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SMT Driftcademy : Side Aye!

David Khoo
David Khoo • 5 min read
SMT Driftcademy : Side Aye!
SMT Driftcademy / PHOTOS BY David Khoo & SMT Driftcademy
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An empty yard, a sprinkler system and two rear-drive cars make for a scintillating afternoon drifting slideways with SMT Driftcademy.

Johor, Malaysia - Simple is best.

In fact, it’s hard to imagine anything simpler than my hot seat for the half-day’s oversteer action – the pick of a pair of stripped-out, stick-shift, six-cylinder drift-prepped Franken-cars.

We’re at the open space SMT Driftcademy uses for its introductory classes, a short hop from Singapore into Johor from the Woodlands checkpoint.

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If you’re wondering, “SMT” stands for Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, the outfit’s areas of operations.

However, more importantly for a hot day out, it’s just around the corner from a kopitiam that serves wicked Ice Kacang and Cendol.

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You can even hear the symphonic cacophony of tortured tyres and the evocative soundtracks of the six-cylinder sedans when you're chilling out with the chilled desserts.

This is “grassroots-style” drifting at its earthiest and takes place on a tuning workshop’s empty industrial yard. 

It features wet and dry zones, as well as a bunch of cones that can be deployed to make things more challenging as one’s skill advances beyond the basic “donut”.

For our paid four-hour session (at about S$400/driver), there are two instructors attached to our party of four – co-founder Mr. Pang Ming Yu and Mr. Kenny Yee (seated) – with two cars to alternate between, a BMW E36 325i and a Nissan G35 Skyline.

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However, it is less about the cars and everything about the technique, which translates to an intense and enriching workout, both physically and mentally.

If you take any joy in driving at all, you’ll appreciate that it is a life-long learning experience, which really only starts after you get your driving licence.

Track Driving, Ice Driving and yes, even Drifting, teach you the nuances of car control and develop the requisite instinctive muscle memory necessary for fast driving, as well as emergency situations.

After all, if your car loses traction on ice, water or oil, the last thing you want is to panic and blank-out, but respond instinctively with steady inputs through the throttle, steering and brakes.

Of course, you could build your way towards turning competitive, but our objective was to upskill our driving abilities.

Drifting is a controlled loss of your car’s control, and the SMT Driftcademy’s instructors teach you how to full send in its safe space, rain or shine (in our case, both as it turned out!).

The key to a successful send is commitment and confidence, especially with regards to initiating a drift – be it through a Scandi Flick or as it was in our case, a purposeful, short and sharp stab of the throttle – but perhaps most importantly, to remember to look at where you want to be.

Dither with indecisiveness and the initial buzz will likely degenerate into killjoy understeer.

However, get it right and the car will start to rotate, after which you’ll be able to control the angle of drift through throttle and helm, but mostly the former as your finesse improves.

Compared to the sterile driving experience of the average modern car, the pair of visceral drift-prepped cars do not desensitise you from the motoring experience.

This means you’ll feel every shift in lateral g, with all the vividness of the road communicated to the driver in all its multi-textured glory, even as the air is punctuated by the car’s strident call to arms.

SMT Driftcademy isn’t a new outfit, but was founded just after Malaysia’s MCO (Movement Control Order) “lockdown” brought about by the COVID-19 global pandemic some years ago.

“Inspired by drift-king Keiichi Tsuchiya in the Best Motoring series, as well as Initial D episodes, I was always intrigued by drifting. After I tried it for myself, I was hooked, because it hands-down beat the superbike and track-driving experience,” co-founder Ming Yu tells us (pictured above). 

SMT Driftcademy’s drifting courses range from introductory to competitive, with a roster of instructors that also includes pro drifters.

Besides that, it can also facilitate car storage, drift event management, tuning, modified builds and pit support.

Even if it probably isn’t the cheapest outfit in the business, we like that the location is reasonably discreet, but more importantly is only a short drive from Singapore.

For more advanced classes, SMT Driftcademy has access to a larger “playground” on which to lay down some serious rubber.

In true grassroots fashion, it is a simple and no-frills set-up.

You'll definitely need to look beyond all this and forego the lux and glam hospitality elements (there's no air-con in either the cars or the waiting area!) to really appreciate the gritty, no-holds-barred educational experience.

This is because with the encouraging instructors always on-hand to instigate and enable our most salacious sideways fantasies and tyre-shredding fetishes, the course is anything but basic.

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