It's not that often I get the chance to do a spot of international Speedhunting, so when the opportunity to cover the third round of the Drift Allstars Championship in Malta arose I didn't need to be asked twice.
Round three was held at the Ta'Quali Stadium in the middle of Malta. Not only was it to be the first International event for Drift Allstars but it was the first time Malta has ever hosted a drift event. The weekend would consist of sixteen of the regular JDM drivers and a selection of the Maltese locals doing battle on the custom built track.
We arrived on site at 4PM on Friday afternoon. With the track preparation completed, practice was just about to get underway. The custom track looked superb with a mix of everything that should make a great drift event …
… even down to a perfect drift surface. The sun-baked tarmac was providing high levels of grip with minimum tire wear while still producing massive amounts of smoke.
Turn one was actually blind to the public. Starting off on a service road the cars burst into the arena already fully sideways …
… pulling loads of angle into the fast transition …
…into the first wall ringed left hand rear clipping point …
… and then on to another rear wall clip.
Scrubbing off speed for a tight technical left and right section …
… then a full power maximum smoke round the final sweeping right hand bend to exit the track!
With the start hidden from view, it gave the queuing drivers an excellent opportunity to escape the heat of the cockpit and watch how their fellow competitors were doing.
Having never been to Malta before I had no idea what to expect from the local car culture. I was more than a little surprised to find such a massive car scene on a relatively small island. The above BMW E36 is powered by a Toyota 1JZ, I wasn't expecting that! I will be looking more closely at the car culture of the island in my second installment from Malta.
With the event spread over three days it gave a very laid back feeling to the proceedings. Giving plenty of time for the drivers and crews to prepare for the main event.
With the added heat of the Mediterranean I didn't envy the drivers in their fireproof race overalls sitting in the cars.
Malta has a massive Ford following, so it was no surprise that Steve Evans Ford powered Starlet was an instant hit with the locals …
… to the point where Steve was adopted as an honorary Maltese for the weekend.
With Skylines being a bit of a rarity on the island, Julian Smith's R34 attracted a lot of attention.
Wall clips are always spectacular – a test of precision and skill running your car as close to a concrete wall as possible without actually hitting it. Anthony Scott was pretty much perfect with his second qualifying run with just milimetres to spare.
Paul Vlasblom was spectacular but a little too close …
… running the rear of the E36 down the wall damaging the rear quarter.
Nigel Colfer was the hero of the day with inch perfect run after inch perfect run. Amazing!
The wall did claim a few victims over the weekend. A mistake entering turn two saw Filippo Pirini take a hard rear hit. The damage looked to be very bad as the car limped off the track, but thanks to some local help, the shattered diff mount was welded back together and Filippo was back out for qualifying the following day.
Steve Evans had total steering failure as he transitioned into turn two. The rack actually stripped its teeth leaving Steve a passenger in his own car heading towards the wall. Taking a massive hit the damage looked catastrophic!
But it's not over until the fat lady sings! With the grace of god and the help of a hammer (and a reciprocating saw, a few ratchet straps and a Walton Smith) the Starlet was straightened and made drivable again. In a matter of hours the Starlet was ready to take to the grid for qualifying.
In the briefing before qualifying the judges were very specific in what they were looking for from the drivers.
But were constantly on hand if any questions arose.
Local driver Shawn Spiteri joined …
… Sicilian Alessio Casconi in winning wild card entries to the main event.
Even though it was the first time many of the crowd had ever witnessed a drift event the atmosphere was electric. Especially when the two local heroes took to the track.
Anthony Scott, always the showman.
It was great too see the Maltese locals really embracing their first ever drift event. The queue for the driver meet and greet was massive!
As the sun sank beneath the horizon, the arena lights came up and the finals began.
Judges took position and Drift Allstars Malta was ready to roll.
Local amateur driver Shawn Spiteri had an epic drive to get into the top eight, losing out eventually to Walton Smith in the RB26 powered Impreza.
Battle of the weekend was Nigel Colfer Vs James Deane. Door handle to door handle through the entire course, Colfer eventually came out on top after a OMT decision from the judges.
It ended with a Walton Smith Vs Nigel Cofer final, with the ever dominant Colfer taking the overall win.
With the celebratory burnouts and the low lights, the arena resembled a scene from Close Encounters.
So at the end of three days of competition Nigel Colfer came out on top with Walton Smith second, James Deane third and Brad 'lightning' McQueen with the drive of his career in fourth place.
I'll be back with my second installment from Malta looking at the car culture of the Island.