Is Gridlife The New Gatebil?
Drive All Day

I guess you could say that I’ve just been on a Speedhunters world tour.

I jumped straight from Formula Drift New Jersey to Gridlife Midwest; joined the Hot Rod Power Tour and then hit up Pikes Peak; jetted over to the UK for the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and then onto Continental Europe for the Gumball 3000. The weekend past I was in Montreal for Formula Drift Canada.

I met up with many old friends and made new ones along the way, but more important was the chance I had to hang out with a few of the Speedhunters crew. Paddy McGrath, Jordan Butters, and Mark Riccioni were all at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. It’s been so long since a large group of us were shooting together, and it was beyond fun.


I’ve attended so many motoring festivals and racing gatherings all over the world, but looking back at the past couple of months got me thinking about what makes an event ‘fun’ for me nowadays.


The answer is fairly simple: my favorite events are the ones that my friends attend.

Today I want to talk about Gridlife Midwest, which I attended last month. If you caught my stories from last year’s event, you might remember me comparing Gridlife to Gatebil. This time around I wanted to find out whether the American festival has become more relevant in the car culture world than the Scandinavian original.

I set out to put together this event story plus shoot three completely different cars for features. Stay tuned for these!


I hit the ground running, as did the Donut Media guys who came out in force to capture what Gridlife is all about by video. At the far right of this line-up is Chris Forsberg’s VK56-powered Infiniti sedan, while the two Mercedes-Benzes were drafted in for chase car duties.


I was not at the event for five minutes before I strapped myself into the passenger seat of Mr. Toad’s wild ride.


I’d never actually ridden in this car before, but I had been looking forward to it since I featured it all those years ago.


Insane does not really describe this drift shuttle. Gatebil had a similar program with stock BMW M5 drift taxis, but this Infiniti can do full course drifting like you’ve never seen before.


This truly was the real Mr. Toad’s wild ride. I feel like the drift shuttle needs to become a movement.


Along with Chris Forsberg, Vaughn Gittin Jr. brought out one of his many demo cars.


We were initiating inches away from Vaughn going into the first corner, and at one point I even had to pull my camera in so it would not get crushed by a Mustang body panel. It was my highlight of the event.

The war stories that we traded afterwards will last for a lifetime.


One of the chase car wheel-men was James Kirkham from Donut Media. He used to be a racing driver so he is not afraid to get close to the action.


It was fun to see him on track getting those perfect stacked drift shots.


I went for a few rides with him as well and mounted my camera in front of the Mercedes to capture some chase shots.


Team Drift Alliance was not the only one scheming to get stacked drift trains; Team Falken Tire were out in force too.


While some drivers like Justin Pawlak brought out their current FD cars, the others put their previous competition drift machines to good use once more.


For Daijiro Yoshihara, Gridlife offered a chance for him to get behind the wheel of his 2011 championship-winning Nissan S13. It was so cool to be able to shoot this legendary car again, especially as it’s still in the original livery.


I don’t know about you guys, but I really want historic drifting to become a thing. We cover so many historic race cars on Speedhunters, and I feel like in a few more years old drift cars will become cooler than ever.


One of the reasons I think Gridlife is becoming so big is because of how the owner, Chris Stewart, talks one on one with the teams about what he can do to ensure the best time is had by all.


On top of that, Gridlife invites the right influencers from all over to compete and have a good time on and off track.


This becomes very evident as you walk the paddock through the hot pits and the car show areas.


The variety of cars that turn up is awesome, plus the quality and style of the builds surpasses all expectations.


Quite simply, Gridlife has become a staple event of midwest car culture. If you needed proof, the line just to get in was over a mile long.


I don’t know what the small town where GingerMan Raceway is located thinks about it, but I’m sure they don’t mind the area doubling or even tripling in population for the weekend.


The Hoonigan gang came out in numbers with their female driver search program.


These Fiat 124 Spiders are such cool builds. There needs to be more new rear-wheel drive rally cars.


Even the kids who attend show up with modified cars.

Just check out this scale Hoonicorn with working all-wheel drive and an e-brake.

Party All Night

Without a doubt, one of the biggest draws of Gridlife is the party scene, and this year the after hours atmosphere did not disappoint.


Not only did our good friend Rob ‘Chairslayer’ Parsons crowd surf, but Chris Forsberg also found himself being carried away.


After the lights went out and the concert was over, the pro and amateur drivers went from pit to pit hanging out with all the people who made it along for the crazy weekend.


Where else can you party with your drifting idols?


Even Gandalf The Drunk made an appearance again, although this year there were no unregulated burnouts.

Gridlife after hours is an absolute blast, and it’s made even better by all the characters you love to hate.


So the question is, has Gridlife replaced Gatebil? The answer is that there is room for both events to exist. The reason why Gridlife is becoming so popular with the pro teams is because it’s much more accessible than Gatebil. Before Norway and Sweden had the biggest and best festivals surrounding drifting, awesome car builds and music; but now that there is a similar type of event in North America, and I’m pretty happy about that.

The next Gridlife event will be held at Road Atlanta in around a month’s time, so if you’re within driving distance it’ll definitely be worth checking out.

Larry Chen
Instagram: larry_chen_foto

Cutting Room Floor


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Must. Attend. Gridlife.

Also, who's Jordan?


He shoots video I think.


Nope, not by a long shot. Gatebil has much more esoteric and insane rides and AWD is allowed and encouraged.


Have you been?


Clickbaity title.


I don't think it is, as it's a pretty fair comparison. It's just asking a question, not making a statement.


Awesome to see Darren joining in! He should come more often, his tan needs some work.


He's practically transparent at this point.


Drifting Ghost.


The way I would compare the 2 would be: I would travel to Norway just for Gatebil, but no way in hell would I travel to the US just for Gridlife.

Bryn Musselwhite

Wait... Our time together at Goodwood meant nothing? You're dead to me x



Philly Robertson

Great snaps! I love the squareback!




Those are some of the sickest action shots I've seen! A little more coverage of the HPDE and track battles would be cool, but I realize the drifting makes for better shots/is more interesting to read about. See you in Atlanta!


From an outsider's perspective, Gridlife isn't the new Gatebil, it's just the american eqivilant.

Christian Clark

F(*&$% me running, is that D-MAC?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! Hell yes!!!!!!!


He's back, and still pale as ever!


How cool is it, that North America has a similiar event like the holy Gatebil?

But well, Gatebil is imo still another story, when it comes to totally crazy engine swapped cars, AWD drifts and stuff. I´ve been there in 2014 and I really really have to come back some day, because it was without doubt the best racetrack event I ever attended.


Awesome, You definitely need to check out Gridlife then.


I'm from Germany, I wish I could. I'm in the States the 2nd time this year in September, so Gridlife unfortunately won't be an option this time. We'll attend SIV for the 2nd time and enjoy the Cali car culture as much as we can, attending C&C, Supercar Sunday and other stuff maybe.


Cool, enjoy socal.


Finally Amuricans start having fun! Leaving all that >2nd is 1st looser< mindset alone and just pure car enjoyment.
Gridlife idea has been tested before - track action + show in parking area + party = WIN! As long as PRO teams have fun and keep their PR and product selling in reasonable boundaries this should last.


I can't compare it to Gatebil but can say I had to pinch myself a number of times at Gridlife to remind myself I was not dreaming. A truly wonderful experience with great people, great cars and great times. What is better to waking up to revs and drifts; a truly eye opening experience and looking forward to their return to Gingerman.

TLDR: Great shots!! So glad you were able to get photos of all the cars I was too busy drooling over to try and photograph.


Thank you for your thoughtful opinion. Seems like too many people have comments on both that have not been to either event.

Boost Brothers Garage .

Incredible shots Larry, I've been waiting for this coverage since your Instagram story! I had tickets to the event and ended up going to Mid Ohio that weekend instead. Looks like I made a mistake!


There is always next year.


awesome photos as usual, Larry! will there be a speedhunters post on pikes peak and gumball?


I am working on the Pikes Peak one right now. We will see about Gumball.


cant wait for the write up on mikko kataja's starlet, one wild home built car


As soon as I saw it on Pikes Peak, I knew I had to feature it.


awesome article Larry...! I have yet to make it to this but need to for sure. If I could suggest a feature it would be dope if you guys did a feature on that silver G35 sedan from the No Mind team. I've had the pleasure of meeting the owner/ builder a couple times and the car and build quality is amazing. I feel it would be right at home in the Speedhunters archive.


I will take a look at it next time I see it. Thanks for the suggestion.


larry you put the heart of art in your photography


Thanks for noticing! Thanks for the support.


New gatebil, I'm not sure about. No hate against gridlife. I've definitely added it to my bucket list.
But from what I've seen (pics and videos) its more a playaeria for the pros. A lot of high dollar builds. Whereas Gatebil, anything goes as long as it passes tech. Load of low dollar builds, that just make it past tech, as well as there are some "high" dollar builds (compare any Norwegian pro drift car to FD car and you'll be surprised how cheap our cars are.
Gatebil coverage usually contains LOADS of old beaten up cars, whilst gridlife. All you see is the DA, and other FD drivers.
Just my $0,02


I agree with you to a certain degree. I've featured quite a few high quality builds from Gridlife, that are just normal guys.


Could poserfest 2017 be even more poser, yes - next year they could take all that useless garbage in the parking lot and spice it up with some battle paint and neck beards, or was that last year - sorry maybe next year it's chromalusion merde and neckbeard seat cushions. Is this gatebil 2.3.8543.10.01 - no.


Awesome coverage Larry! I don't think there's much need for a competitive comparison between the two, since they're so far apart. But it's awesome to see the format being adopted elsewhere. Just wish we had something like this in the UK. But for whatever reason the show organisers just can't seem to pull it off.

On a side note, so awesome to see the Donut guys out there. With them sandwiching a car in full drift to get footage is pretty awesome.


I think it's possible for something like this to work out in the UK. You just have to add music to the mix and create a larger festival that surrounds car culture.

Dieter Pedroza

Great Pix man! it was a pleasure to finally meet you in person! next on my aganda... ATTEND GATESBIL! HAHAHA


It's cool that the US now has a similar event, but I feel that Gatebil will always be the number one just because of the sheer madness.
PS. Scandinavians party harder and drink more than Americans, it's the only thing to do during the winter while we aren't building crazy engine swapped Volvos, huge turbo BMW's and 4wd Audis for drifting.


I agree with you about the partying part. I didn't seen any overdoses at Gridlife. Everytime I go to Gatebil, someone goes to the hospital. haha.

Garrick Greenway

So glad that a track event is headed to Michigan that has the publicity like Gridlife. It'll be nice to see some cars that aren't old guys driving corvettes and trophy wives driving V6 Mustangs and Camaros. The only show that isn't a 2 or more hour drive for me is Back to the Bricks in Flint and all you see there is Resto-mod American muscle which is cool and all but after going for 4 years in a row it gets pretty old. Gridlife at Gingerman will be a welcome change.