*first published on http://www.efy.com.my on January 30 2016.
*2017 update: BlastACars Malaysia has moved to a new location at Sungei Wang Plaza, Kuala Lumpur.
Watching the Initial D movie will make you want to whip out your steering wheel and go cutting corners like a pro. In the film, racers pit their cars in street races against each other. There was an emphasis on drifting – a flashy technique where the driver intentionally oversteers, causing loss of traction in the rear wheels.
Today, drifting is a motorsport of its own, with tournaments and races around the world. Malaysia even has its very own female drifter, Leona Chin.It’s too bad we (regular) Malaysians can’t do that on the roads without getting a big fat saman or causing accidents!
….. or can we?
A Need for Speed
BlastACars Malaysia opened its doors to Malaysians in May 2015. Here, drivers fulfil their need for speed on drift karts – specially designed karts that are made for drifting.The indoor race track in the industrial area of Balakong, Selangor covers two acres of land, with a track measuring around 200m. Originally from New Zealand, BlastACars has been around for 27 years before an ingenious young Malaysian decided to bring it to local shores.
“Regular gokarts run in straight lines. It can’t drift as it will lose its pickup power when going through corners,” BlastACars Malaysia chief executive officer John Wong explained. Drift karts, on the other hand, are heavier at the bottom with a more powerful engine, more torque and higher capacity (up to 390 cc). “When you accelerate, it will lose traction almost immediately, allowing the kart to drift,” said Wong.
It all started with Wong discovering BlastACars through social media. “I thought it has a lot of potential, especially in the Klang Valley where everybody is finding new things to do,” he enthused.
“Go karting is mainstream and has been around for some time. I wanted to do something that is really different and stands out from the crowd,” said Wong, who also has an avid interest in motorsports.Deciding that this would be a good and healthy place for people to hang out, Wong flew to New Zealand to discuss the business deal. It took over nine months for him to seal it. Prior to opening BlastACars Malaysia, Wong was in the sales and marketing line for more than 10 years. Currently, this is the first and only BlastACars franchise in Asia.
The center has 10 karts, but only six are allowed to run per session. “If you see some players on track, it might seem easy. But it’s not!” he laughed .“Some players might end up driving all over the place. When there are more karts inside the tracks, chances are they will bump into each other.
“Although our safety system is good, too many karts on the track will spoil the fun as every time you come to a corner there might be someone there and you won’t be able to do drifting properly,” he elaborated.
Sessions are divided according to ranking – Novice, Intermediate, Advance and Pro. Karts for each category have different speeds. A standard run is 12 minutes. For beginners, Wong recommends they play two to four rounds to really ‘get the hang of it’. “It’s common during the first run to just apply what you know about driving. The first round will always be ‘kelam kabut’ (messy)!” he chuckled. “Practice makes perfect.”
Enough with the banter – can I go live my dream as a master drifter now?
The friendly staff led me to a briefing room where I watched a video explaining rules and safety. Once that was done, I walked down onto the track where I put on a helmet, got into the kart and strapped on the seat belt. Then I had to demonstrate to the staff that I knew how to reverse the kart with a side handle, in case my vehicle knocks into something.
Red, yellow, green, go! Once the light turned green, I pressed the pedal and the kart zoomed forward. The feeling of going at a high speed on a track was exhilarating! I had to avoid tyres which were placed to form obstacles all around the track. Drifting is not as easy as it seems. It was very hard to control the steering and make the kart drift around sharp corners. One round is definitely not enough for a beginner.
After many laps, I slowly got the hang of it. I left the track with adrenaline pumping in my veins and a sense of accomplishment.
Rules and Regulations
The minimum playing height is 120cm. There is no maximum age, as long as drivers are in a healthy condition.“We provide them with helmets. It’s best to wear shoes when playing. Our karts also come with seatbelts. They are built to be very tough and won’t flip, which is a common thing in the go kart world.
If someone really can’t handle the kart well or in case of emergencies, staff can use remote control to slow down the karts or cut off their engine.
The place accepts walk-ins and bookings. A major part of the clientele are working adults. They also do corporate events such as team building and product launches.It seems that many people come here to blow off steam after work, as prime hours are after 10pm. The center opens until 2am, with last call at midnight.Other than locals, Wong claims they get a lot of Singaporeans and Bruneians, especially on weekends.
“We hope to push this to become one of the hot tourist destinations in future, as you can only get BlastAcars here in Malaysia,” he added.
If you’d like to get a feel for the track before actually going onto it, there are racing simulators in the comforts of an air-conditioned room. With triple screens, it feels like you’re in a cockpit of a car. “We have loads of international tracks in it so you can drive a lot of different cars. It’s 80% similar to driving a real car,” Wong claimed.
On future plans for the company, Wong says that they wanted to focus on the current outlet first.“We’ve had enquiries from other countries. We hope that by the end of the year we might have some good news,” he said.“We want to push this to become an international sport, so we definitely need it to be in a few countries,”
Prices start from RM50 (Novice), RM60 (Intermediate) and RM80 (advanced). They are currently running a Happy Hour Buy 3 Free 1 promotion from 6pm – 9pm daily. This session is 15 minutes each, which gives you one whole hour of drifting!
BlastACars Malaysia is located at Lot 72887, Kawasan Industrial Balakong Jaya, 43300, Balakong, Selangor, Malaysia.
Opening hours are from 11am til late daily. For more details, visit www.blastacars.my
And this is how professionals do it!