Kuala Lumpur, 28 September 2007 – Almost all of the racing drivers who have made an impact on the motor sport scene in Malaysia since the sport started more than fifty years ago, met for the first time at a special gathering held in Kuala Lumpur tonight, hosted by Dato’ Foo Wan Kien, who also dabbled in the sport in his younger days, before he became one of the founder members of the Royal Perak Motor Club (RPMC), and took on race organising. Some of those who attended were pioneers in motor racing, including Rodney Seow, who came up from Singapore to attend the occasion. The oldest driver was 77 years of age, and the youngest was at least 50. Collectively, all the veterans had a total age of more than 100 years.
The occasion was the 66th birthday of Dato’ Foo, for whom the number 66 is of great significance, since it was the number that his star driver, Albert Poon (from Hong Kong) used as the competition number for the many Alfa Romeos that were entered by Dato Foo in the years from the 1960’s to the 1970’s. Dato’ Foo was also the franchise holder for Alfa Romeo in the period from the 1960’s to the early 1990’s.
The brand came to fame when Dato’ Foo’s company, City Motors, started to take an active part in motor sports, engaging various local drivers in the beginning, and Albert Poon, later on. Famous names like Dato Eddie Choong, at one time the badminton champion of Malaysia, Rodney Seow and Edwin Stothard raced in the Alfa Romeos.
On the scene was Eric Ooi, now in his seventies, jovial as ever. Eric was known for his tactical skills in motor racing, and for being a very fast and good driver. Just for the record, he personally taught me a few tricks, including how to overtake a faster car on the race track, a trick which I put to good use to help me win my very first outright win in 1977 in the Series Production race during the Selangor Grand Prix.
Also present was Philip Leong, a lawyer from Ipoh, now in his late sixties and semi-retired to a beautiful ‘jungle’ home in the Chenderiang forest, where he lives with his wife and eight pet dogs. Philip was one of the early pioneers of motor rallying in the country, who started by ‘borrowing’ his mother’s car to enter rallies, although it is a wonder how he managed to convince his mother that all the little dents and scratches were something he had nothing to do with.
All the way from Singapore came Croc Tang, who raced very successfully at Batu Tiga, at the Ipoh Grass Track racing, and also took part in many rallies. Croc was one of the great drivers of his time, and actually taught me how to be smooth and fast on rallies.
Ronnie Chin, who was instrumental in starting me off on my first ever race, was there as well. In his younger days, he was always a cheerful man to be around, being the life and soul of any party or gathering, with his many stories about being lost in the jungle, or breaking down, and scaring himself and his co-driver with ghost stories, and imagining things in the darkness of the night. Ronnie was known for his ‘wild’ driving habits, clipping embankments or mud walls to keep his rally car on track.
Dato’ Foo decided to make the very auspicious occasion more memorable by inviting as many of the veteran racers as he could get hold of to attend the party. Many others attended, including Chong Kim Fah, Ron Lim, who has yet to stop racing, Ian Grey, who looks so different that none of us could recognise him, Doc Chin, who was for a short while my team mate in team Mazda, and Ali Kadir, now a Dato’, who first started racing in the late seventies in a Duckhams coloured Fiat 127 with his brother Shah.
It was truly a great event, as all the veterans got together to exchange notes, phone numbers and update each other. It was especially great to see people who were competing against each other in the old days, sometimes with hostility and bitterness, occasionally ending up in fisticuffs and physicals, sitting together and becoming friends again.