Basking In Grassroots Drift Glory At SLY Summit
Don’t Forget Your Roots

There’s something so special and unique about proper grassroots drifting that if you were to give me the choice of covering a small amateur event or an FIA-sanctioned competition round, I’d choose the former over and over again.

That’s not to say that pro-spec drift weapons with high horsepower and fully-dedicated teams behind them aren’t exciting to watch – especially when you can get right up close to the action – it’s just that grassroots events are more fun in every respect.


And drifting is one of those activities that’s always been centered around having a good time – even when you’re being judged by Keiichi ‘Drift King’ Tsuchiya.


Aggressive entries, minimum correction and crazy angles were always important factors in early grassroots drift competitions, but having flair and style also mattered, and that still rings true today.


You don’t need to have a purpose-built drift machine to have fun – all you really need is something that sends power to the rear wheels and some spare tires on hand for when the all too familiar sound of a delaminated tread presents itself.


It’s this ‘back to basics’ style of drifting that really gets you excited, and something that SLY Summit 2019 really nailed home.

What Is SLY Summit?

The idea behind Sportsland Yamanashi (SLY) Summit started five years ago when Lowbrain team member Ryohei Takahashi and a group of friends were looking for a new place to drift at.


Up until that point, Fuji Speedway’s small drift park had been the guys’ go-to track, but variety is the spice of life and Sportsland Yamanashi provided an alluring alternative.


At the time, SLY really didn’t have many drift sessions going on. Talking with the owner, who everyone simply calls Shacho (boss), I learned that this facility has always been geared more towards circuit racers than drifters, but that definitely doesn’t mean it’s unsuited for sideways shenanigans. Quite the opposite.


Ryohei and his group of friends were able to reserve the track for a day, and ever since then they’ve been coming back to the little track hidden deep within the mountains of Yamanashi.


Ironically, part of the attraction of Sportsland Yamanashi is Shacho-san’s strictness. Not strict as in disallowing fun, but his zero-tolerance approach to people doing dumb things on the track. In that case, he will scold you – but in a lighthearted way – and then educate you on proper track etiquette and safety.

Ryohei mentioned that many drifters were mischievous growing up, so in an odd way, being yelled at by Shacho-san brings back nostalgic feelings of their school days and only adds to the fun of Sportsland Yamanashi.


Five years on, the small event has grown up and now even gained support from Koyorad USA.

Fun, Fun & More Fun

The recent SLY Summit event I attended was split in two parts, with both halves having three runs for each group – including a group just for the staff. Because what’s the fun of organizing a drift event if you can’t drift yourself?


I’m quite familiar with AE86s and various Silvias kicking up tire smoke at Japanese grassroots events like this one, but the kyusha group was something entirely new to me.


If you read my previous spotlight on a ratty Hakosuka built to destroy tires, you’ll already know that there were three more examples present, but that wasn’t all.


One owner was brave enough to throw around his mint S30 Fairlady Z.


In hindsight, I probably should have taken a closer look at this thing… Next time for sure.


Watching the kyusha group dance around the track was truly spectacular; a delicious performance for both your eyes and ears to feast on. That was until one of the Hakosukas decided to coat the entire track in oil.


Fortunately, the issue wasn’t major, and as the SLY track is really small the crew was able to clean it up quickly.


Once the track was reopened, Tokyonur‘s Honda Element acted as the pace car for the next group, complete with flashing lights and all. Why you ask? Because fun!

Grassroots Paradise

Ryohei and his group’s goal is to ensure that SLY Summit continues on in the future, so that the next generation of local grassroots drifters can have a safe and controlled place to call home.


Since I was shooting stills and letting Project Rough stretch its legs a bit I didn’t capture any real video footage from the day, but luckily a local crew did.

Check out the trailer above, and be on the lookout for the full video release coming soon.

Same time next year, gents?

Ron Celestine
Instagram: celestinephotography



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Track looks incredible! Really refreshing site to see the "stock" Z30 and the Hokasukas. Ohh I love Japan.


What kind of car is that in picture 49?


1984ish Toyota Corona


Neato, thanks I didn't know the Corona made it to the 80's, but it does have some similarities to the Celica.


Ron, just had to say thank you for this coverage. Its this type of thing that lead me hear what feels like a decade ago. Was it that long? Anyway, I really get tired of superhyperextra cars and missed the low key stuff. This has the same feel of the stuff Dino would post back in the day. I'm not saying style or anything in actual photographer comparison other than you both get "it" . The feel, the warmth, the humidity, the extra stuff besides the cars that fill the frame. I've missed coverage of this part of Japan. I've missed the matsuri coverage, the coverage Daikoku, the coverage of March 2,3,4 and even 5th (not so much on that one) , 7's day, 86 day etc. Things feel too corporate ( I get paying the bills so I'll let this slide) most of the time, it's the little stuff people relate to, and seeing this truly helps get that feel back. You take rad shots and I truly enjoy your work so keep it up.


Yes please, same time next year or few months from now haha, really COOL feature.


Great coverage Ron! I really love these shots! It reminds me of golden age of Japanese drifting.


Those red Silvias...