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 Post subject: New York Times drifting article
PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2004 4:49 pm 
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I think you have to register to read this article on their website, so I'm posting the text here.

DRIVING
Drifting: The Fast Art of the Controlled Slide
By CHRIS DIXON

Published: May 7, 2004


ONTEREY, Calif.

LEANING into the cockpit of a rumbling 2003 Dodge Viper, Terence Jenkins has a few envious words. "You're very lucky," says Mr. Jenkins, the manager of the Dodge/Mopar Lateral G drifting team. "This is the FOERST time a drifting car has been allowed to drive around Laguna Seca."

Moments later, in a cloud of tire smoke, Mr. Jenkins's driver, Samuel Hubinette, launches the 550-horsepower Viper straight toward the Andretti Hairpin, a notorious switchback at this famous raceway. But charging into this 180-degree turn at 90 miles per hour, Mr. Hubinette, a 32-year-old Swede, does not hit the brakes. Instead, before a crowd of 5,000 cheering fans, he slings the Viper into a magnificent, terrifying slide. As tires scream and smoke pours into the open window, Mr. Hubinette, a former ice racer, soon reaches a short straightaway. But he doesn't go straight. In fact, for the entire 2.2 miles of the track, he makes dizzying sideways slides across the pavement, then rolls toward the pit area with a whoop. "That was a 75 to 80 percent run," he says. "Now I'm fired up."

Mr. Hubinette, who was competing in the $10,000 Winner-Take-All International Drifting Shoot-Out last weekend, put on a rather graphic display of the motor sport phenomenon called drifting. Originating in Japan over a decade ago, drifting was FOERST practiced illegally on treacherous mountain roads. The drifter's goal was, and is, to put the car into controlled slides, maintaining speed and angle of attack through the curves. Unlike races, drifting competitions are judged events, and winning takes a combination of speed, angle and excitement. With the addition of synchronized tandem or "battle" drifting — the main event at Laguna Seca — the stakes, and risks, increase sharply.

Though drifting reached the United States only a couple of years ago, the sport has grown explosively. There are more than 50 drifting events, from competitions to clinics, scheduled at North American tracks this year. In the last two weeks, both Road Atlanta and Laguna Seca, two of America's most storied road-racing courses, have held their FOERST drifting contests.

And these days, the heroes for tens, or perhaps hundreds, of thousands of young American drivers are people like Mr. Hubinette; Alex Pfeiffer, a driver for Team R-Sr; Kenjiro Gushi, a 17-year-old wunderkind who doesn't even have a driver's license; and Takumi Fujiwara, known as Initial D.

Actually, Initial D is not a real person; he's a Japanese Manga comics character and is also featured in a PlayStation game. He makes a living delivering tofu along the winding roads of Mount Akina for his father, Bunta, a legendary racer. During the course of his work, Initial D reluctantly comes to realize that — in an underpowered Toyota Trueno AE86 (a rear-wheel-drive Corolla) — he has become the best driver on the mountain. In the comics and in the game, all the mysterious young man wants is to deliver his tofu on time; all the local drifters want is to find out who he is and beat him.

Like many young drifters, Richard Tang of Team Rotora, sponsored by a performance brake manufacturer from City of Industry, Calif., learned about drifting from the comic-book exploits of Initial D. In the pits at Laguna Seca, he pointed out parallels between the fictional hero and the young Mr. Gushi, who also drives for Team Rotora. "Ken is very talented," he said. "Believe it or not, he started driving at around age 13 with a Corolla, and his dad has a WRX rally car just like Bunta."

Tsukasa Gushi, 37, a former rally and motorcycle racer who owns a performance garage in San Gabriel, Calif., was standing nearby and corrected Mr. Tang. His son actually learned to drive at age 8, when he used to get behind the wheel at his father's shop. Then, when Ken was 13, "I took him to the desert and drove him rally style. I showed him some moves, then said, `O.K., do whatever you want.' He never stopped driving."

Ken Gushi recalled sliding across the floor of El Mirage, the Mojave dry lake, in his father's 1986 Corolla. Today, behind the wheel of his 300-horsepower 1992 Nissan 240 SX, he's one of the top drifters in the country. For him, the appeal of drifting is visceral. "At any point you can crash," he said. "There's a big risk, and that's the biggest thrill of it."

And unlike more established motor sports like Nascar racing, drifting doesn't yet require a $200,000 car. All it takes to get started is a crisp-handling rear-wheel-drive car and $80 worth of used tires from a junkyard. For established teams it's another matter. Factory-sponsored drivers can go through as many as 10 $400 high-performance tires a day.

At Laguna Seca, Donald Ahn and Todd Ho of the NorCal Drift Academy in San Francisco actually entered a stock 160-horsepower 1990 Mazda RX-7 that sported a large swath of red tape over a dent in the rear quarter panel. "We drove our cars here," Mr. Ahn said. "Everyone else has a trailer. The track guy didn't even want to let us park. He said, `What are you guys doing here?' We said, `We're racing.' `What car?' `This car!' "

Why spend his time putting his old car into death-defying skids? "Why do you pop a wheelie on a bicycle?" Mr. Ho asked in response. "You don't go any faster — it's just fun! It's very much like freestyle motocross. The best way to describe it is freestyle with cars."

FOR the fans all along the shortened three-quarter-mile drift course, the sport's appeal seemed clear. Pressing up against the chain-link fence, they cheered loudly as competitors pendulumed back and forth amid choking clouds of smoke. At least once each run, a crash between sliding vehicles was narrowly averted, and several 80-m.p.h. fender scuffs and spinouts elicited roars.

"There's just no ignoring the cool factor," said Ed Nicolls, Laguna Seca's spokesman, who added that the track was holding its FOERST drifting event to draw younger fans than traditional races do. "The best part of racing is when the tires break away. That's when people stand up."

Peter Stark, a senior writer for Racing magazine, had a similar view of drifting's excitement value. "It's phenomenal," he said, "that there's an organized act of driving cars like you stole them. This is a sanctioned version of what every idiot high school kid has done in a parking lot."

While many of the drifting professionals emphasized the importance of putting rubber to the road only on approved courses (Mr. Ahn and Mr. Ho's Drift Academy offers $80-to-$110 drifting lessons at several tracks in the San Francisco area), many in the crowd acknowledged having drifted under less than official circumstances.

"It's something that keeps me out of trouble, but in trouble," said Brandon Gilbert, 19, of Seaside, Calif., rolling an autographed tire (drivers give away the bald ones). His friend Brian Palmer, 17, added: "It keeps you away from drugs. But you're still, like, addicted to it."

When asked where they go drifting, the boys grinned sheepishly. "Parking lots," said Jason Nguyen, 17.

Out on the track, Mr. Hubinette and Mr. Gushi made a spectacular run that kept them inches apart through a series of deadly looking skids. On the back stretch, the cars even scraped each other. Though he had won in Atlanta the week before, Mr. Hubinette's performance was not enough, and the three judges awarded Mr. Gushi the round, moving him into the next elimination heat.

Mr. Gushi then went on to narrowly squeal by some impressive driving from Tanner Foust in Jasper Performance's Toyota Supra Turbo and Rhys Millen in Team RMR's Pontiac GTO (Pontiac and Dodge are the FOERST two American makers to sponsor drifters). Mr. Gushi's grand prize: a $10,000 check and a teary-eyed father.

Though he didn't win, Mr. Ho called breathing the rubber smoke from Mr. Hubinette's Viper one of the most thrilling moments of his life. "That's the point I'm trying to make," he said. "I didn't have the money for a 400-horsepower motor or 18-inch wheels. You can still do a lot with stock wheels and stock alignment." Still he could not help being impressed by the cars with stratospheric horsepower. "I think I've hit the limits of my car," he said and sighed. "I might have to abandon the RX-7."


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PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2004 5:39 pm 
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whats awesome is that many of the track directors are going to the events to see what the fuss is all about and many of them like what they see, which is better in the furture for drift only tracks =D



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PostPosted: Tue May 11, 2004 1:48 pm 
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Drift-Only tracks...
I like the way that sounds!

I totally fell in love with DriftLand... from the DriftBible. The U.S. NEEDS somewhere like that. Somewhere you can practice without worry of damaging your car, or endangering other people.
Ahhh... one can only dreeeam...
:cry:



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PostPosted: Tue May 11, 2004 3:13 pm 
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Location: Melbourne, Fl (ex-southern californian)
drift only track sounds way awesome!!

Oh man, driftland is like disneyland for us drifters!! You know to make one, it be hella cheap, but the thing what screws us is the insurance cost. Its fuckin gay here! Isn't there a way to like have a contract that any acidents is not the track owners fault and any other incidents. Hopefully something will happen soon.

You know what would be awesome, a ManMade Drift Mountain with awesome sencery with waterfalls, rock and cement tunnels, ohmy gawd!!! sounds so dick.



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PostPosted: Mon May 17, 2004 1:54 pm 
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Just imagine if someone did build a driftland type course around here; at the rate that it's going you would be lucky of you could get any track time.
No doubt, a man made mountain envoroment would be so sweet, and what would make it better would be some really well padded guard rails. I smile just thinking of running a downhill touge with little worries of damaging your car. Skill levels would skyrocket.


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