For the better part of the "noughties", the popular German car magazine Sport Auto has been holding an event at Hockenheimring called the sport auto Tuner Grand Prix. The event was akin to a Time Attack event, where a grid of mostly European tuner cars competing for overall and class fastest times. It also included a drift slot where exhibition drift runs were performed in front of a packed grandstand at the SACHS corner.
In Germany it is quite rare for the drifting community to have an audience of this size. Over two days, approximately 30,000 paying guests were expected and as a result, this event attracts drivers from pretty much all over continental Europe.
Like last year, the organisers wanted to give the drivers extra seat time and variety, so they let the drivers out on the reverse East Course of Hockenheimring on the first day.
The East Course starts with a fast left hander…
…coming into a tight right kink where you scrub off most of the speed from turn 1…
…leading to another left connecting two different sections of the track and then a final right past the last clipping point.
The massive speed differences meant that most cars were playing tag in the twistier bits.
Martin "TurboGrinch" Reinsch was to be seen in a car once again after a one year hiatus when he crashed his S14 in the Czech Republic exactly a year ago.
Strapped for cash, he was lucky enough to find an S14 shell that was left in a barn for a long time and with the help of Bernd Seifert, among others from Seifert Performance, managed to get back on track. The car is also fully street legal. I was never a fan of the duck tail but it is starting to grow on me.
For the first bit of practice, I stood on the grasshopper infested outside of the fast turn 1. Here's Juri Bianchi from Switzerland putting down some solid smoke.
The spot was good to see how deep and wide the drivers were going in. Here's Alex Rösch in his V8 E39 M5.
As you can expect with an event in Germany, BMWs were EVERYWHERE.
Some of you might be familiar with the Polizei Drift BMW driven by Alex Gräff. This too is a newer iteration of the old car since the old one was totaled in 2009.
The media guys and gals were trying all sorts of different angles to bring variety to the rain of BMWs sliding past.
Philip Jäger's Jägermeister E30 returned this year with wide fender flares and a ton of aggression.
Photographer and founder of the German car blog Used4 as well as resident E30 junkie, Stefan Brencher was impressed.
Jochen Reich was tearing it up with his BMW V8-powered Opel Commodore. I think it's fair to say this is the loudest drift car in Germany right now, the side-exit exhausts were outright painful if you happened to be standing too close when the hammer drops.
Most people used the morning session to sort out any teething issues with the cars.
At some point I got up the top of the Mercedes Tribune, which provided a good view over the entire East Course. The massive speed through turn 1 meant that a lot of drivers overshot turn 2's apex, giving the photographers standing behind the wall a mouthful of dirt.
Turn 1 wasn't any less spectacular. Michael Sahli from Switzerland was lucky to have missed a massive wall tap.
Swen Burkhard's Hachi, recently equipped with NOS was putting down impressive smoke for the little power it makes.
Hunting a Speedhunter?
Yes ladies and gentlemen, that is indeed a bucket seat you see on top of the car.
The owner of the M5 told me that he is going to put a rollcage around that seat. Can't wait to have a go in it once it's done!
One of the drivers who has been showing consistent progress over the past couple of years is Robert Höing in his E30 estate. When he is not driving, you can spot him in the paddocks toting his DSLR and clicking away. It is not uncommon to see him trackside donning a media vest among the regular photo mob.
21 year old Denise Ritzmann is paving the way for young girls to drifting.
The sticker on the left side of the rear bumper reads "BOSO: Better sound through louder pipes"
Alain Thomet is part of Team Speed Industries, being part sponsored by Touge Automotive.
Back at the SACHS curve, things were hotting up. Here we have Benno Frieden and Michael Sahli all locked up and crossed up.
Rohan van Riel from Luxembourg takes the trophy for the biggest wing ever, built to rival aircraft carriers…
German V8 vs American V8.
How often do drifters get a chance to drift in tandem with a truck?
The cars were drifting by with a gap of just about 10 seconds, so it was incredibly difficult for my camera to focus properly with all the smoke in the air.
There was a competition woven into the drift event, but pleasing the crowd was important as ever. Close battles by Lars Verbraeken and Remmo Niezen made sure the people were on their feet.
If that didn't do the trick, there were the drift trains.
A good part of the audience weren't familiar with the Japanese models, but they still ended up getting tons of applause.
The Swiss guys were putting in great run after great run.
Sometimes the drivers got a little lost however.
Juri was an especially good sportsman. When he spun into the gravel trap, he got out and bowed to the crowd.
This Swiss – Luxembourg – Swiss – Luxembourg batch secured third place in the team drift competition.
In the end, the drivers made sure their tires were well and truly spent.
The cars lined the SACHS curve in front of the audience for the final greet. Uwe Sener, one of the minds behind the event and a drifter himself, had a smile on his face. The better part of his job for the weekend was done.
You might notice Don Icon from Speed Industries on the far right is wearing mismatched shoes. At a previous event, he tried to imitate Linhbergh and ended up mangling his ankle which meant no vengeful clutch kicks this time.
This is how the guys show their appreciation of female drifters in Germany.
Since the walk back to the paddocks was long, I hopped into the trunk of Don Icon's 407hp R32 Skyline.
Alain Thomet was right behind us and he gave a last rolling burnout for the departing spectators. And I had the best seat in the show!
The drivers looked like they thoroughly enjoyed the event – with no stress about championship points and a packed grandstand there was a smile on every face that weekend. Definitely a fun event.