Formula Drift at Irwindale is easily the biggest event of the year on the drift calendar, and I was honoured to be invited over to join the Speedhunters team for this great event. So, for me it was direction Los Angeles for the last round of the championship.
Europe now appears rather small in comparison; everything over there was immense and I very much had the impression of being an ant in the middle of a city constructed for giants. It was necessary to cross the street just to try and see the top floors of the enormous skyscrapers.
Without doubt Irwindale has been my favourite event of the year.
Compared to the USA drifting is on a different level to Europe: everything is multiplied by four and the ambiance is intensified with a friendliness and joviality that is impossible not to get caught up in.
Going to Irwindale meant that I hang out with the the rest of the US Speedhunters team. I’ve learned so much from everyone during the last last year.
It was also a real pleasure to catch up with Miki Taka, who I hadn’t seen since Zandvoort a year ago.
I attended my first media briefing and I have to admit that I didn’t understand anything except to stay safe – the important bit at least!
Thanks to Madmike I was able to see all the nuances of this Irwindale track and the different lines drivers would take, and to hear his opinions on each pass.
That helped me better understand and put me in the place of the drivers as they made their runs. He found us a great to spot from where we could soak up the action.
So it was there that I had my first experience of the event between the squealing of the cars, the smell of burning tyres, the smoke and the rain of rubber that caused my heart to beat at 100 miles an hour.
I understood just why they need the safety briefings when I saw my first crash along the length off the wall at turn three. As photographers we are right in the frontline, just centimetres from the track – the intensity of the whole experience increases with that proximity.
During the Top 32 I was in the same spot, which was a great fun: you could see the cars arriving on the right and then at the last moment they would throw the car into a drift right in front of us.
It was like a bomb exploding, a bit like a big Hollywood blockbuster, with the rush of air from the car you didn’t need to blow-dry you hair – the car would do it for you!
Of course it’s less funny when there’s an accident and on top of the smoke you are showered with oil from the car. Luckily for everyone there were no serious crashes.
As well as the drift competition, more people had turned out to participate in the car show. I went out with Miki, Courtney, Sean and Madmike to look over the assembled cars.
We stickered the most impressive ones with a special #FeatureThis sticker – if the owner authorised us! – and to encourage them to enter their car into the feature shoot competition.
This was to select the best car of the show, with the prize being a professional feature shoot courtesy of Sean Klingelhoefer – you can take a look at the winner here.
Both on and off the track us Speedhunters had the chance to soak up an exceptional display of cars.
It’s not every day that you get the chance to check out a brand new Mustang…
Especially the 2013 Mustang RTR designed by Vaugh Gittin Jr…
A McLaren MP4-12C…
Or a Lamborghini Aventador – it was an overwhelming experience for the eyes and ears.
Our other programme, #IAMTHESPEEDHUNTER, was also running on Instagram, with the prizes including a copy of the incredible limited-edition Speedhunters Volume 1 art book
The copy the lucky winner received had been signed by Rod Chong, Larry Chen, MadMike, Fredric Aasbø, Linhbergh and Mike Garrett.
So, the whole event left a big impression on me.
It’s the most impressive event that I’ve yet attended and I left with a head of magnificent memories that I had never thought I would experience in my life.
A weekend of great people…
And a glimpse into a new world of automotive joy that I had previously no knowledge of.