During the Drift Masters European Championship’s recent round in Riga, Latvia, I was able to catch up with Eline Berke, vice president of the FIA Drift Commission, and have a chat about the future of FIA drifting.
Eline first became involved in drifting when she was at university studying event organization. At this time, drifting in Europe was just getting into its stride, and Eline was in search of an internship. She found HGK, who had just started organizing drift events, and joined the team not knowing just how big they’d eventually become in the drifting world.
VL: It’s you and Jānis (Blušs) who make drift events in Latvia happen. What are your main roles?
EB: Together we are a team. We have people who help during the event – at the registration desk, cash office, on track – but before championships and events, we are both organizing all the small and big things. Everything is our role, starting from the media, staff, communication, social media; everything about the event, planning, drivers, official instances, building up and removing the track, activities on the track – everything else from A to Z.
VL: Given you are largely responsible for putting the Riga event on the world map, do you have any tips for other drift event organizers?
EB: We did it as a small team – just me and my husband, Jānis. I suggest they [drift event organizers] think about the drivers, about the media and spectators. The most important keyword is communication. If you can find the right language with everyone, you will find the right return and respect from others. Don’t forget about the content of the event – how enjoyable it is for everyone.
VL: Why did you decide to join the FIA?
EB: When there were first talks about the FIA Drift Group, I already knew that I wanted to be there and add my expertise. The most important reason was the opportunity to follow all the decisions which were assumed, and to avoid any decisions that could harm the sport and drifters. I knew that the FIA didn’t know much about drifting, and my main goal was to inform the FIA people about it.
VL: What’s your role in the FIA Drift Committee as the vice president?
EB: I am proud to have this title because I like the feeling that I have been trusted. But the role for everyone is the same – make drifting part of recognized motorsports, and improving its popularity and safety. I am very grateful to have a word that will be heard. The committee has people from all over the world, who work together to bring knowledge about the sport of drifting to wider audiences and new countries.
At the moment we have two commissions – a technical and a sports one. Right now these two groups are working with all the rules to help other organizers. The technical group develops technical rules; the sports group’s main job is safety at the track and judging criteria.
VL: Are you involved in the FIA Drift organization or is it only the D1 Grand Prix in Japan that’s responsible?
EB: I think that each representative of the commission does something very special by communicating with the drivers and informing them, but the main job is given to D1. The previous year I was involved as a race commissioner, but time will tell what my role will be this time.
VL: How do you think the third FIA event will go? Do you have any feedback from drivers? Are drivers interested?
EB: We are finally going to drive on the track [in Japan]. Odaiba was a fantastic place with a great atmosphere, but the track is something different. Interest is huge, and I can tell you that the list of drivers will be a surprise for everyone. It will have some interesting names as well, just look at the recent announcement from the Shanahan brothers.
VL: What was discussed during the FIA meeting that took place in Latvia just before the Drift Masters European Championship round?
EB: I am very grateful and proud that most of the FIA sports group was here; I was able to introduce them to Riga and show them what we are doing. As I said before, the main FIA goal is not the championship itself, but a structure for helping others. In the meeting, D1 organizers introduced their preparations for the next round, how the registration is held, and what the plan is to make this trip to Japan a better and more interesting experience for the drivers. Then we were working with the documents, preparing them to be available for every organizer. A lot of the talk was about the next FIA project with judging for the upcoming year.
VL: The training for judges?
EB: Yes, the FIA knows that it’s one of the most important things that is missed right now. That is why from 2020 there will be courses for new and experienced judges in every region of the world, with FIA support.
VL: What are the future plans for FIA Drift? Are there any goals or deadlines the committee need to meet before the event grows into a full championship?
EB: The first thing is to arrange all the documents and technical rules to help other countries with their [drift event] organization, and make it possible for drivers to race in other countries under the same rules. For now, it is not about the championships but about the discipline – the same licenses, cooperation between organizers, helping drivers, and to make drift culture stronger and better all over the world. It’s more important to start with details and everything related, for example, licenses and the fact that a lot of top drivers do not have them at all.
If we talk about the championship, I think that in near future there will be one round in every continent, and then drivers will meet in the world championship final. We have a lot of strong drift series in every region, and in my opinion, if every championship could take one event as an FIA championship round, then together it could end up as one big FIA World Drift Championship.
VL: It seems likely that Europe will be the next stop for an FIA drift event, what do you think?
EB: As the organizer of the round in Riga, my biggest dream would be to organize an FIA round here. It’s just such a nice place in the middle of Europe. The next country to join Japan could be the United States or Russia, but I am hoping for Europe, of course.
VL: Lastly, I heard about something called ‘Motorsport Games’ being planned?
EB: Yes, it’s a new FIA event, which will be held from 31st of October until the 3rd of November in Italy at the Vallelunga Circuit. It will be like the Olympic Games, but a celebration of motorsport. The event will have six disciplines, and one of them will be drift. In these games, every discipline’s representative will be rewarded, and there will be one united prize-giving ceremony for each country. This event will be really interesting.