As a Singaporean (former) teenager, my very interesting hobbies included taking a nap and listening to music.
But for 17-year-old Fadtris Isa, his definition of unwinding is to go drifting with friends.
For obvious reasons, Fadtris does not have a driver's license yet.
But before you report him to the traffic police, he's only ever driven and drifted on sim-racing games.
The "sim" in "sim-racing" and "sim-racer" is short for "simulated".
The e-sport involves a computer simulation where a realistic race is replicated on a game console, down to the minute details like grip and tyre behaviour.
Joined sim-racing team at 16
And it seems like Fadtris is pretty good at it, since he has been signed on as a sim-racer with Legion of Racers (LOR), an international team of e-sports athletes from Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines.
At 17, he is one of the youngest LOR members, who range from 12 to 28 years old.
Making it into the team, however, came as a complete surprise to Fadtris.
Considering the racing game series "Gran Turismo" as one of his favourites, he started playing these games casually when he was eight years old.
But it was only in 2019 when he decided to take it more seriously and played competitively.
In 2020, he joined the LOR Online Season 2020 and emerged as part of the top five in the league.
Having seen the potential in him, LOR recruited him to join the team.
This event holds a special place in his heart, partly because the conversation between him and LOR's general manager Jon Low started casually in a fast food restaurant.
Letting out a small laugh, he recalled: "Jon actually invited me out for dinner at Burger King after my one-hour racing session [in the studio]!"
Jokes aside, he remembered feeling a cocktail of emotions, mainly joy and anxiety.
"I was quite anxious [after being recruited], actually. Even though I achieved good results in the online competition, I don't know how I would stack up against my other teammates."
Practises twice a week in studio
In a bid to up his standards, Fadtris began to put in more hours into his craft.
He would practice at LOR's Xperience Studio at least twice a week. putting in about two hours just to familiarise himself with the track and to get the right set up for his car.
The training doesn't end there, though. Occasionally, he would have his own practice sessions at home, where he has his own sim-racing rig.
As he beamed with pride, Fadtris told us that he owns a second-hand rig which he bought at around S$550 using three years' worth of his Hari Raya green packet savings.
Gaining parents' support
Now, the Asian in you probably wondered if his parents ever nagged at him for spending what some would consider "too much time" on games.
Especially since he joined LOR the same year he was due to take his O-Level examinations.
(Fun fact: The LOR Online Season 2020 where he was scouted ran between June and September that year. Meanwhile, some of Fadtris's major O-Level examinations took place in September as well.)
Breaking into a little laughter, the first year game and interactive media design student from Republic Polytechnic sheepishly said:
"They did nag at me a bit and said 'Eh Fadtris, stop playing your games and go study lah.' But, I mean, I did get through the O-Levels in the end.
They did get frustrated with me but after I signed the contract with LOR, they realised it was a serious thing and began to acknowledge my talents."
Passion runs in the family
However, what most people don't know is that it was actually his father that kickstarted his passion for cars.
Not spared from the love of cars is also Fadtris's older brother Faris, who now specialises in making miniature car models for collectors.
Growing up, they would look forward to following his father to workshops to feast his eyes on cars, citing "really old Mazdas and Nissans" as his favourites.
On rare occasions, he would be given the opportunity to do "small things" like washing the car and changing the oil.
Despite his initial apprehension towards Fadtris' sim-racing career, Fadtris' father has become more supportive after getting to know a little more about the e-sport.
The 17-year-old said,
"I brought my dad to the studio the other day and let him have a go at one of the rigs. Previously, he didn't want to try it [Fadtris's rig] at home. But after that day, I accidentally spotted him playing a game on my rig!"
First endurance race
In Jan. 2021, Fadtris was part of a three-man team for the ERGP Endurance Series.
The endurance race is 12 hours long, which meant that each driver would have to drive for four hours before swapping to the next driver.
To say it was a memorable experience is an understatement for Fadtris.
Wincing as he told us about his first-ever race as part of LOR, he shared that the team was steadily treading at the fifth position out of more than 40 other cars — a great feat for a relatively new team, we must add.
Alas, 30 minutes before the end of the race, the car disconnected and they unfortunately weren't able to finish the race.
As he shrugged his shoulders, he said: "I guess that [disconnecting from online races] is one of the weakest links of sim-racing. But taking that into consideration, it was a pretty good experience for us rookies."
Small, supportive community
Prior to reading this article, you've probably never heard of sim-racing before, which is a testament to how small the community really is.
Though some may see it as an setback, Fadtris sees it as a big opportunity, especially when he gets direct support from people on the ground and as a means to form a strong bond with his local and international teammates.
"Without the connection [we have] between us, we won't be able to communicate as well as we do now on the track. It makes practice more enjoyable, knowing we can joke around. I can't imagine having it any other way with my teammates."
The new kid on the block may be relatively young, but he has big ambitions ahead of him.
"Being the Singapore number one [in sim-racing] is on my bucket list but I'm still a long, long way from that."
Top image courtesy of Fadtris Isa and Legion of Racers.