Through my years as a Speedhunter I’ve been through a lot of topics and discussions with you lot.
We’ve gone through the ups and downs of drifting, car setup, judging, ice racing, die-hard competition, Gatebil fun times and everything in between. It’s been a great journey and I’ve been lucky to have been able to share it with you.
But times are changing. Drifting as a sport and Formula Drift as a series is getting increasingly competitive – it really is serious business. Fans are scrutinizing every judged call, sponsors are looking for returns on investment and solid championship contenders journey from around the world to go to war on track.
‘I just drift for fun’ is a quote I’m often told when I talk to drifters around the world. I know most people mean it as a ‘it’s cool that you get to make a living out of drifting’ kind of thing, but I can’t help but think that it makes it sound like somehow I don’t do it for fun. That is certainly not the case. It’s not like any of us do it because we have to. I love doing it so much that nothing can hold me away from it…
Drifting is an addiction, a drug, a life changing lifestyle that at some point chose me – not the other way around. And, honestly, I think this is part of the reason why I have some of the best partners and sponsors in the scene backing me now. They saw my friends and I pour everything we had into it.
People like passionate people.
Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s not hard work. If you look into the car culture and racing community from the outside, you’ll find some of the most crafty, resourceful people in the world. What some of you guys do in your spare time or on very limited budgets is simply mind-blowing!
And that’s what it’s about – this is where the fun lies for me. You dive into the unknown with equipment that wasn’t super-competitive (back in the Chucky Supra days), you get beaten down, climb back up, figure out the next step, make connections with industry people, drive, practice, analyze and learn.
LEARN. I think the one characteristic that will take you the furthest, is to make learning fun.
I know very well where drifting started, and I understand both camps. There are the people that want drifting taken back to the roots, with more basic builds and more of a stylish grassroots kind of vibe. Then there are the fans that like what FD has become: a fully-fledged circus of some of the most powerful race cars in the world, politics, high stakes and winners and losers.
I feel like I can appreciate both. I like drifting my ice beater car lap after lap and barbecuing hot dogs on the ice just as much as the hyper-competitive mindset you put yourself in at the FD hot grid. But to me, drifting is a motorsport. It’s racing. Granted, a different form of racing, but it’s a form of racing that I want to succeed in.
I really, really want to win.
Right now, I’ve never been closer to achieving my 10-year dream of winning the Formula Drift Championship. After three wins in the US and one in Canada, Papadakis Racing and I are first in the points coming into the finals at Irwindale Speedway in just a couple of weeks.
When I say ‘we’, I mean the countless people that have supported our teams, car builds and programs through all these years, just as much as our team and sponsors.
‘We’ includes you guys too!
It felt really good when my good friend and mentor Fredrik Sørlie (yep, that guy – the owner of the 2JZ Toyota Cressida) said, “I think you’ve cracked the code of how to win in Formula Drift,” earlier this year.
But we can most definitely still lose it. My die-hard Scion teammate Ken Gushi currently sits in second place, with a super-hungry Ryan Tuerck in third and last year’s champ Chris Forsberg in fourth.
As we get closer to the finals at 500 Speedway Drive in the city of Irwindale, California, I’m doing my very best to try and block it all out and just prepare the way I do for any other race. I know and trust that we will win the championship when we’re ready for it. But at the same time, I can’t help but ask myself…
… what’s next?
Photos by Larry Chen
Additional Photo by Alok Paleri