August 19, 2010

Well, there has been a very unfortunate turn of event that has happened on my car.

On the 14th of July as I head out in the wee hours towards the airport for my outstation working trip, I noticed that the car is no longer at its parking space. Perhaps due to my ignorance and stupidity, the car was stolen right in front of my eyes and it is actually something that I least expect. Anyway, long story short (and I don’t wanna wallow in pity), it’s a lesson learnt that I had to pay a really heavy price.

Moving on from here. The last thing I did to the car is changing the fuel hose, I guess I’ll still try to finish up a post documenting how that needs to be done. From here on, I don’t know if I will have the chance to drift again, I could well end up getting a regular ride and hitting the tracks and chasing lap times instead.

Quit motorsports? Over my dead body! (for now).


D24 – Zero to Hero

April 30, 2010

The D24 duo consisting of two close friends – Francis Lai a.k.a. Keng and Ong Boon Keat a.k.a. OBK a.k.a Orang Banyak Kelakar .. is no stranger to the rally world now. Their sense of humour and yet astounding result has sent their names spreading to all the rally teams and spectators alike, just like the smell of D24 durian, Mmmmm …

Many people have seen their jokes about flying kite, using spanner as microphone, and OBK’s infamous yet unmistakable “nama saya OBK sebagai co-driver” hand motion, as well as even more extreme ones like the Spongebob Squarepants and Turtle helmet

Photos courtesy of Along

I have had the privilege of knowing them for a long time, in times when rallying to us was just a video game pastime, and the thought of doing it for real never even crossed our minds. Brought together by our appreciation for driving and the fine art of car control, our days were usually filled with conversations about driving, about vehicle engineering, about Do-It-Yourself mods, and of course, about our Bluebirds. Yes, we EACH have in possession of our very own Nissan / Datsun Bluebird 910 SSS. One had turned into Lotus Esprit, one had lost its axle, engine, gearbox, suspension, and left just the chassis, another one has a kickass fuse panel in the middle and a powerful heart but had not yet seen a chance to rip the tarmac.

With many obstacles and stumbling blocks in our pursuit of motorsport passion, our efforts eventually slowed down. Car projects took longer to complete, and conversations got less interesting, we started to wonder if our fire has died down.

Then on the 20th June 2009, Keng and OBK made a decision. They auditioned for the Zero2Hero reality show that aims to search for the next rally driver. Pretty much like the “American Idol” of rallying, or perhaps “So You Think You Can Rally”. I was like …. WHAT?

It was a brave decision, which has now turned out to be a decision that has changed their lives forever.

The reality show required the participants to travel all around Malaysia for various challenges, and has pit the partnership and bond between the driver and co-driver to the utmost test under stressful conditions. This is when the friendship and trust between Keng and OBK is truly tested.

All 3 of us loved driving. We’re the ones who would do heel-and-toe on the way to tapau lunch, treats handbrake and bald rear tyres as our next best friend, and watch re-runs of Hot Version and Best Motoring instead of Prison Break or House M.D.

However, in a rally partnership, there can be only one driver. Somebody has to be the co-driver. OBK always wanted to be a driver (who doesn’t ?), but in this situation he demonstrated maturity and self-sacrifice to the greater good of the team, and accepted his role as co-driver instead of lamenting that he doesn’t have the opportunity to drive. And accepted it well he did, always surfing the web and reading magazines on tips for pacenotes, or things that may help in rally co-driving.

Keng on the other hand, is no stranger to performance driving. Having dabbled with front wheel drive drifting, rear wheel drive drifting, I-don’t-know-what-else drifting, having a car out of control yet in control is second nature to him. Rallying thus comes as a natural progression in his driving where it allows him to combine drifting with finesse in order to achieve fast stage times.

Keng’s determination and resourcefulness have never ceased to amaze me. This is a man who could not only drive, but possibly do drifts while fixing a wiring short circuit at the same time. Despite all the distractions in the society, this is a man who sticks to what he loves most and pours his heart and soul in it.

Together, they managed to persevere into the final challenge of Zero2Hero season 2, where their rally run ended when Keng landed the car into a ditch. Disappointed, no doubt, yet just after a day he bounced up saying “Hmm .. I have thought back on what mistake we have made” and grew from it. What carried them this far has always been their positivity, their ability to look at a sucky situation and turn it into a learning opportunity.

And so, their strength and will has not failed them. They were announced the winner of the Zero2Hero season 2

OK, their pose could be kinda lame sometimes, but winning is winning, it doesn’t matter if you win by an inch or by a mile .. Eh where have we heard that line from ??

So, year 2010 .. is a year that carries new hopes and new goals for them in Malaysian Rally 2010 (MR10). For in this year, they have joined an active rally team, team MRU Motorsports, headed by Muhammad Rafiq Udhaya who himself is also competing in MR10 in a Subaru Impreza. With a new level of maturity and experience, combined with experts and backing from the team, it would be a great platform for the two of them to grow even further personally and technically.

The amazing thing about motorsport is that it challenges oneself not only physically, but emotionally and also personally, very often in a bigger magnitude than challenge on the skills and techniques of driving itself, especially in motorsport that involves such close bonding as rallying. Just by observing their progress in APRC alone, I could already sense the calm and confidence in them as they gain more experience and continue to build on more trust between them. As their knowledge grows, their ego shrinks, for they know with every mountain climbed there is another higher mountain to strive for, with each new level they venture in, they are bound to encounter new experts, gain new insights.

Perhaps what D24 has given to the world is not just another pair of rally partnership, but a testimony that great things can be achieved with humility, determination and persistence, and great obstacles can be overcome with courage, faith, trust, a positive outlook, and teamwork.

As an observer and as their friend, I hope to see them soar high, and wish them nothing but the best, and at the sideline be able to document the journey of this exciting duo. Best wishes!

As an ending treat, here’s a good run by D24 on SS13 Tai Tak Saujana from the APRC / MR10 Round 1 in Johor

Asia Pacific Rally Championship Round 1

April 29, 2010

Ever since my two buddies from the D24 rally team started participating in the Zero2Hero reality TV show, I have been following their progress. The final challenge of the show saw them heading to Bukit Merah, Perak to participate in the final round of the Malaysian Rally 2009 (MR9), I was present in that rally as well.

Being the winner of the Zero2Hero show, they would have to compete in the 4 rounds of MR10. The first rally that welcomes them is probably the most intensive of all 4, as it is held in conjunction with the Asia Pacific Rally Championship 2010. So, being the kepoh person I have always been, I followed them all the way to Kota Tinggi, Johor, to have a look at the event.

For the year of 2010, the D24 duo will be competing under the team MRU Motorsports which also fields their own Satria Neo 1.6 MIVEC to compete in the P10 class and also a Subaru Impreza version 8 for the N4 class.

I was given the kind opportunity to be the photographer for the team. Arriving on Tuesday, I followed the duo on their recce runs to check out the stages, and had the opportunity to cover the APRC press conference, where for the first time in my life, I come face-to-face with a number of world-class rally superstars. I don’t think they’ll need introduction.

The actual rally day starts off as early as 5:30am, beginning with an early 10 minute service window that saw the cars going through final checks before the first SS. The entire rally day consists of 8 special stages, which are made up of 4 different special stages being repeated twice each. The cars will return to the service park for a 25 minute service window after 4 stages. Despite being a repeat run, it is no easy feat as the road condition may change after the earlier pass. Rocks that were not there in the 1st pass of the same stage may appear in the 2nd pass because it was swept into the path by a later rally car, or that the weather may suddenly change. To the drivers and co-drivers, attacking the 2nd passes demands no less concentration and alertness as the 1st pass.

The first few stages already see drivers on maximum attack mode, with a series of retirements and accidents. For the spectators and photographers, it was a real treat of sight and sound, (or smell, if one likes it).

All in all a very interesting rally that saw a very hot and dry 1st day, which later ended in a heavy downpour, resulting in very poor driving conditions. The second day started off with a bit of rain and the stages were mostly muddy.

Unfortunately the Satria Neo S2000 didn’t manage to get good result. Alister’s S2000 suffered an engine failure and Chris Atkinson went off and was stuck in a couple of the stages. Katsuhiro Taguchi took the chance at hand and snatched the first round win, followed by Gaurav Gill in second, with Rifat Sungkar finishing in third. As for the Malaysian Rally championship, MRU’s Muhammad Rafiq Udhaya took the lead with Andrew Miller in second, and third was the sibling duo, Jamaluddin and Rozita Tukimin.

As for my buddies Francis and OBK, a win in class P10 (1600 cc), finishing 2nd in two-wheel-drive and 4th overall in the championship ladder, you can’t blame them for feeling a bit on cloud 9 and goofing around. Hey, it’s the last SS of the rally afterall!

What a great weekend, what an eye opener, and what an exposure to what rallying at an regional or international level is all about, for the drivers, the co-drivers, or even photographers and spectators like me. I’m sure many of us will bring back a whole lot of learning experience and memorable moments (such as me getting stuck in the middle of the forest in a broken down car until late evening with nobody around and the sun already setting!! But I’m not going to go into details on that .. ). Good or bad, whatever we have gone through in this round of rally will definitely make us better drivers, better co-drivers, better crew, and better photographers. Looking forward to the next round of Malaysian Rally at Terengganu in June!

Meanwhile, enjoy the following actions from APRC Johor

Trial photoshoot

March 30, 2010

Apart from driving and motorsport, the other thing that I loved doing is photography. Combine these two together? Even better. I have been shooting since years ago, took a hiatus, and planning to get back active this year. So what better than to start off with shooting my ride?

So, on one fine night, my friend and I found this well lit parking space with accommodating guards who were kind enough to leave us alone. We just had our time snapping away. Enjoy !

Well, the rim’s full of dust, and bumper crack’s spoiling the clean lines. But hey, that’s what a racing car should look like, right ? A bit of battle scar adds a lot of character (LOL trying to think positive). One day I’ll give this baby a well deserved nicely planned photo shoot.

Power steering line leak – SOLVED !

March 23, 2010

When I first brought the 180SX back home, the car was plagued by a few problems, such as bad alignment and really crappy tyres.

The BIGGEST annoyance I faced though, was an ever leaking power steering line. When I said ever leaking, it means it just wouldn’t stop.

I was a complete beginner at detecting faulty components in car, but a heavy steering, almost like driving a non-power steering equipped car when doing parking could definitely tell you that something is wrong with the power steering system! So I cracked open the power steering reservoir and took a peek at the canister.

It was EMPTY! And after a moment of “WTF” in my mind, I proceeded to head to the nearest spare part shop and got myself a bottle of power steering fluid to top it up. Not having sufficient power steering fluid could wreck your power steering pump easily!

For months I have been tolerating this problem, it has gotten so bad that just doing a 3 point turn or executing a parking maneuver could empty my power steering reservoir. I knew I had to find a permanent solution. So to once-and-for-all find out where it leaked, I did the following step:

  1. Put a piece of paper at the bottom of my car where the power steering pump is
  2. Start up the car
  3. Turn the steering a couple of times lock-to-lock

And voila!

Now that explains why my power steering reservoir tank is always empty. That’s only 3 turns lock to lock and see the patch of stuff on the newspaper. This baby is facing serious case of tiap-tiap hari pun bocor

This is not surprising though as we can see from the picture above, a section of the stainless steel line has been chopped and welded. As the car goes through bumps and irregularities on the road, or subjected to the forces of performance driving and drifting, it is inevitable that some of the forces get transferred to the hoses and lines, causing the weld point to crack and ultimately, bocor. Another explanation could be that during welding, sand or dirt may still remain on the stainless steel hose and thus the welding was never a complete one to begin with.

The solution ? A brand spanking, non-chopped, non-modified, non-cut-and-welded, power steering line. It has been a few weeks since the replacement power steering line has been in place and there was never any patches of fluids on the ground anymore. Woohooo !!

So, the next time you guys get a car, do check out the power steering lines. It is quite common to find power steering lines that were cut and welded so as to fit in other aftermarket parts when space in the engine bay is getting tight. And if you do find that your lines are cut and welded, cross fingers that the guy knows what he is doing or be prepared to face leak problems 😉

Getting started in drifting

January 31, 2010

Ask the question “What are the basic things I need for drifting?” and the answer usually boils down to the following items:

  • A rear wheel drive car with reasonable power to break the rear traction
  • LSD
  • Cheap / crappy rear tyres
  • This list alone will get you started with drifting. Although some may argue that with such equipments you may not go far, it does provide you ample outlet to get a feel of what drifting is like and allows you to develop skills on car control.

    I started toying with the idea of sliding the car with my Proton Saga. Yes, it is a front wheel drive car, and it even has an automatic gearbox. Drifts in the car has to be initiated mostly with the handbrake combined with a good throttle control. What’s going to happen is that the moment the handbrake is pulled the rear wheels will lock up, sending the car to a slide. In order not to slide too much and ending up with a spin, some throttle is needed so that the front wheels will pull the front of the car in the direction of the drift. These has to be done in reasonable speed to enjoy a longer duration of slide, because a front wheel drive car in drift has problems maintaining consistent speed. It’ll get slower and slower and eventually kills the drift.

    Arguably, there are other techniques in front wheel drive car such as left foot braking which will give some great fun and be of use when one day you decide to venture into rallying. I didn’t try enough to master that technique before I moved on to a proper rear wheel drive platform – A 1981 Nissan Bluebird 910 SSS. This is a car that is very typical of the 80s – Front engine, rear wheel drive, boxy looks, side mirror on the front fenders, chrome everywhere. It’s pretty decent for its generation, powered by a 1.8 litre twin carburettor engine that generates reasonable amount of torque, and having independent rear suspension set up which in the days of 1980s is considered advanced. (Hell even some sissy cars now don’t come with independent rear suspensions).

    It was in this car that I finally felt for the first time, how drifting in a proper rear wheel drive feels like. As soon as drift is initiated, a good throttle and steering control will see that the car drifts for quite a good distance and with fantastic angle. Drifting no longer feels like “forcing” the car to slide (as with the feeling of front wheel drive car), and coupled with the worn out tyres and a wet surface, it is not too hard to pull a complete handbrake turn in opposite lock.

    It was also in this car that I experienced the difference between drifting with and without an LSD. The car came with no LSD installed, so when the car is sent to a slide, the outer wheel tends to slow down because the power is shifted to the inner wheel. You can still pull off drifts but it is harder to achieve a great angle. To resolve this issue, I resorted to welding the differential gears. What happens now is that the two wheels will spin at the same speed, basically now the car will feel like it has a long drive shaft that connects two wheels together instead of having two separate drive shafts. Drifting was a lot easier and the angle can be more aggressive as long as the power delivery kept coming. It made quite a significant difference. However, it could be an annoyance in shopping mall parking lots and petrol stations as the inner wheel scrubs on the floor, gathering a lot of unwanted attention.

    As times goes by, the car started to develop reliability problems (it’s a 1981 year old car afterall). I realized that I really loved drifting and wanted a competitive car to be in this sport for a longer term. I then worked hard and gathered enough moolah to acquire my dream drift ride – A 1990 Nissan 180SX.

    The 180SX name is no stranger in the world of drifting. Front engine, rear wheel drive in a 1100kg chassis, with 230 bhp on tap right out of the factory, it’s like the car is made for drifting. The car that I got hold of has been extensively modified with goodies to churn out about 350 bhp on engine at 1.3 bar of boost. So there I was, finding myself moving from a 80 bhp car to a 300+ bhp car within the turn of the night.

    One may assume that I would be able to drift the car immediately, sadly that wasn’t the case. Every car, regardless of power and on-the-paper goodness, has its own character and handling behavior. Every car presents a learning curve. With more power comes greater speed and danger too. The previous car has spongy suspension and a long wheelbase, giving you ample time to counteract when the car starts sliding, the 180SX is equipped with stiff sport suspensions, thus everything happens a lot faster. You would need very quick reflexes and response to catch the car before it goes out of control.

    So, yup. This is the story of me and drifting. I do not intend to keep it at this level though. If things permit, I would love to be able to master the handling of the 180SX and use to compete in various events to see how far I can go. The 180SX is a fantastic platform already and I believe many fantastic things can be done with this car, what it takes is a great driver behind the wheel, and that’s where I aspire to head towards!

    What’s gonna happen here?

    June 8, 2009

    First of all, hello and welcome! This will be a small little place for me to share my automotive knowledge, and to discuss about all my DIY stuffs, automotive engineering stuff, and also things about driving and handling the car.

    The main star of the blog will of course be my beloved ride – a 1990 Nissan 180SX. I just acquired this babe from half a year ago and the previous owner has already put in a lot of goodies in the car that is good for 350 bhp on crank at 1.3 bar of boost. My plan is to use this as my platform to enter various motorsport events (autokhana, drift, track) and an avenue for me to get my hands dirty on tinkering with cars.

    Please feel free to check-in on new posts and drop comments as well as contribute DIY ideas, all ideas are welcomed!