While the F1 fever sweeps over Singapore once a year in September, another type of car racing is happening weekly in our heartlands. More specifically, it is for tiny electric cars which are more commonly known as the Tamiya Mini 4WD (four-wheel drive).

Kenny Wu, a fan and collector of the mini 4WD, has been organising weekly mini 4WD races and free play sessions at several HDB estates such as Punggol and Sengkang, for close to 15 years. His hobby was sparked since he was only 4 years old.

Kenny at a mini 4WD race at Punggol Breeze, which boasts of the largest track setup

“My father bought me one of these cars to boost my morale,” he recounts. “Other children didn’t really want to befriend me, and some even bullied me, as I looked different with a cleft lip. Having a new toy gave me something to focus on. Gradually, I picked up the basics of how the car works and how to modify them.”

Mini 4WDs tagged with their race timing

Kenny’s hobby expanded his social circle, as many others started joining him in mini 4WD racing. Through social media publicity of the mini 4WD sessions at Punggol, he was invited to kickstart similar events at HDB estates in Jalan Kayu and Sengkang. Before each session, he arrives at the venue 1-2 hours earlier to set up the track.

During the race, each participant must finish 3 laps in the fastest time, but going too fast might cause the toy car to fly out of the track. On how to achieve a good race time: “Having the right mindset is most important. Take it easy and race to have fun, so you won’t feel so pressurised,” Kenny advises.

A regular participant, Ben Ong, has been bringing his son Kael to the mini 4WD sessions at Punggol for more than a year now. “When my wife and I first chanced upon this, we spent two hours watching – and we thought, why not get a mini 4WD for our son to participate? It’s good bonding time for us, while we also get to know other people.”

Kael was encouraged by his father to join the mini 4WD interest group at Punggol

Ultimately, Kenny’s sense of achievement comes from seeing children gain interest in mini 4WD, learn how to operate the toy car, and do their best to race against adults. “My main aim is to bring this hobby to the younger generation. These days, people are into digital forms of entertainment, but mini 4WD racing is a physical activity which requires the use of tools – this is a lot more meaningful.”

Participants can modify their mini 4WD on site to enhance performance

His youngest race participant was a 4-year-old who gave him a birthday card, comprising a hand drawn car, coloured by crayons. “It was my first time receiving such a birthday gift. Although it’s just a piece of paper, it’s very meaningful to me. It’s been a few years and I still keep the card,” shares Kenny, smiling.

By Desiree Tan
Photos by Nicholas Yau

  • Desiree Tan

    An old soul into slow movies, people’s stories, and making sense of the world through writing. She bakes better than she can count calories.