Racing up Ulu Yam/Genting – why do we still do this?
Time and time again, we see incidents of sports car and supercar owners racing on the public highway. Often driving in large groups, these individuals travel at high speeds on roads frequented by other motorists simply going about their own business, and they often end up in massive accidents.
Most recently, a video posted by Azman Nor on Facebook – which showed a Renault Megane RS hitting a Proton Wira and flipping over – exhibited the public’s negative perception of these irresponsible road users, with many pouring scorn over actions that could so easily have been fatal.
The road on which this accident took place, the B23 leading to Ulu Yam Baharu, is a popular destination for two- and four-wheeled enthusiasts looking for a spirited blast – as is the nearby road from Batang Kali to Genting Highlands – due to its sweeping corners and thrilling elevation changes. For the Initial D generation, it’s the perfect touge substitute.
As many of us who have driven there will know, however, it is also extremely treacherous. The roads consist mostly of tight two-lane tarmac, with plenty of blind bends that are often badly surfaced, potentially causing hard-cornering cars to go off their intended line – and straight into oncoming traffic. And that’s before you take into account the fact that most stretches are pitch dark at night.
Despite this, however, plenty of people continue to drive hard and fast on these roads, taking liberties not only by driving at ridiculous speeds, but also cutting into oncoming lanes in the corners. Even some of the local motoring media are guilty of this – I for one will admit to being one of them, having gotten into a serious single-vehicle crash there a few years ago. So I know how easily it can all go wrong in a split second.
But it doesn’t take someone like me to tell you just how dangerous speeding is. Even on a relatively straight and empty highway, driving significantly above the speed limit opens you up to the possibility of a huge crash that can maim or kill you. On a twisty rural road with slow-moving traffic, the risk only multiplies.
And don’t think for a second that your Ferrari’s sticky tyres and arsenal of driver aids are going to be enough to save you. While the advent of stability control remains the single biggest improvement in vehicle safety, even the most advanced systems can only go so far to compensate for excessive speed, the limits of grip or your lack of talent. The instant you lose control at high speeds, it is often too late.
Driving or riding recklessly also gives us car and bike enthusiasts a bad name. We already have a lot on our plate, from rising car prices to the growing extinction of the sports car market, losing out to the ever-popular crossover (groan). We don’t need the public to turn against our simple love of driving too, do we?
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Malaysia may no longer have the multitude of race circuits that we used to, but we still have a world-class facility just an hour’s drive away from the city centre – and the barrier of entry into the world of sanctioned motorsports is going down. Race organisers like our very own Malaysia Speed Festival (MSF) are offering track days at the Sepang International Circuit from as low as RM300 for two hours, and there you can drive as fast as you like – so long as you abide to a few simple safety regulations.
Those of a more competitive bent can opt for time attack events, which are held not only by MSF but also other reputable entities like Grass Racing Autosports (GRA) and Sucimuci Motorsports. These events often have categories for road cars at affordable prices, catered to those with somewhat tighter belts. And while proper multi-car racing remains an expensive affair, series like our Saga Cup are much more cost-efficient and provide more door-to-door racing than even the most exciting Formula 1 race.
And what about those who still want to experience the thrill of a public road? Well, this year MSF is hosting its MSF Touge Series of hillclimb events, held on exactly the type of twisty, hilly roads that enthusiasts love – but, most importantly, with the safety of being closed to traffic and managed by people who have decades of motorsports experience. It too is open to road cars, requiring the bare minimum of safety equipment.
With all these options for the budding racer, the excuse of sanctioned motorsports being prohibitively expensive is no longer valid. It never was, anyway – it was perhaps understandable (but not excusable) for low-budget drivers to speed on the public highway, but if you can afford a sports car or even a moderately powerful hot hatch, you can afford a track day.
So take your need for speed to the track. And when you are driving on a public road, do it sanely and responsibly by obeying all traffic rules. Lastly, drive within your limits of both your car and yourself, and don’t be pressured by other drivers to speed up. Remember, when you’re sharing the road with other users, safety always comes first.
And of course, we at paultan.org try to be responsible when we take test cars out for a drive. While we do evaluate a car’s performance characteristics, we do it within the scope of what an average driver is capable of, and we do not push it to its absolute limits.
With certain high performance vehicles, we rent a circuit to test them out, or have the authorities close the road – see our first, second and third Driven Web Series hot hatch episodes for examples – or rent an airfield as with our million-ringgit sports cars episode. We will never compromise safety for the sake of readership or viewership.
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