23-year-old student Gabriel Wong tells us about his love for cars, and the friendly Mini-Z community in Singapore.
In his spare time, Gabriel Wong enjoys playing with toy race cars.
But he’s not a primary school kid playing with these toys after lessons – Gabriel is a 23-year-old computer science student who enjoys posting about his Mini-Z cars on his YouTube channel, Auranapse.
Mini-Z is a brand name for 1:28-scale cars that are pre-assembled and manufactured by Kyosho Corporation. Depending on their various parts and upgrades, the pocket-sized cars are able to travel at up to 50km/h, zipping around as if on a Hot Wheels track.
“Unlike the typical toy cars that most of us know, Mini-Z cars have advanced electronics and proper suspension geometry,” Gabriel said.
It was the amazing quality and functions of the Mini-Z cars that made Gabriel fall in love with them on a trip to Japan in Aug 2019.
He said: “I’ve been a fan of remote-controlled cars for a long time, but those are too big and you can’t play with them at home.
“When I saw there was such a high-quality car that was so much smaller, I had to get it.”
Gabriel went to buy more Mini-Z cars over the years. The cost of each car varies, but he estimated that he has spent at least $2,000 on his hobby so far.
While he does not like spending so much on the cars, he believes that their high cost is justifiable.
“At a certain point, you understand because it does cost a lot to manufacture these parts in the first place,” he said.
Each type of car serves its own purpose. And as he currently has one car of each model, he does not wish to purchase any more.
Instead, he intends to stick to the cars that he has already upgraded, testing various tricks on them.
Gabriel started experimenting with the cars, checking how they would react to different tuning. Through trial and error, he learnt about the different mechanics of the cars.
He said: “It’s really fun and extremely cool to just drive around. There’s something captivating about it.
“It’s rewarding when you can drift around or do certain tricks, even if no one can see.”
After getting familiar with his different cars and perfecting his tricks, he started posting videos of his various tricks on his previously inactive YouTube channel.
Gabriel currently has over 900 subscribers, a number he is continually surprised by, since it is only a small community of YouTubers that specialise in Mini-Z cars.
“Being part of a group of YouTubers that’s slowly growing, we know each other. We message on Facebook and Instagram, and share our tricks with each other,” he said.
Gabriel also found a community of local Mini-Z players on Facebook, under the page MINI Z SG Ultimate Indoor Racing.
He had to personally message the owner of the page to get an invite to their open house, where he learnt how to use the facilities at the location. After, he was allowed access to the track, which is normally closed to the public.
At the track, he met the local Mini-Z community, mostly made up of men in their thirties to fifties that enjoy racing each other for fun. Of the group, he estimates that there are only one or two his age, but that didn’t make him feel out of place.
He said: “They’re very welcoming and fun to be around. There’s no drama. It’s always us helping each other, trying to improve ourselves, and get faster than each other.”
With hours of practice under his belt, Gabriel is close to perfecting the art of being a Mini-Z racer. But thanks to the friendly community, as well as his love for the Mini-Z cars, he is not planning to retire from Mini-Z racing anytime soon.
He said: “You don’t see F1 drivers quit when they win their first championship. They keep going back, not for the race, but for the atmosphere and to have fun.
“I don’t think I’ll leave this hobby anytime soon. It’s way too fun to just de-stress and play around.”
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