Monday, July 20, 2009

Shifting gear

Tengku Djan, a.k.a. Tandem Assassin, expectedly wore out a lot of tyres during his weekend workshop.

Having mastered the art of drifting GT cars, Tengku Djan Ley Tengku Mahaleel is now geared towards drifting remote controlled cars.

AT Carpark A in Bukit Jalil in Kuala Lumpur, Tengku Djan Ley Tengku Mahaleel was surrounded by three newbies, eager to pick up tips on drifting.

Though the afternoon sun was relentless, the three were unfazed by the heat.

While lesser mortals would have wilted, the newbies were hanging on to Tengku Djan’s every word, bent on gleaning whatever drift tips they could dig out from this Kelantanese blue blood.

And Tengku Djan seemed to come across like a school P.E. instructor that sunny weekend.

Like an encouraging coach psyching up his charges, most of whom were no older than 25, he spoke patiently and clearly, and for this display of dedication, he was rewarded with rapt attention.

Getting his point across: Tengku Djan teaching a participant how to drift safely.

One also suspected that these newcomers were also a little awed by being in his presence, but that was to be expected.

The man has a quite a rep for being a daredevil on track.

Afterall, the 32-year-old is the “Prince of Drift” and rumours about him being “The Tandem Assassin” also holds true.

He has a knack for “eliminating” his competitors by overtaking them, most times with only a mere heart stopping inches to spare before sliding sideways and finishing off with a brilliant flourish at the exit.

Not surprisingly, when the workshop was announced on his website, it was immediately fully booked.

But when the drift star was if he will be imparting his skills on a regular basis from now on, he shrugged.

Any additional workshops will only happen after Hari Raya as he will be preparing for the 12-hour Merdeka Millenium endurance race in the upcoming two weeks.

“This weekend was special because everything just gelled together and mainly because my girlfriend is away for the weekend,” he grinned sheepishly.

Herein, you must know one thing about this automotive engineer who is also the head of Proton Motorsports. He is not adverse to a bit of leg pulling and is the sort who would laugh at the drop of a hat. And the sound of his mirth is likened to the sound of a bell’s peal – a succession of hearty laughs would send the heaviest clouds of gloom scurrying to make way for rays of sunshine and rainbows to emerge.

“I am no joker but I like to laugh and I don’t know why I like to do that,” confessed this jovial character.

And you’ve guessed it, Tengku Djan is a comedy fan.

“I used to watch a lot of Mind Your Language (a British comedy series set in a language school) and Black Adder (starring Rowan Atkinson) because they are easy to watch and you can walk out happy.

And I am one who believes in being happy because no matter what kind of problems may come your way, you will somehow see things positively,” he said.

And speaking of being happy, Tengku Djan obviously has some novel ways to de-stress. One would be in spending time training his pet beagle and another, to toy with his remote controlled car which he can also drift!

“When the RC community called me to judge their drifting competitions about two years ago, I thought why not get involved as well. So I went out and bought myself a Yokomo RC car at Hobby Haven in Subang,” he revealed.

And herein, he would reveal sotto voce that he had chosen to take the shortcut by buying the display unit instead of starting from scratch with the assembly kit.

Expectedly, Tenku Djan finished this sentence with a loud laugh.

“This is a fuss-free hobby for me when I have one or two hours to spare. Then it’s off to the mamak stall for a roti telur and teh o ais,” he revealed.

But when he’s got more time, it’s down to the real boy’s stuff, dirt biking on his Husqvarna, where he can ride off with a group of five to 10 buddies.

“Oh, please don’t ask me where the best trials are, because I just follow.

“Most times, it’s a combination of rubber estates and logging routes. A half-day trip would be to Cameron Highlands and a full day trip to Gua Musang,” he said.

And no, as he describes it in his own words, there is no time to stop and admire this flower or tree.

“You work your body a lot because there are some routes when you have to get off and push.

“There are times when you also have to get a whole fleet of bikes across a river.

“So it can be rather tiring,” explained Tengku Djan on why there’s no time for bird watching or botanical studies.

He also issued a warning for the uninitiated dirt bike rider.

“Never stop in the middle of a herd of cows. If they get spooked, they can do considerable damage to machine and man,” he warned.

What he counts as important is dinner with his parents, and time spent with family.

Here’s an interesting fact – Tengku Djan may take over the wheel with his mum or when he’s on a date. However, when he is with his father, Tengku Tan Sri Mahaleel, it’s Dad who’s still in charge of the wheel.

“This is when I can sit back and enjoy being driven for a change,” beamed Tengku Djan proudly of his doting father.

To contact Tengku Djan, check out

published in The Star on Sunday, August 3, 2008.

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