Me & My Car

Speed king Leslie Chang goes green

Racing ace Leslie Chang says his electric cars offer performance without the compromise of noise and tailpipe emission

Mr Leslie Chang bought the Hyundai Ioniq Electric (above left) last year and, in July this year, took delivery of the Kona Electric (right), which he shares with his wife.
Mr Leslie Chang bought the Hyundai Ioniq Electric (above left) last year and, in July this year, took delivery of the Kona Electric (right), which he shares with his wife.ST PHOTOS: MARK CHEONG

Local motor sports personality Leslie Chang may have spent most of his life surrounded by howling race cars, but his everyday ride is almost silent.

The gregarious owner of a watch distributorship drives a Hyundai Ioniq Electric, which he bought in February last year.

In July this year, he took delivery of a Hyundai Kona Electric. He shares this car with his wife, who helps in the business.

The couple, both 57, have two daughters aged 32 and 22, and a 30-year-old son.

Mr Chang has been involved with motor sports for most of his life and loved cars since he was a boy.

"I wasn't shy to ask adults questions related to cars and driving," he says.

"As soon as I turned 17, I got my licence and, shortly after that, I was heel-and-toeing and executing handbrake turns," he adds, referring to common racing techniques.

He made his foray into motor sports at age 18, in precision driving events called autotests. "I was called Small Boy by the others," he recalls.

The "small boy" soon wowed with his skills and grew in stature in the motor sports community. He served two stints as president of the Singapore Motor Sports Association (now known as Motor Sports Singapore) - from 1996 to 1997 and 2014 to 2016 - and remains a committee member of the association.

Over the decades, Mr Chang has clinched numerous titles.

One of his most memorable was the SMSA Supergrade Championship in 1994, where he won multiple events over the course of the year. The feats were accomplished while he was also running two businesses - his watch business and a pub, which meant knocking off at almost 3am before the races on Sunday mornings.

Another achievement was racing in the 2005 12-hour Merdeka Millennium Endurance race at Sepang, where he astonished timekeepers with his speed and consistency, frequently setting multiple consecutive lap times within a second of each other.

Mr Chang's road cars through the years have ranged from a Suzuki SS40 - which he credits as "the little car I started motor sports with" - to a Renault Espace, Citroen Xantia, Mitsubishi i and Subaru XV.

  • What's in the boot?

    • Bungee cords (for securing things on the car's roof rack)

    • A handheld tyre inflator

    • A roll of double-sided tape

    • A multipurpose knife

    • Wet wipes

    • A pair of shoes, pants and a T-shirt

None of them has been especially fast or powerful because Mr Chang prefers to seek his thrills on the track and not public roads.

He says he switched to electric vehicles (EVs) because they are "so smooth, quiet and effortless - ideal for city driving".

Also, when the car is idling, "I no longer feel bad about the heat, smell or noise that may annoy people nearby", he adds.

As he has a wall-mounted charger at his workplace, he charges both his EVs there - the Ioniq every other day and the Kona about once every five days.

While EVs generally cost more to buy but less to run, Mr Chang's annual mileage is not high enough to realise significant savings. He reckons that if he keeps each car for 10 years, "it's a zero-sum game, no savings nor penalties".

He adds that he picked Hyundai because of the "excellent quality of its current offerings" as well as the "great value" that it represents.

He also has a close relationship with local Hyundai agent Komoco Motors, which sponsored Mr Chang on two overland driving expeditions to and from China with two sport utility vehicles - a Hyundai Tucson and Hyundai Santa Fe.

He has another reason for going electric.

"Age is catching up," he says. "So although I still enjoy speed, I dislike the noise that comes with it.

"With EVs, I get the best of both worlds - they are quick and quiet."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2020, with the headline 'Speed king goes green'. Print Edition | Subscribe