Kiki Sak Nana - Calling time on a glittering career

Kiki Sak Nana - Calling time on a glittering career

17.02.2017: Thailand has produced a string of contemporary star racing drivers that have gone out into the world and demonstrated their skills,


Thailand has produced a string of contemporary star racing drivers that have gone out into the world and demonstrated their skills, carrying the national flag high and with pride.




But without any disrespect to any of our currently racing champs, one driver really stands out – his is the first name off any fan’s lips – but more than just an idol to motorsport fans such has been the winning narrative of his career that he’s long since made the less common transition to mainstream celebrity in his own right.
 


That driver is Sak Nana, who is known simply as ‘Kiki’ to many millions of Thais. And the news that will shock his legion of fans is that he’s hanging up his helmet and retiring.
 


Synonymous with the discipline of drifting, Kiki has just one final appointment on his racing calendar – the famous ‘drift show’ at the Bangsaen Grand Prix, coming up next week. It will be an emotional farewell at an event that always features a packed house, but more of that later.
 


So why after a stellar career that has brought such impressive rewards, particularly during the last few years and especially so in the season just gone where he’s been bang at the top of his game, has Kiki decided now is the right time to retire?



 “Time’s up,” he answers simply, explaining that he’s reached the peak of his career. “I’ve spent a lot of my life in racing and especially in the last three to five years in Germany I have tried to reach as high a point as I could and I reached it,” he says.





“I’ve drifted all around the world and I’ve been top of the rankings in the world, three times in the top five in three of my years and I’ve gone as high as I can, especially racing in Germany.”
 


Many drivers prefer the comfort of being a big fish in a small pond but that route never really appealed to Kiki, even if his huge home following would have still been 100% behind him win, lose or draw.



He took the challenge of mixing it with the best of the best in the world head on – in recent years he has raced in Germany, arguably the toughest domestic racing scene in the world. And Germany is where Kiki has excelled and made his mark. Further arguably, the Nürburgring 24 Hours is regarded by many as the toughest race in the world.




 Held on the Nordschleife and known simply as the ‘24’ to those who participate in this manic race, it was dubbed the ‘Green Hell’ by Jackie Stewart and the nickname stuck. Conditions are insane, rain, hail and snow can hit the track at any point while the other side could be dry and sunny – it’s so lethal that Formula 1 turned its back on the Nordschleife 40 years ago.
 


Kiki first went there in 2012 and a year later he won his class – an historic achievement and one of the greatest ever results by a Thai driver in history. When he crossed the finishline he had truly cemented his name into our record books in big block letters.
 


Two years later he was back on the podium while last year in the ‘VLN’ series he claimed five class wins from ten races. “No grip, can’t see, push hard” he recently captioned a post from VLN on Instagram – that sums up VLN racing, professional race driving in general and of course this man himself.
 


It’s pretty hard to top the achievements of the last five years and Kiki admits that helps to make it the right time to stop.





 “I’ve done what I set out to do, what I wanted to achieve,” he says. “I have a daughter and a lot of business commitments, I’ve given racing all my time for the last five years and there are many more things I want to do with my life.”
 


His journey in the cockpit actually started back in 1991 in Formula Ford at Donington Park, as far removed a setting from the warmth and comfort of Thailand that you could get. He started getting wins and the podiums under his belt in the UK and moved onto saloon cars.
 


It was in 1997 though that Kiki embarked on a career change that would cement his place in Thai urban folklaw as he began drifting – it was like a duck taking to water and he remembers fondly some of the biggest highlights of his racing career.



“I started drifting at the big tuning events, the Birmingham Motor Show and the Max Power Show at the NEC [in the UK], at shows in Ireland and the Motorsport Show at Hockenheim,” he says. “That was between 2000 and 2005 and I drifted in almost every country in Europe, it was great to bring drifting to the shows and to the fans.”
 


He even represented Thailand during the ‘Race of Champions’ when it came to Bangkok’s Rajamangala Stadium in 2012. This is what redbull.com, who described him as the ‘Guru of Drift’ after seeing him in action, said at the time:



“We were immediately impressed not just by his love of drifting his Toyota GT86, but also his disregard for the rules!” Never a truer statement, he defined his drifting in his own showman style.
 


While chasing racing glory around the world, Kiki never forgot to keep close to the Thai fans and was always a regular face in Super Car. During the TSS era he will be fondly remembered for racing a Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 and Porsche 997 GT3-R in Super Car Class 1 as well as for electrifying the crowds with the Krating Daeng Drift Team.
 


Now we are about to come full circle. Next weekend in Bangsaen when the sun starts to drop towards the glittering ocean and the late afternoon shadows begin to lengthen it means only one thing – the ‘drift show’ is about to begin.



 It’s the main attraction and the fans cling to every available vantage point to get a better view as the squealing of tyres signals that the gladiators have arrived. It ends in clouds of smoke drifting across the ocean’s waters and into the sunset. Now the greatest drifting gladiator is about to enter the ring once more and there isn’t going to be a dry eye in the house.
 


Kiki promises a special show on a track he loves. “Bangsaen is one of the greatest places to be,” he says “In my heart there are only two places I want to race, Bangsaen and the Nordschleife; in Bangsaen I love everything, I love the track, I love the atmosphere, I love the food, I love the fans and I love the hospitality, I really love the place.



Khun Sontaya Kunplome has done so much for Thai motorsport, given so much, so it’s great to drift in Bangsaen. But now it’s time for a new generation to do my job, to show what they can do.
 


“The track is something special, it’s difficult and it changes, you need twenty different settings in one lap,” he says, while promising to put on a real show.



 “I want the spectators to enjoy it, I promise a hardcore drift show that everyone will remember and this time I will have a spare car with me; usually I don’t have a spare but I will be able to put on a hardcore show. I will also have a lucky draw for our team’s fans to sit alongside me.”
 


TSS is clearly as excited as everyone else to see Kiki back in action in Bangsaen but we will deeply miss him. He’s given so much to the sport and offered so much support for the series so we wish him well for the future and now look forward to the grand finale.

 
 
 
- Edd Ellison, photos TSS

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/kiki-sak-nana-calling-glittering-career---160908.html

17.02.2017 / MaP

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