Stories: The Deep end of Professional Drifting, a trip to Long Beach.
It was April 8th 2014; I had completely misplaced myself in a foreign land, which I was going to call home for the foreseeable future. I had always wanted to make my way down to a round of Formula D and after a few talks it was actually happening.
I glared out the window as the plane took me away from a Flight simulator 95 landscapes known as Alberta, down through the middle of America and over the Grand Canyon. It was a little surreal; it was hard to believe I was making my way down to the first round at Long Beach.
Being absolutely honest, I’m not an excessive follower of the American series, ill sit around and watch it over a few beers with friends if there is nothing to do, gunning for the Irish friends Daigo or Asabo. I guess you can shuffle me into the category with all the others who romanticize about the past, I get more turned on by the idea of the golden era of Japanese drifting. The days of Ueo and Gen Tersaki and screaming 4a-ge Corollas, staggered stickers and clean executed cars with a higher emphasis on style. Things were a little more balanced and the battles were much more unpredictable and exciting back then.
I was going to appreciate all of this with a blank slate and leave my personal opinions at home. Drifting has come a long way, and in the years since it broke mainstream, there was a massive split between the competitive level and the grassroots guys. . As car lovers, its hard to bash and disrespect the amount of incredible machinery that has come out of the act of professional mainstream drifting which has evolved drastically over the last ten years.
So in less than five hours, I had gone from one part of North America to another, two polar opposites and two very different situations. Dean was kind enough to pick me up form the airport even though that day even though earlier that day he had slammed into a wall and the car was a mess. I’m sure his head was overwhelmed with shit to do, but I was pretty thankful that he took the time in the middle of everything to grab me in Los Angeles traffic.
Boom! There it was. I finally got a chance to rest eyes on this chunk of Detroit metal (with alot of plastic of course) . The guys (alot of Conrod) had managed to get it back together after the crash. Again ill be straight up here, a Viper as a drift car? I’ve always thought it was a little crazy and impractical, always thought it was a crazy idea for a competitive car.
We get so desensitized by what we see on the Internet that we just sort of og numb, lose interest and get very dismissive behind our beloved little screens. Nothing really prepared me for getting up close and personal with a monster like this Viper. For Dean, using this gives him his niche in the drift world so it makes perfect sense for him to try tame this chunk in a sea of other Silvias. A car he fell for instantly when given the chance to drive for Samuel Hubinette. Just as a straight up car nerd the viper was ticking all the boxes for a race machine.
I have been all over Europe, and had a chance to check out some of most insane builds ever assembled, and now here I was in a shed getting to appreciate what the Good OL US of A had to offer. It’s seeing all this stuff in the flesh that changes everything. Its like chatting to someone on an online dating app and becoming super comfortable with them until you actually have to make a real life interaction, and then it changes all over again, we get so disconnected until we have to engage in real life.
I was tiptoeing around the likes of Daigo, Robbie and Kenny Moen; Looking back it was a pretty special moment sitting up on the step watching everyone in action. The absolute incredible amount of energy these guys invest. The time, money and effort that went into all of these machines, from all of these people, all for a few skids… Pretty fucking Awesome.
Drifting, this act of throwing the car sideways, how far it has travelled, how much it has mutated from the mountains of Japan in less than 30 years. Drifting has expanded so much now that it even has its own subcultures in what was once considered one itself. Almost following a similar path to things like Skateboarding or BMXing. These days it would be hard to find someone who doesn’t know what drifting is.
It was nice to see that even in the high ranks, behind the scenes still had a grass roots-ish vibe. The very same late night sessions right up until the last minute! The drivers are not completely disconnected from the cars. Drifting sort of opens up this weird situation where often dismissed cars infamous. There is just something about a bastardized purpose built car like Daigos SC430 or Dean’s Viper; luxury sports cars shouldn’t really be in these situations.
The viper has this presence, which is hard to convey in photos. As a standard car the Viper doesn’t get me too excited to be honest. But, as a gutted, race ready screaming monster, you would have to be pretty desensitized not to get aroused by this madness.
After very brief nights sleep we woke to a crisp classic Californian sunny morning. It almost depresses me how good the weather is here. I had never been to a track like this for anything. The streets of Long Beach closed off as a race circuit with those white barriers it was like something from a car game. It was exciting.
I’ve always admired what Dean does; again we get so disconnected from the whole competitive side of things. A young guy, from the middle of nowhere on a small island in the Atlantic Ocean has managed to forge a career driving a Dodge Viper in America. Its kind of crazy how far skidding cars has taken this guy.
The battle for Dean to even get to where he is now, on and off camera, in and out of the drivers seat, it’s hard to realize the amount of effort that goes into this until you witness it first hand, at this level its much more hectic.
Like many of the drivers Dean has a normal life out of the car. When he isn’t drifting you can find him laying floors in a semi-detached house in Ireland. Two very different disconnected lives. This double life would certainly keep you grounded.
The Long beach track is basically next to a postcard beach, such an amazing backdrop to an event like this. It beats standing at the Ennis speedway in the rain any day.
Off to the side there was a paddock area and then a car park out the back with a show and shine section. This area was nuts, California will never know the struggles of the Irish man and keeping his car clean.
Instinctively I took photos of every car that got me excited, but there is no real reason to put them all up here as many of these cars are already well documented. It was nice to see some of them in the flesh. California has always been at the forefront of car trends for the masses of the western world so it was nice to see it first hand.
Never thought id see a swap like this but I shouldn’t have been surprised. With the LS engine being basically everywhere in America; it’s a sort of reliable head turning way to unlock crazy amounts of power. The owner told me at the time the Corolla had a standard rear axle and informed me things get interesting on the highway.
The “Hellaflush” world of fitment has completely dominated the car scene over the last six or seven years, bringing all sorts of crazy executions with flawless fitment missions to the table. Builds like this I can respect for what they are trying to achieve. For these guys it’s all about fitment and attention and pushing the wheel sizes and this whole movement is gigantic on the west coast.
Its always a little tougher to see it being done to the likes of a WRX, but if the owner is happy and loves the car for what it is, then who’s to argue? America is truly the land of building super powerful cars with expensive wheels, brakes and handling goodies only to have the cars driven slowly to a trap soundtrack in some warehouse district in Middle America, but then again everyone interprets cars differently and there is room for everyone.
I do feel there is such an overwhelming emphasis on cramming massive wheels under whatever chassis and sometimes it kind of just gets you thinking. I know I’m not alone in growing tired of seeing the same sort of 350z formula over and over on websites all over the world. The likes of stance nation and other carbon copy sites and Instagrams, where you see a car excessively fitted on wheels and that’s sort of it. I do feel there is more to a car then just disabling it on a set of shiny rims.
Again, there are always two sides to the coin. It’s very easy to bash someone’s pride and joy these days online. We sort of have to take a step back from the keyboards, its nice to voice an opinion as I always do on here but take this SW20. I had seen it online, and seeing it in the flesh gave me a newfound respect for it. This SW20 is sort of the pinnacle of static fitment trends. The very idea of “stancing” and proper fitment, all of this has ramped up so much in the last decade. It’s going to be interesting to see where people try to take it over the next few years.
Sometimes you look at random stuff from Japan from the past and you almost have to realize that what is being done now, all of this was done before and we are sort of reviving a lot of older car trends in many ways. I feel that form will always end up following function. A dark part of me hopes this MR2 gets some kind of track time or abuse on a back road when its not making people scratch their heads at the show and shine wheel setup.
Always nice to see an ae86, I feel like the 86 is the perfect car that can pull off a a proper wheel setup and still get the shit driven out of it. Maybe its just me, but for some reason I never ever get bored of seeing the same thing being done over and over with these cars in slight variations. Its one of the only cars out there, probably the only one from 1983 that is still used at a competitive level today. The following for these just grows and grows.
This was my first time seeing a kitted NSX. Honda got it so right with this car. I was almost tired of seeing pic after pic of crazy looking examples on any amount of car blogs. It takes a real life glance to actually re ignite that childish excitement you get for such a car. Being from Ireland where I can count the amount of NSX’s I’ve seen on one hand, this was a real treat.
I Couldn’t get enough of this, Mark Arcenals T1 Panel van. such a classic look. What is it about seeing a version of something over and over again and never getting sick of it? Somethings just never get old.
Ill leave it here for now, im sure you are already sick of reading!
Stay tuned for PT2 coming very soon.
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