The UK’s grassroots drift community has been going through a bit of turbulence over the last two years. Venues that have previously hosted drift events are being shut down by local councils. Police and other authorities think anyone with a low BMW is out to commit crimes. And on the odd occasion where mainstream media gets a hold of drifting they depict those involved as irresponsible boy racers. Today, when your Average Joe in the UK hears the word ‘drifting’ they immediately think of a muddy oval track with rattle-canned Scrapyard Challenge motors crashing into each other. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that amongst all that rubbish is a growing, thriving community of people who are successfully bringing style and class into the mix. Let me introduce you to Dorifest, the event where these incredible individuals get together for a weekend of pushing their cars around the iconic Driftland venue.
You join me on a sunny-yet-chilly evening in Fife. My good friend Tom Wright and I had just done a 12-hour pilgrimage from the south of England all the way up to Scotland. Travelling at a steady 60mph in a borrowed 20-year-old Mitsubishi Shogun, Tom successfully just completed his first towing journey. The car on the trailer? The red PS13 Nissan Silvia above.
We seemed to be the first people at the party. The pits were quiet, but it was very obvious from the atmosphere that the following morning – when Dorifest officially kicked off – we’d be in a pack of 60 other drivers who all had the same goal for the weekend: Get in their pride and joy drift car, get as close to their best friend in their own car, and initiate together into a corner at about 70mph.
Dorifest is a brand new event on the UK drift calendar. Its organiser Martin Oberheim, however, is no stranger to organising drifting events. Martin’s an S-chassis guy through and through, and he’s been around the block a few times with his own project cars. The idea for Dorifest came from his previous event, S Chassis Fest, where Martin invited his friends with show-car-quality S-chassis drift machines to come down to Driftland and shred the track together.
Now, some people may disagree here, but the drift world doesn’t end with the S-chassis. Yep, I know, that’s a bold claim to make, but the biggest S-chassis lover of them all, Martin, agrees with this one. The natural progression for his events then, was to open up the doors and include all makes and models.
One thing that wasn’t up for discussion, though, was the quality of the cars. Dorifest prides itself on having drift cars attend that wouldn’t look out of place at a car show. Low drive heights, real parts used and tight wheel fitment is standard. The award ceremony even saw a trophy go out to the best engine bay of the weekend.
This makes sense. Drifting is all about style and self expression, and your car is the boldest way to reflect that.
Dorifest represents the best the UK has to offer, and rumour has it over 150 people applied to take part in the event. This wasn’t a ‘first come first served’ gathering though; Martin and his team hand-picked the cars from a sea of applications. This is good news for UK drifting; the demand is there and growing. Dorifest is the perfect challenge to issues I mentioned at the start of the article, and Driftland is the perfect place to showcase it.
From the get-go on Friday evening I was already beyond excited for the weekend ahead. I used to read about Driftland as a teenager – a smooth, purpose-built drifting playground with easy spectating, and a big pit area and located away from anyone who could get annoyed by the sound of an SR20DET revving into its ketchup. The only catch is that it’s a 12-hour journey north from me, but the perks of that far outweigh the cons.
Scottish hospitality is at a different level. Everyone is friendly and was keen to make sure all guests were fed and watered. The scenery is truly beautiful and the air is crisper than that of England. Things were setting up for a lovely weekend ahead.Slow & Steady
Saturday rolled around, and with the drivers and media briefing out the way it was time to get stuck in. Overnight, the quiet pit we experienced on Friday had became a little more full, with a line of empty car trailers at the back for each of the cars there. The drivers were taking this seriously. Only one small issue: the weather.
The morning was damp. This was bad, because for the drivers that didn’t know the track (most of my friends), not only did they have to try and learn somewhere new, they also had to fight the elements. Two of my friends slid right off on the first bend; wet tarmac and an off-cambered corner made for ice-like conditions. Fortunately, the slip ups weren’t the end of their weekend.
As you can see, Martin’s influences in the S-chassis world meant a lot of his friends brought their own Nissans out to play at the event. Stew Noble’s red Spec-R S15 on 17-inch Advan Model 5s was one of the first on the track, demonstrating that despite arriving on a trailer and being very clean and understated on the outside, cars like these aren’t show ponies. They get used properly.
The queues to head out onto the track grew as the drivers all got their prep out the way. A slow and steady approach was developed by many as the track was still damp, but word was spreading that the sun would be out by lunch, and stay with us for the weekend. I could tell these guys were saving their energy and tyres for the dry afternoon ahead.The First Pitstop
Drift days require constant spanner-work, and I don’t think any of the cars managed to do the whole event without needing something replaced or fixed. For the most part it was boost or temperature related. I’m pretty sure that most of my friends with turbo cars popped a boost pipe, and those who didn’t probably shredded a body panel on an apex. These guys run low cars knowing a side skirt will likely fly off at some point over the weekend.
But why? Why are these guys committed to running their cars low, when it all guarantees is damage? It’s hard to summarise it briefly, but think of it sort of like a rock concert. The artist would play their songs, shred the guitar with the same energy these guys shred their cars on track, and finish the song off by smashing the guitar on stage. Obviously the drivers won’t completely destroy their cars, but ultimately, fibreglass bumpers are replaceable parts, just like a guitar is, and the battle scars are a sign of you pushing the car to its limit. When the guitar is smashed against the stage, the audience is still screaming, asking for one more song.
Unfortunately, not all damage is light. At the start of the Saturday, my buddy Stu Burrows blew a gearbox up before his first pitstop. His morning went from drifting his car with his buddies to sourcing and replacing a gearbox using the tools he brought with him. But by dinner time, the car was out and running again.
Here’s a little pit curiosity for you. Seeing a standard Peugeot 505 GTI is rare, but one with some tinkering done to it? Unheard of.
Bonnets up to let the cars cool down; scissor doors up to let the world know this isn’t your first rodeo. Well-styled from the Irish gents in their Nissans… Dorifest invited people from all over the surrounding areas, with some even coming over from mainland Europe.
I used my time in the pits to also head over to the spectator area. Driftland has a unique setup where spectators stand on elevated land around the track, meaning you can always see all the action. It’s a dream, allowing photographers to get all sorts of angles even if they don’t have full access to the track the way I did.
This NB Mazda MX-5 is packing a feisty punch with a Honda K20 engine under the bonnet. Conor Wilson has had this car for longer than I’ve been attending drift events, so it was great to finally see it in person.
Martin made it clear to the drivers that all cars had to remain presentable for the weekend. If you lost a bumper, you had to reattach it. My friend Rory Brice managed to have an unfortunate quarter panel loss in the morning. Fortunately, his S15 is the exact same colour as masking tape. Adapt, improvise, tape it up… something like that.Picking Up The Pace
With the rainy clouds moving on and the track drying up, the guys were picking up the pace. Naturally, tyre smoke started to appear, and before you knew it the entry speeds were doubling and friends started twinning with each other.
John Fallon was really going for it in his R32 Nissan Skyline GTS-t. This was another car that stood out to me, also rocking Advan Model 5s. I promise it’s a coincidence, but I’m definitely biased to cars that don’t need huge kits to stand out.
It was in the afternoon that a group of little NA Mazda MX-5s started to appear and grab my attention. There were three of them in total, making the most incredible, raspy racket around the track. Despite their size, they were pushing some bigger cars about.
Adam Maciejewski (famously pronounced Magic-Jetski) was piloting this E46 BMW 3 Series saloon. Interestingly, it’s a 330d running the legendary M57 diesel engine. A drift car getting 40mpg around the track? In today’s economy, the car makes more sense than ever. With some fruity exhaust trickery it sounded great too, and the endless torque easily pushed it from bend to bend. You can see just how much tyre smoke it was lighting up in the photos.
I feel like I’ve never seen an NC MX-5 at a drift event before. It’s maybe a sign that I’m getting old, but I still see these as modern cars. Again, a fruity sound, great colour combo and plenty of steering angle allowed this car to be super competitive throughout the day.
Three layouts were being used, but amongst other reasons, Driftland is known for that chequered board wall running the length of the spectator seating. This is where drivers could really throw it in at speeds north of 80mph, with those who dared even throwing it in backwards. It’s safe to say that by the end of the day everyone knew what they were doing. Sunday was shaping up to be fast-paced day.A New Day
After an evening with some food and drinks, we crashed to get some energy back for another day of Driftland action. With Stu’s car being back on the road after a whole day out replacing the gearbox, he spent no time getting back into it on Sunday morning. A new day brought him new opportunities to push his E36 for all its worth. With a boosted M50 under the bonnet, the brown BMW was comfortably punching up to the more powerful Japanese cars on the track.
Sunday also introduced a team drift aspect to the event. It was time to get on each others doors and close that proximity.
Most people at the event are good friends with one another, so it’s only natural for people to gather into teams. Some go the extra mile and match their cars up. First up were the Stylecase gents – Nate, Ryan and Chris – rocking matching purple liveries.
This is what drifting is all about, getting amongst it with your friends and chasing doors… and occasionally taking it a little too far and putting it up a bank. All part of the fun.
My good friend Austen Beischer swapped a new Pulsar G30-660 turbo into his JZX100 in time for Dorifest. Keen to see what it could do, he was pushing the car and his driving throughout the whole weekend. As you can see, so much so that the gravel made contact, but it was no biggie. A quick shakedown later and he was out again leading Stu down the main straight.
Austen’s Chaser is amazing, featuring a lot of suspension parts that he designs and makes himself through his DausFab business.
Here’s Rory leading Connor with a reverse entry down the main straight. The boys were in their zone, and the driving kept getting faster and faster into the afternoon. Until the inevitable happened…Casualty Room
An early re-centre mid-drift from a leading car caused Stu and Chaz Lott to collide. It feels really weird seeing your mates crash. A trip back to the pits was in order to make sure they were alright.
The casualty room was pretty busy. The mood didn’t seem sour or upsetting though; I’d hazard a guess every driver at the event has badly damaged a car – or three – in their time.
Many people were playing jungle mechanics here, knocking their heads together to make sure that the cars were safe to get back out.In The Hot Seat
For me, it was time to hop into the passenger seat with my camera. As fun as taking photos on track is, the real fun at a drift event is being in the hot seat, getting on your mates’ doors.
There’s Stu, the lovely gent who runs Driftland. The organisation on the weekend was spot on; the marshals were sharp and everyone got the seat time they paid for.
Next up was a round with the MX-5 boys. I won’t lie, this was a highlight of my weekend. So much so that I’ll be doing a spotlight feature on this team and their event experience.
From left to right, Stu was back in full swing. It’s not about how badly you crash, but about how you get back up and out on the track again afterwards. There was no stopping Stu from having a good time this weekend.The Final Push
And just like that, the Sunday was coming to an end. It’s at this point where some of the drivers start to pack their rigs back up to prepare for the journey home, while others tried to use their last set of tyres. We’ll focus on the latter for now.
Door-on-door action was endless throughout the weekend. Not only from the Stylecase gents, but from everyone at the event.
Wall clip casualties were everywhere, wearing their proximity markings with pride.Kings Of The Castle
You couldn’t have a proper event without a set of awards to give out at the end. Fortunately, some of my pals were recognised for their efforts.
There’s the boss himself, Martin, proudly announcing that my trucking partner Tom Wright won the award for ‘Best Crash’ at the event which saw his PS13 fly through the gravel and up into the blue netting after a failed reverse entry. Of course, he was back out straight after. Stew Nobel also picked up an award for ‘Best Prepared’, acknowledging his organisation for the weekend. I mean, have you seen his car? The guy’s got everything under control.
And that marks the end of the incredible weekend up in Scotland. My first, well overdue Driftland experience which also acted as an unforgettable reminder for just how rich UK’s street car drift culture really is.
Here in the UK we’ve always looked up to the big events overseas, wishing we had something like it for ourselves. Well, I think there’s no need to dream anymore. We do have it, up at beautiful Driftland with clued-up hosts such as Martin, who see the UK’s potential and the interest in a drift event that throws weird egos aside, instead encouraging creativity and community with Dorifest.
I’ll see you all at the next one.