DRiFTWiRED: Tochigi Typhoon Vs. True Drift Culture
Bleached blond hair, baggy overalls, a typhoon, and cars going sideways around Nikko Circuit - this is Pure Drifting
From AkihabaraNews Senior Contributor Nayalan Moodley - includes one of his best videos ever, definitely have a watch! -Ed.
Some Kind of Wonderful
Drifting is a motorsport anomaly. Whereas just about every other type of competition involving humanity’s favorite form of transportation is focused on lap times, the best speeds through racing lines, and tight control, drifting is about throwing a car out of control and then grabbing it by the scruff of its neck to reign it back in.
It’s the rhythmic gymnastics of motorsports and some of the most fun you can have in a motor vehicle.
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Fools Fall in Love
The origin of the art is lost to legend, but because of an abundance of tight corners and back-to-back hairpins on Japanese mountain roads, it is widely accepted that it first took hold and became popular here. There were never any stoplight Grease Lightning or quarter-mile straightline shenanigans for Japan’s boy racers. Instead, they took to the mountains and put their cars sideways.
Eventually, it was taken from the mountains to the track and given rules, tables, leagues, and regulations. Entities like the D1 Corporation and MSC made it a multi-billion yen industry with a number of leagues and series for drivers to compete in. Like all formal motorsports, the events are extremely competitive, but in typically Japanese fashion, regulated to insanity. They are about as disconnected with the roots of drifting as Justin Bieber is with reality.
The raw hooliganism of bleached blonde, chain smoking, barely legal kids chucking their backyard-tuned missiles around the mountains, daring each other to squeeze that extra angle out of each corner, is one of the best things about the scene. Being able to hit the road with drivers who are often much better than you, turn after turn, run after run, is not just an amazing adrenaline rush but a great way to develop your skills. It’s also highly illegal and dangerous and thus one really can’t push the envelope too far.
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Dance With Me
In an effort to bring that mountain spirit to the track, a group of drivers teamed up with Takumi Oil, a small, high-tech Japanese synthetic oil manufacturer, and created DRiFTWiRED, a brand new drift competition not affiliated with any of the big leagues and fat cat corporations that milk established leagues for profit. The inaugural event was held at Nikko Circuit, in Tochigi Prefecture, on August 10, 2014.
The competition setup was simple, drivers were split into skill classes and each class could run 4 practice heats before the actual competition. There were also some high-level pro guests including The Drift Samurai, Takahiro Imamura, in his fully built, demonic-looking Mazda RX-7, along with two-time MSC national triple drift champions Team Attraction, in their scarlet Nissan Silvias. There was no drive order and no stop-and-go on the back straight like in more regulated comps. The marshals were also very lenient with the flags, which meant that each practice run was free-flowing.
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With the ample warm up time, heats quickly became like a mountain session. The drivers pushed each other and in the higher classes twin and triple drifts happened spontaneously between drivers who don't usually drift together. The pros jumped in on it too and played around like the punks they undoubtedly were when they first started drifting.
This Magic Moment
Like the practice rounds, the format of the competition was drastically different from rule-ridden, restricted league events. Drivers were free to go in whatever order they wanted, but they only had one run. That's it. No take-backs, no do-overs. One shot at glory. Judged by the pros, many drivers tanked but many more brought their A game and the standard, to this spectator at least, seemed to be much higher than normal D1 street-legal events.
When the Typhoon rains finally crossed the mountains into Tochigi, the flooded track made for extremely difficult driving conditions. This only made the drifting all the more exciting to watch, with the slick surface providing some spectacular spins.
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Kissin’ in the Back Row of the Movies
After the main comp there was the age group challenge. Regardless of skill, drivers could pony up some extra cash, over and above the event entry fees, and go up against their peers. It was set up like a practice heat so drivers had a few chances to impress the judges, but it also led to intense competition with the winner of each age group taking the pot. The 20s, with their unexpected skill level, were particularly impressive to watch. Yoshitatsu Kaneda of Team Attraction commented that if the young guys keep it up, by the time they reach his age they’d completely outclass him… and that's no small compliment considering his rather massive amount of skill.
When the competitions were finished, there were 3 more free runs per class where drivers essentially just messed around. And this was the best part of the event. It was madness. Unadulterated drifting madness. There were some impressive angles and some crazy near misses where the only thing turning the chaos into fun were lightning reflexes and mad skill. Some lucky spectators were given rides around the track. Drivers egged each other on and messed around as adrenaline-filled revheads tend to do when in large groups. In general, it was a big ruckus of a drift party.
Save The Last Dance for Me
As the sun descended into the west, the pits were packed up and cars moved out of the circuit proper while the drivers gathered for the results and prize giving. Winners all received 4 tires and 20 litres of Takumi oil. 2nd place rolled in with 2 tires and 5 litres while third place got just 4 litres of oil. There was then the consolation rock-paper-scissors challenge where various parts and upgrades from smaller event sponsors were given out the rest of the drivers.
In the end, as many of the staff commented, the biggest prize was the passion exhibited by all the drivers. The passion that was born on the mountainsides before money, rules and professionalism sanitized the sport. It is that passion that made the first DRiFTWiRED event a resounding success, and word of that passion has already spread through the scene ensuring that next year’s event will be even better.
...and because one wasn't enough:
...and for the whole lot in very high-res:
...and the video not to be missed:
All Photos & Videos by Senior Contributor Nayalan Moodley, AKA DarcNoodles - Darc.jp.
Special thanks to Yoshitatsu Kaneda, pro drifter, head honcho at Rings Auto Shop in Gunma, and straight-up awesome friend, for hooking me up with a sweet spot to shoot from and for taking care of my car for the past year and a half while I've been mucking about in Tokyo.