If there were a South East Asian/Far Eastern Motor Sports Hall of Fame, these guys would be in it!
Words by Eli Solomon
Back in late 2018, when borders were open and masks were only used by bank robbers, I spent a couple of enjoyable weeks in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. Part of this visit was to access material at the National Library (Perpustakaan Negara Malaysia), part of it was to access 30 years of newspapers at the New Straits Times Resource Centre. But there was a more important aspect of the visit – to hook up with friends from the motor sports space.
My proposed book, Lost Circuits & Motor Racing Tales From The Far East, was approaching three volumes totalling a ludicrous 3,000 pages and I needed to fill in some big gaps in the research, particularly the period of the 1980s. Little did I know that less than two years after this visit, we’d be gravitating between lockdown and shutdown where I come from and the book would be dead in the water. But we humans have a survival instinct and if a hardcopy three-volume book is no longer possible nor commercially viable, then why not upload the chapters and stories online and make it free to anyone interested? But I digress.
In Kuala Lumpur I caught up with Eric Ooi and his wife Julia. Eric, we all know, was fondly referred to as Double-0. Lunch with Eric had always been a blast but this time we had a few more accomplices – Eric’s son Roland, Zul Hassan, and Eddie Koay and his wife Rachel.
THE BMW GAP
Eric Ooi racing history hasn’t really been documented – from his first races in a Triumph TR+ to the works/semi works drivers for Tan Chong Motors in Datsuns in the late 1960s. There were excursions in BMW 2002s in the Enduro as well but soon family responsibilities and work at Dunlop Industries took precedence over motor racing. At some point I’ll get down to transcribing my interviews with Eric.
Our lunch at Restaurant Saravanaa Bhavan in Brickfields was like all our previous gatherings – lots of laughter and lots of old stories. But this time, we had Eddie Koay and Zul Hassan to add an additional dimension to things. In a nutshell, the dosai lunch covered racing from the 1950s through to the late 1980! Eddie, of course, was Mr BMW Concessionaires in the 1980s, the man behind Hans Joachim Stuck’s arrival in Malaysia to race the famed BMW M1. Eddie put BMW on the Far Eastern motor racing map (as did Herbert Admaczyk in Hong Kong and Macau). This was monumentally important stuff for my research.
Eddie Koay was instrumental in getting Hans Joachim Stuck to race in Malaysia.
Eddie Koay’s JPS-BMW team had Roberto Ravaglia as its start driver for the 14-15 September 1985 Selangor Silver Jubilee Grand Prix.
While Eric’s memory was still sharp, Eddie’s was less so and there was a lack of clarity. Rachel, Eddie’s wife, chipped in to assist with information and stories. We also had the advantage of several albums of photos to ride on – hugely important material that was swiftly scanned back in my hotel room. I don’t have local journalistic credentials, nor am I a recognised motoring historian in my little kampung (who the hell does he think he is) but I have been working on documenting regional motor sports history for a while and this was one opportunity to fill that 1980s gap in regional racing history – particularly with regards saloon car racing. I simply could not ignore this material regardless of how ill-equipped I was for the task.
Eddie Koay (with cap) surveys the damage to the M1 in Penang (see GRILLED SIRLOIN, KING PRAWNS &…SANDBAGS – the Penang Grand Prix)
After a several hour lunch and lots of follow up, I managed to weave what turned out as a two part story on this website – SUPER SALOON BIG BANG Part 1 and SUPER SALOON BIG BANG Part 2. It was all drafted in Kuala Lumpur over the course of two weeks back in 2018 and finally appeared on the Rewind website last year. There was an added bonus of a story to accompany these two – WARM RAIN & AN AUTO BOX, which covers a bit more of Hans Joachim Stuck’s racing in Malaysia and the 1985 Selangor 800Km World Endurance Championship.
Eric Double-0 back in late 2018. His racing anecdotes always left me in stitches
Eddie Koay, at the same venue in 2018
Zul Hassan and Eric Ooi in 2018
Earlier in January 2022 we lost Eric Ooi and in March, we lost Eddie Koay. My heart goes out to Julia and Rachel.
Sadly too, my pace of research and writing has slackened significantly after the local lockdowns. It’s become more of a shutdown situation but that’s another story. It’s hard to pick up the pieces and continue but there’s still a heck-of-a-lot that hasn’t made it on this website – Eric Ooi’s early racing exploits and Zul Hassan’s racing career are still a Work In Progress. In the meantime, if you are interested in South East Asian racing history, here are some of the links that you may (or may not) appreciate.
RACING IN THE FEDERAL CAPITAL – the pre-Batu Tiga years
FORD’S NESCAFE ESCORTS – Ford’s racing program in the Far East with Harvey Yap
SUPER SALOON BIG BANG Part 1 – From Touring Cars to Silhouettes
SUPER SALOON BIG BANG Part 2 – Silhouettes in the Far East to the mid-1980s
WARM RAIN & AN AUTO BOX – Hans Stuck and BMW’s M1 in the Far East and the World Endurance Championship
GRILLED SIRLOIN, KING PRAWNS &… SANDBAGS – history of the Penang Grand Prix 1970-1983
CLUBBING IN SOUTH EAST ASIA – for background on the Malaysian motor sports clubs and AAM history
The late Eric Ooi, Julia, the late Eddie Koay, Rachel Koay, Zul Hassan, Roland Ooi, James Wong, Harvey Yap, Norma and many others…