‘Adrenalin rush’ drivers get after sliding powerful vehicles at high speeds ‘pretty amazing feeling’
BY ALICJA SIEKIERSKA, EDMONTON JOURNAL AUGUST 9, 2013
NISKU — A blue car covered in logos races toward the corner of the track at Castrol Raceway, coming in loud and at an incredibly high speed. At the last second, the driver pulls the emergency brake.
When the car’s front tires turn one way after the driver oversteers, the rear wheels lose traction and the car slides sideways. The tires screech loudly and the stench of burning rubber fills the air, as the crowd of about 40 people watches in admiration.
This isn’t NASCAR, or even Formula One. This is car drifting.
Every Thursday in the summer, dozens of drivers come to the Castrol racetrack south of Edmonton to experience a rush of adrenalin as they make sharp turns, spin their souped-up cars around the open track, practising the art of drifting.
Colin Reeves is the man behind the operation. He began hosting drifting sessions at the track in 2007 and is also the founder of Driftwest, a car drifting organization that hosts a professional and an amateur drifting series across Western Canada.
“When people think of car drifting, they probably think of winter driving,” said Reeves. “But it’s a big sport, with big competitions.”
Unlike NASCAR and Formula One racing, car drifting is a judged motorsport event. In each competition, drivers are awarded points based on four categories — lines, where they manoeuvre cars around a course, speed of the spin, the angle which they go into the drift and, finally, showmanship.
Although the history of the motorsport is shaky, drifting is believed to have first gained traction in Japan in the 1970s. Avid drifters have largely credited a Japanese motorcyclist and car racer known as the “drift king” for being the first to use the drifting technique.
Decades later, it was in Japan where the first professional organized car drifting series was established. Known as the “Formula D,” the D1 Grand Prix launched in 2000, and later spread to the United States.
Here in Edmonton, the popularity of the motorsport has been on the rise.
When Reeves started hosting practices, only five to 10 drivers would show up on average. But each subsequent year brought more and more participants. Now, at least 40 drivers turn up to each practice, with more than 100 spectators joining to take in the show.
Reeves thinks it’s largely in part because of how accessible the motorsport is.
“Anyone who can drive can pick up car drifting,” Reeves said.
All people need to drift is a car with rear-wheel drive and a few extra sets of tires. Many of the drivers will eventually adjust suspension and stiffen the car’s drivetrain to improve their drifts, but it’s not required.
At the amateur level, Reeves said it’s an inexpensive sport. It’s when drivers start reaching the professional competitions — where they burn more than 20 sets of tires each event — where it really gets expensive.
For most of the drivers who come out on Thursdays, car drifting is more of a hobby than a competitive sport.
Brandon Milford is in his second year attending the practices. He said the feeling he gets when he’s coming into a corner at wicked high speeds is difficult to explain.
“You get such an adrenalin rush,” said Milford. “It’s a pretty amazing feeling.”
But what makes the practices even better has nothing to do with driving a car. Milford said the people who come out each Thursday have become “like a family.”
Tony Meeuse has been showing up at Castrol Raceway to watch the drifting practices for the past four years. He said what keeps him coming year after year is the social aspect.
“It’s hanging out and watching your friends do stupid stuff, burning their tires off their cars,” he said.
Meeuse, who has tried drifting before, hasn’t given much thought to hitting the track on Thursdays because of the heavy damage and high maintenance that comes with drifting cars.
But, Meeuse said, drifting is one of the most Canadian competitions out there.
“Everyone in Canada drifts,” said Meeuse. “What separates the drifters from everyone else is what season they do it in.”
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