A convoy of Ferraris line the driveway of the Shangri-La Hotel as guests dressed to the nines converge in the lobby. Skilful lion dance performers show off their fancy footwork to the festive sounds of clashing drums and gongs.
No, this isn’t a scene from Crazy Rich Asians, but what actually happened this year at the annual lohei gathering of the Ferrari Owners’ Club (FOC) Singapore during Chinese New Year.
As one of Singapore’s premier car clubs, the FOC, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, is as known for its lavish social gatherings as it is for its immaculately organised motoring events, where members have travelled as far as Mongolia to push the limits of their Italian stallions.
Leong Kah Wah, president of FOC Singapore, says: “While we are keen on venues that have the prestige factor, it is the camaraderie and friendship within the club and the joy of having occasions like these to meet one another that is the glue that brings our members together.”
But what is lesser known is that these events are run by a tightly knit group of committee members who do it out of love for the Italian brand and simply to offer their members a space to have a good time.
“This is a place for us to enjoy our cars and friendships. This is a place for us to play hard,” says Leong.
Three of the club’s key committee members – Leong; driving director Azim Hassanbhai; and social director Stephanie Lee – sit down for a chat about how they keep the gears churning.
First things first, why does Ferrari hold a special place in your heart?
LKW: It is the pinnacle of all car brands. I worked my way up, from Japanese and continental brands, before finally arriving at owning a Ferrari. Ferrari designs road cars based on its F1 technology and it allows drivers like myself to experience it.
SL: It’s easy to identify a Ferrari. The brand’s designs are sexy yet somehow understated, and its wide range of models appeal to both men and women.
AH: The “Cavallino Rampante” is one of the most recognisable symbols in the automotive industry. It offers the entire experience from the moment you step into distributor Ital Auto’s showroom and are greeted by the array of Ferrari cars on display, to driving the head-turning car on the road.
How did you fall in love with fast, high performance cars?
SL: I used to be a tomboy – instead of playing with Barbie Dolls, I would save up to buy Hot Wheels, Transformers Car toys and Sega car racing games. I was also fascinated by stories from my sister (Cheryl Lee) who inherited my parents’ adrenalin junkie traits when she was riding with either my dad or mum as a side passenger in their Ferrari 308GTB, Porsche 911 Targa, Porsche 944, Lamborghini Countach and Lotus Esprit.
I enjoy the personality of a naturally aspirated engine which is high-revving and high-spirited. There is more to an engine than just the speed. I am more interested in how a car feels and how it connects with me rather than how fast it is.
LKW: My interest is in fast cars and the way they drive. From the roaring ignition and the acceleration through the gears, I feel the car coming to life. I’m also a big fan of Formula One and when Singapore first hosted the Grand Prix in 2008, that was my first experience with the high-pitched engines of the F1 cars and it completely bowled me over.
AH: Cars have been part of my childhood as my parents always loved their cars. I’ve always been intrigued by motoring engineering and design, and am always reading about the capabilities of each car. I love the speeds and sensations afforded by a high-performance car – it goes beyond the limits of the human body.
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What makes the FOC different from other car clubs?
LKW: This year is the 20th anniversary of the FOC in Singapore. I’ve been on the committee since 2014 and have been the president for three years. The initial objective of creating FOC is as a motoring club and we still hold true to those values and objectives but a very big part of the club is the social events, which is where Stephanie comes in as we are car guys. You have to measure us among car clubs and from that, we have built a level of success. Our philosophy is to be more family-oriented.
SL: For driving activities, the convoys are limited to about 40 cars but, for social events, we have the capacity to have more members and their families involved. They can be very casual like our upcoming durian event – we’re Singaporeans, we love to eat!
With friendships forged after participating in a few events together, many wives and children of members have even organised their own outings outside the club. Sometimes we attend FOC members’ weddings and joke that it is like a club gathering.
LKW: And we attend members’ children’s birthday parties too.
Our corporate social responsibility outreach has also allowed our back to the less fortunate, and we have collaborated with Kidz Horizon Appeal and Make A Wish charity foundations.
Tell us about the club’s motoring activities.
AH: I’m in charge of whatever drives that involve the club – we’ve gone to Malaysia and Thailand. I ensure that the motor events are well-coordinated in that we have technical and security support to ensure everything runs smoothly. We plan the convoy categories and have leaders and sweepers.
LKW: We respect the speed limits wherever we go, but there’s different scenery afforded by these drives, such as when we go on mountain roads, so these trips expose us to the sort of driving we wouldn’t be able to enjoy in Singapore. We also enforce strict discipline – no overtaking, for example.
AH: We like to say that we put egos aside as everyone is out to enjoy themselves. Having security and support gives that added comfort and assurance as members have to leave Singapore. We cater to many demographics of owners, from younger and adventurous drivers to older owners, so we have different categories such as the leisure convoy and try to mix the experienced with less experienced drivers.
SL: This way there is no pressure and it is a good drive for everyone.
How does one join the FOC?
LKW: We currently have about 220 members. To join the club, you have to own a Ferrari, whether brand new or used. I think there used to be a lot of owners who were previously not members. Now, the distributor encourages new owners to join the club. You do need to have a proposer and seconder, but most of the time people will clear this process.
Do members receive a lot of attention when the club stages events?
LKW: We do have people snapping photos but, in general, we try to keep it low-key on the roads. We take routes that go on highways. However, for Ferrari’s 70th anniversary in 2017, as part of the brand’s global celebrations, we plotted a driving route that took us past iconic places in Singapore like Orchard Road, Esplanade and the F1 Pit building.
AH: It was an extremely proud moment to have over 100 Ferraris lined up along the F1 Pit building. That celebration was filled with so much hype and presence and brought together Ferrari owners young and old to celebrate the success of the brand.
How does the FOC mark the Formula 1 event in Singapore?
LKW: It is one of the highlights of the year and we always organise a viewing. Last year, we formed an alliance with clubs in about eight neighbouring countries including Malaysia, Thailand, Japan and South Korea, and their members came to Singapore. We had a nice opening night at Smoke & Mirrors, a rooftop bar at the National Gallery, which has a good view of the Padang. We also went trackside to watch the race. We will have similar activities this year.
SL: The distributor will also hold a cocktail event where we get to meet the drivers and it is usually pegged to a new Ferrari car launch too.
What do you hope will be your legacy at the FOC?
LKW: I want to make sure the ownership experience of a Ferrari is extended to newer members when they join us. We want to see members continue to enjoy the same experiences and camaraderie that we enjoyed.
AH: I think everyone would like to set a new benchmark for the club and we hope the team will support it.