With the day flying by and having indulged in some seriously epic drifting, Saturday’s main event at Winter Jam finally arrived.
It was scheduled for 2:00pm sharp to allow for a solid couple hours of tandem drifting on one of the more complex and lengthy sections of Sonoma Raceway, right before the sun set. And boy was it worth the wait.
Almost all the drivers, both pro and amateur, were lined up at the main starting grid section of Sonoma track layout. Sure enough, the crowds flocked over as well, filling every vantage point behind the barriers to get a glimpse of the spectacle to come.
At this point in the event, I felt my senses heighten quite a bit. The layout was set up to give drivers a long straight prior to the entry point, followed by a huge sweeping flat right turn, then transitioning to another straight, and ultimately ending in back-to-back countering hairpins.
This meant that driver skill was being put to the ultimate test, with an assortment of dynamic range on the track. High speed needed to be carried through the first couple of turns, then drivers had to drastically decrease speed for the hairpins, all while being centimeters from each other. It was quite a nerve-racking sight to see.
This was the one layout that really separated the grassroots guys and the pros. You hear about the high speeds that Formula Drift drivers carry at tracks like Irwindale all the time, but nothing can prepare you for seeing 100mph entries in person. I honestly felt scared for them.
As each team slid passed, there were rocks, tires, and contact debris flying into the faces of the crowd – mine included. The smoke made the skies look like there had been a fire ignited, but in reality it was just the drivers coming in hot. I can still smell the reek of burning and melted rubber as I’m writing this story.
It was absolutely mental, and I loved every second of it.
I continued to watch and photograph as many of the passes as I could without dying, and drivers like Matt Field, Marcus Fry, and Fredric Aasbø put on one hell of a show. The amateurs weren’t too far behind either, and many of them carried just as much speed through the turns whilst even tapping each other at times.More Than Just Drifting
One thing I’d like to touch base on before I wrap up my coverage of this event is that Winter Jam, along with the other local drifting events, do more for the community than just put on an epic show.
If you’re from the US, you’ve probably heard about the increase in ‘sideshow’ activity within the Bay Area and other cities. For those who are unaware, a sideshow is basically an illegal activity that takes place on the streets, which usually consists of people doing risky stunts, shutting down public roads, and causing mayhem amongst the general public.
These sideshows are not only dangerous, but more importantly, give us enthusiasts a seriously bad reputation with local law enforcement agencies. It ultimately leads to profiling against anyone with a modified car, whether you are doing something wrong or following all of the rules of the road. By giving people a time and place to get sideways, it helps cut down illegal activities and makes for a safer environment for the public as a whole.
With that said, I can genuinely say this was an event to not be forgotten in my books. I applaud the organizers for what they’ve managed to create in my home town, and I genuinely wish them the utmost prosperity with future events to come.
It’s safe to say, the success of this event has managed to bring together all aspects of both grassroots and pro-level drifting in one place at one time, safely. It’s formed a singular community, that I like to think we are proudly a part of as well, so you know we’ll be back next year.