By Tom Kojrowicz
In a world where lifestyle sports rule the roost among youth, it almost seems sensible to make competition as to who can drive the fastest… sideways.
Enter the new favourite for adrenaline junkies and car fanatics alike – drifting.
It began merely as a driving technique but it is now considered a professional motorsport. As the name implies, the purpose of drifting is for the driver to intentionally cause a loss of traction to the rear wheels of a car in order to slide, or, ‘drift’ it through turns at a high speed.
The technique itself was originally developed in the 1970’s by Japanese car racers. It was not long before fans started to show enjoyment over the spectacle of smoking tyres and the sight of a crazy slalom.
Fast-forward to the present day to see a massive following of the sport. At the top level of drifting in Japan and North America are Grand Prix style competitions judged on line, speed, angle and, of course, show factor.
Only to the judgemental are these sportsmen now nothing more than reckless hoons.
However, if you are yet to know about the art of drifting, it is probably because until now there has been no such thing as a premier Australian competition available for viewing on your pay-television subscription. September 2011 will see the launch of the Australian Drifting GP – premier ‘Grand Prix’ style drifting in Australia.
ADGP Championship Manager Amy Boatwright hopes the competition will push professional drifting in Australia to the level of its international counterpart.
“There are a lot of newbies getting into the sport and a lot are looking for an opportunity to go pro, and compete at a national level,” she says.
“We aim to deliver not only an exceptional event, but an amazing experience with a huge following.”
Boatwright is straight on the mark in describing the sense of community that surrounds drifting. Behind the somewhat childish antics of skidding a racecar are an ambitious group of free spirits. Most ‘drifters’ do not simply consider their craft an ordinary competitive sport, but rather a lifestyle choice.
Dan Jorgensen is part sales manager and representative drifter from Brisbane’s performance car workshop Option 1 Garage. Like many others, Jorgensen became enthralled with drifting after seeing internet videos while in high school.
“A few years later I decided I’d bite the bullet and buy a drift car,” he reminisces.
The rest is history. He has since been active in small-scale national competition for three years, and longer in the grassroots drift scene, opposing Australia’s toughest competition and sometimes winning. It is this kind of experience that tells us Jorgensen is the genuine article. His obsession is further evident in his untainted motivation to continue with his hobby.
“It’s just the challenge and hanging out with good people – it’s a full-time passion.”
Jorgensen contends that drifting thrives within the huge grassroots community the sport boasts. He is also, at times, a bit unconvinced of large-scale pro drifting.
“The population in Australia doesn’t have the sponsorship money to afford big drifting events like there are in America and Japan,” he explains.
“A lot of the American and Japanese companies are huge world-wide corporations that can spend a lot of money on drift cars.”
Beyond this, Jorgensen sites the ultimate dilemma of promotion – the very fuel that drives the cars, and in turn, the larger events held overseas. He says one of the biggest challenges for pro drifters in Australia is getting the right amount of sponsorship to justify expensive car builds.
“It wouldn’t validate spending $50,000 or $100,000 on one of the better cars in Australia,” he says.
“We’ve tried in the past at Option 1, it worked quite well, but the drift industry isn’t moving forward enough. There aren’t enough people involved to push it has high as overseas.”
Although Australia lacks leading competition, the number of smaller organised professional events is plentiful. One of these is Stadium Drift. Queensland motorsport curators Raceline Events have run this eight-round multi-state series for the past seven years. Originally a humble demonstration show, Stadium Drift is now a pro national competition with around 260 participants.
Raceline Events owner Ian Badock is also quick to point out the problems inherent within drifting. Like all outlets of bureaucracy, the number of drivers, cars, sponsors and rounds all have limits and guidelines to follow.
“Its all controlled by money,” says Badock.
“It’s reliant on people’s earnings and wages and because of the current state of the economy you lose a lot of the guys from time to time.”
So it seems, the money truly is the ultimate problem. The ADGP hopes it can help to move drifting forward in a way to suppress this issue. Amy Boatwright stresses a key feature of the new competition will be affordability.
“We are no longer all under the financial pressure that we felt a few years ago,” she says.
“We have watched events rise and fall, we have seen what works and what doesn’t and we know what the sport needs.
“Our only main restriction is track access, although, in saying that, the tracks we are working with this year are being extremely supportive and really want to help the Australian drifting scene grow.”
Jorgensen has been following the lead up to ADGP for some time now. For the most part, it seems he is a fan of where it looks to be headed.
“I think Drift GP’s going to be an awesome thing, if it’s what they’re predicting. I’ll answer it, although I probably won’t qualify,” he laughs.
On the other end of this anticipation, Ian Badock says he has no opinion on the potential the competition holds for a popularity explosion. He insists drifting will stay at its current level for some time before ever being commonplace.
“It’s a small form of motorsport, its got a number of followers that are keen and that’s about where it sits,” he asserts. “Its not V8 Supercars – it never will be.
There is still time before enthusiasts are able to explore the potential of the Australian Drift GP. Whether the competition manages to slide drifting to the top of motorsport, or crashes out mid-corner, each week sees more and more cars lining up to take part in this grassroots phenomenon.
Queensland is most involved in drifting out of all states in Australia, with Queensland Raceway currently hosting bi-weekly drift days, alongside Archerfield International Speedway hosting weekly practice sessions run by Gold Coast workshop Nizzpro Performance.