditioned for Team Shell Auto Vogue and took part in the Proton National Cup in 1995. I won the novice category in my first year in racing and never looked back.
Djan has dabbled into almost all forms of 4-wheel racing. He holds the record of having twice won the 12 Hour Merdeka Millennium Endurance Race in 2005 and 2006 and will be looking forward to this year’s edition in a Lotus Evora GT4.
I’ve always been a tintop racer, having raced in almost every type of cars except for single seaters. I’ve had experience in sprint and endurance races, mostly in touring cars and GT racers. Although I still enjoy conventional motor racing, I started drifting in 2002 and I think I have found my niche in the sport. Drifting for me started out as a challenge to myself, to hone my car control skills to a much higher level. Going sideways is always very rewarding as a driver and as I focus more into it, I started to push the limits even more. Since then I still get the adrenaline rush when I lay down a good run. It totally blows my mind even till today.
The Malaysian motorsports scene has been crying out for dedicated facilities for enthusiasts and while we boast a modern Formula One facility that is Sepang International Circuit, grassroot racing has virtually no where to go. Djan has taken up on himself and with a couple of friends to help grow the local motorsports scene, more specifically in drifting, and created the aptly-named Speed City Kuala Lumpur (SCKL).
Kuala Lumpur was in need of a legalized spot for drifting, hence we came up with Speed City KL. SCKL is a multi-purpose facility but also serves as a dedicated drifting track as well. Here, we provide drivers and drifters a proper facility to learn and train as well as having some fun on the track. As I mentioned earlier, it is a multi-purpose setting and is capable of hosting many other types of events. Previously the Taio Cruz concert was held here as well as many corporate driver training sessions. I’m at SCKL every Saturday night hanging out with fellow drifters as well as letting loose on track.
On most Saturdays, SCKL would have its weekly Saturday Night “Drift Assault” which gives drifters some casual drift sessions all in the name of sideways fun.
Recently, both local and overseas celebrities converged to sample the art of going sideways, Malaysian style.
Even the 2011 Formula Drift Pro champion, Daijiro Yoshihara couldn’t contain himself when he was at SCKL. A drifter must drift!
Earlier this year, SCKL took over from Dataran Merdeka to host the 1st round of the 2012 Formula Drift Asia Championship series.
2008 D1GP champion, 2011 Formula Drift Asia champion and 2012 Formula Drift Pro competitor Daigo Saito beat Max Orido for the top podium. 2010 Formula Drift Asia champion, Tengku Djan was third.
As the sport of drifting expands its reaches, Malaysia pioneered the sport in the region. But then came the rise of Thailand, becoming a regional drifting powerhouse while the newly emerging Indonesia, builds its momentum in the regional drifting scene with its own drifting talents. Here’s Djan’s take on drifting in the region.
The drifters from Thailand are insane. The level of drifting there will blow your mind. Compared to Malaysia, Thailand has a more conducive environment and with that they have a lot more high level drifting events. Their event management, judging and organization is world class.
It’s a shame really because Malaysia was the pioneer in this region but with the lack of space and quality events, we’ve lost our edge over our neighbours. Indonesia is another country to look out for in drifting. There is no short of skills, that is for sure. Once the Indonesians gain more experience, I have no doubt that they will be a force to be reckoned with.
When talking about cars, there is particular car that is part of Djan’s collection (actually it is his dad’s) that caught our eye, a mint Nissan BNR32 Skyline GT-R. It is one of his dad’s most prized collection, and rumour has it even Djan would have trouble in coaxing his dad to have the car out for a spin.
My dad has a mint R32 GT-R with 65,000 original KMs on the clock. To me the R32 is the best GT-R out there. It’s so raw, it’s mechanical and it’s nimble. It’s probably the only unmolested original R32 GT-R out there and most definitely not for sale!
Taking time off from driving and drifting, Djan sometimes hit the jamming studios to let off some steam. Nevertheless, cars are not far from his mind and when asked about the ultimate car for his garage, like many other automotive enthusiasts, he had difficulty in giving a straight answer.
Ultimate car? This is a question I never seem able to answer. There are so many cars that I want but right now it would be the BMW 1M. But a dream it will currently stay as I can’t afford one yet.
Perhaps the new Toyota 86 too. To me, the 86 has a lot of history. Not trying to be cliché, but it is a fact that the car made me who I am today in the drifting world. It is a shame that the car is overly priced here in Malaysia.
Being a superstar puts a huge burden as many fans would look up to the person for inspiration. Djan takes it in his stride very well, with many Malaysians proudly backing him to further excel in the sport. Djan, being a down to earth guy welcomes everyone to SCKL and the world of drifting!
See you at Speed City KL’s Saturday Night “Drift Assault” and keep drifting fun!
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