I am one of those people who doesn’t have a competitive bone in my body. Somehow, I escaped the relatively typical mindset of the average car enthusiast in that I don’t particularly enjoy ‘winning.’ Whether it’s a car show, a track day, or even just watching my favorite teams race, I am not focused on the competitive aspect. I just enjoy the activity and find intrinsic value in it, not the extrinsic factor of recognition from the gallery. That isn’t to say I don’t enjoy racing or like seeing my car in a final showcase sporting a shiny new trophy, but that part of the event isn’t why I do what I do. I simply take pleasure in participating and have all the satisfaction I need in my presentation and performance, provided I feel like I did my best. When I see others ‘beat’ me or the teams I support, I look at what they did and enjoy that moment of success with them since, generally speaking, they deserve it. The lack of competitive nature is probably why I enjoy the sport of drifting so damn much, even as just a spectator.
If you don’t know about drifting, have never been to a drift event, or haven’t ever spun your tires, you must be new here. Over the past thirty years, the grassroots sport has taken the car community by storm, as it blends almost all aspects of the hobby into one. There is no focus on models, makes, country of origin, age, or, most importantly, winning. At least, not at the amateur level. The sport is about gaining seat time, becoming comfortable with the product of your hard work, and having as much fun as possible with your friends while you slide around a track, parking lot, or (we don’t advise this) a back road.
Having been at least peripherally involved for the better part of a decade, drift events are more fun to me than a car show because people actually use their builds rather than stuff them full of competitive parts to sit somewhere, stationary and useless (case in point, my stationery, useless, ‘show car’ E30.) Drift events celebrate the immaculate builds and the haggard ones, both equally valued by simply focusing on the function of going sideways. The quirkier, more unique, more thrashed, the better. The only intention is just to send it. Everyone loves everything at drift events. What is absent is criticism. Where you may scoff at someone’s fitment or choice of wheels or even choice of car at a show, everything at a drift event has validity, provided the driver is out there with the intent of getting better with every run.
Similarly, there is no comparison or a sense of competition. Rather than attempting the fastest lap times, drivers share tips, help each other in the paddock, and enjoy sliding together. The goal is to have fun, and fun is best shared with others. It’s lonely at the top, but if you’re all on the same plane, you can have a party instead of look down on the levels below you in isolated superiority.
In the spirit of community fun, this past weekend, our Summer Drift Series boys made their way up to Lake Erie Speedway to take part in the final event of the season where they were able to run their cars to the ragged edge, hell-bent on enjoying the final hours they had together before the cold months set in and put a halt to the festivities. After an arduous season and steep learning curves for many of the participants, this weekend was the ‘final exam’ where they put their newfound skills and refined cars to the test.
We say ‘cold months’ like it hasn’t already turned cold here. With drifting, I need to backtrack and redefine competition. While you aren’t competing against the other drivers, you do compete against yourself, to a degree, and, sadly, the weather. Not much bothers these drivers, but the cold certainly affected everyone. As a Nashvillian, 40-deg weather in October is unheard of and unbearable. At Lake Erie, it was roughly 40 without wind chill and extremely bracing for those of us who, like myself, were grossly underprepared. The weather affected the cars, too, which was interesting to see as the drivers adjusted to the temperatures.
For some, like Andy and his boosted Audi, cold weather helps prevent heat-related problems with his big turbo, cammed, stroked four-cylinder. For others, like Mike Day and his V8-swapped GTI, traction was something he fought as his tires had a hard time gaining temperature. Even so, everyone was in rare form as they enjoyed the event despite the cold. The group spent the afternoon and evening thrashing their tires, ignoring the temperature, and helping each other improve with every trip around the figure-eight set up across the course.
It was an absolute blast to watch and ride along. Nothing is quite like a drift event in terms of what you see and what you pay for. As far as bang for your buck is concerned, even spectating is absolutely worth every penny. The cars, the community, and the tire smoke make any cost completely justified.
Speaking about bang-for-your-buck, if there are winners here, they are the SDS boys. As the Summer has come and gone, these builds and drivers have made astounding progress. While it has come at no small expense to any of them, between building, driving, shredding tires, and breaking things, everyone involved was giddy at every opportunity to drive their cars. One observation I made was that the cold, the long drive, and late hours had no impact on their attitude. Seeing them in their element was a pleasure and mildly amusing. At certain points, I watched them all huddled together just itching to get back in their cars as other groups ran the course. The only thing on their mind was going sideways and enjoying themselves, the weather be damned.
Of course, the sport of drifting is essentially a learning curve. After the successful event, I sat down with Andrew Fazekash, who is new to the sport, and talked about his experience. His car was a bone-stock E36 325i sedan that he took to a few events at the beginning of the season and then built throughout the course of the Summer as a fairly competent drift car.
What he shared was a similar sentiment to my own. The most fun he had was being able to go out, drive his car, gain car control and seat time, and not worry about competition. The events, like Erie, that had more of a competitive element were his least favorite for that reason. When drivers are broken up by skill, he mentioned it felt more restrictive, with the focus shifted to moving into the next group instead of just having fun and getting better. With a ceiling above your head, all you want to do is breakthrough. For Andrew, that isn’t what the sport is about.
“Its a sport about personal growth”
With the Summer finished and five events under his belt in a car he took from stock to relatively built, he also shared some insights. While the most fun aspect was just sliding, he thought spending the time to put an angle kit, hydro, and other parts on his car weren’t worth the effort, at least, not worth it compared to the seat time he missed while it was under the knife. If he could do it again, he would have participated in twice as many events instead of putting the parts he did into his car. His biggest piece of advice, for anyone starting out, would be to focus on seat time rather than overbuilding your car.
That advice is something that rings true in every motorsport. Seat time, driver experience, and car control will vastly outweigh any amount of tuning and modification you can do to a car. A fast driver, a good driver, will be exceptional in everything. Using mods like an angle kit and hydro as crutches will let you have fun, but will cost money, time, and stall your progress as a driver.
That cost, too, is something Andrew had a difficult time bearing. The cost of the events, tires, parts, transportation, and the time associated with just getting to an event makes the sport a tough one to jump into. Every event is a major time commitment, as is preparing your car, even if you just need to get spare tires and nothing else. Transportation, logistics, maintenance, and attending the event itself command the better part of multiple days just to participate. However, even without the help from all the sponsors of this series, Andrew excitedly told me he would absolutely continue drifting. With a season of experience under his belt, now he knows exactly where he should focus his attention to get the most out of next year.
“I feel like a completely different driver”
After all the learning, all the time spent, and all the events attended, these drivers have become entirely comfortable with the heavy demands drifting has on them. Even after all their experience, it is still about a non-competitive sport centered on having a good time, which is just what they did. They enjoyed themselves, their cars, and the community around the sport that will bring them all back again. I can say, after spending all Summer following the boys around to different events, I’m hooked. It is certainly an addiction, as anyone who participates will tell you. It’s one that grabs hold and encourages you to spend money and time you don’t have just to be there, going sideways, door to door with your best friends and new acquaintances, all focused on improving, building, progressing, and most importantly, having fun. We’ll see you next year on the track, hopefully, surrounded by a group of new drivers, inspired by the dedication of the boys from the Summer Drift Series.
We want to say a humongous and heartfelt thank-you to all the supporting sponsors of the Summer Drift Series.
Gas Monkey Energy