THE RACE DRIVER LIFE

Wheels Asia - - Editor’s column - TEXT AND PHO­TOS AARON HIA

Our man knows he’ll never be a race driver in this life, but tries to live like one

e all have had big as­pi­ra­tions when we were young. re­mem­bered nar­row­ing my ca­reer choices to be ei­ther a race car driver or a fighter pi­lot. With the lat­ter oc­cu­pa­tion very much out of the win­dow, my dream of be­com­ing a race car driver is nowhere near a pos­si­ble re­al­ity, but the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing able to par­tic­i­pate in var­i­ous driv­ing pro­grammes around the world has net­ted me, years of ex­pe­ri­ence han­dling fast cars in fluid sit­u­a­tions, sim­i­lar to what race car driv­ers ex­pe­ri­ence, al­beit at a much slower speed with the pre­dic­tion of what might hap­pen in a sim­i­lar sce­nario.

I thor­oughly en­joy driv­ing my per­sonal car, a Suzuki Swift that I had ac­quired al­most eight years ago. Since then, the jour­ney has been amaz­ing. Aside from the daily driv­ing that ev­ery car un­der­goes dur­ing its 10year life­span here in Sin­ga­pore, I also take it to Sepang In­ter­na­tional Cir­cuit where I put it through its paces on the renowned 5.4km For­mula 1 race cir­cuit.

To gain that sense of ex­cite­ment and that shot of adren­a­line rush, I push the bound­aries of nor­mal driv­ers wouldn’t usually at­tempt, tak­ing cor­ners at over 120km/h. Of course, this wouldn’t be nor­mally pos­si­ble for a stan­dard Suzuki Swift. I spent many years tin­ker­ing and re­think­ing the af­ter­mar­ket per­for­mance parts that go into the car to fit my driv­ing strat­egy for clock­ing the best time on the cir­cuit. This meant spend­ing many hours of re­search, look­ing high and low for that par­tic­u­lar piece of the jig­saw puz­zle. On a bud­get too, I source for the clos­est al­ter­na­tive that can do the job just as well as the in­tended part does. This also meant spend­ing many hours in the work­shop, in­spect­ing the car, talk­ing to the me­chan­ics and un­der­stand­ing the more in­tri­cate de­tails of the car, so much so that I some­times take the task upon my­self to in­stall or fit a part by get­ting my hands oily, soiled or dirty.

Un­der­stand­ing one’s car is part and par­cel of that process of be­com­ing a race driver. Even if you’re not, it is al­ways good to know the quirks and com­mon is­sues with your car. While one can get com­pla­cent and leave it to tow­ing ser­vices in Sin­ga­pore, the same can­not be said for Sepang, which is eas­ily 400km away from Sin­ga­pore. This means that ev­ery part of the car has to be ex­am­ined and in­spected thor­oughly be­fore mak­ing the jour­ney. Not that the me­chanic can­not be trusted, but some­times it is bet­ter to con­duct the in­spec­tion by one­self. It is al­ways bet­ter to have two pairs of eyes, rather than just one.

That said, it cer­tainly wouldn’t be com­plete if the driver isn’t in tip-top shape. Be­lieve it or not, I once weighed over 80kg and in the rac­ing world, that is com­pletely un­ac­cept­able. Not only was I out of shape, my fit­ness was off and I was al­ways feel­ing lethar­gic. I then re­called my child­hood am­bi­tion of be­com­ing a race driver and soon, I was off for weekly even­ing jogs, long dis­tance cy­cling trips and hav­ing bal­anced meals. It wasn’t sur­pris­ing

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