In an era of commercialised, big budget drifting, there is little light still shone on grassroots drifting when compared to its prime in the late ’90s and early ’00s.
However, in Japan grassroots drifting is still thriving.
In many countries, access to drift-able tracks is becoming increasingly difficult as circuits close or outlaw drifting, driving up the cost and regularity of events. In Japan, it’s a little different. Many tracks continue to operate without hindrance, including a very special circuit amongst the hills of Nirasaki – Sportsland Yamanashi (SLY).
With its perfect elevation changes and flowing corners, SLY is considered a pillar of Japanese grassroots drifting. Whilst the track’s roots are in motorcycle racing and practice days, SLY’s ideal layout guarantees its use for drifting on pretty much a weekly basis.
It’s important to note why grassroots is so important to drifting culture worldwide. Simply, without grassroots drifting there would be no evolution of the sport into pro-level competition.
Grassroots is where the culture is formed. However, it could be argued that without one, the other would struggle to exist. Pro-level driving brings in an audience that wouldn’t otherwise be interested in drifting, sparking the flame for younger generations to keep grassroots alive. It’s a lifecycle that Japan has seemingly nailed.
Not being bound to a grandstand or pit area, and being able to get up close to the action makes grassroots drift events feel much more involved. It also makes them a lot more fun to shoot.
The reason I’ve grown to enjoy these events so much since I’ve been in Japan, is the variety of cars and drivers that you get to witness. With no rules or regulations controlling the cars entering, you’ll get a taste of every possible chassis, with no shortage of cars that surprise you.
Lowbrain from Kanagawa are a great example of a grassroots drift team that have continued to keep the culture alive with their events, including this one – the SLY Summit.
The team’s variety of cars makes it a favourite of mine, from John’s Toyota Corona hardtop (stay tuned for a spotlight on this), to Genki-san’s EG Honda Civic – it becomes obvious quite quickly that the colour red is the only similarity linking this team together.
Kota-san’s Sil80 is a great example of a well driven ‘missile’. Coming from Ebisu’s Drift Matsuri a few weeks prior, Kota easily enjoyed the most laps on the day, even running out of fuel towards the end.
The paddock areas of these grassroots events are always full of energy. There’s a welcoming nature as everyone is simply there to enjoy themselves, making for an awesome environment.
Ryota-san’s RPS13 Nissan 180SX Type X was arguably one of the tidiest cars on the day. It’s always refreshing to see cars like this enjoyed as originally intended.
Grassroots drifting is proof that you don’t need a purpose-built 800hp car to enjoy the sport. No formal judging and competitive rivalries get in the way of having a good time, with almost all entrants on the day driving home in the same car later in the evening.
How To join the IATS program: We have always welcomed readers to contact us with examples of their work and believe that the best Speedhunter is always the person closest to the culture itself, right there on the street or local parking lot. If you think you have what it takes and would like to share your work with us then you should apply to become part of the IAMTHESPEEDHUNTER program. Read how to get involved here.
Love the drifting scene those pics will never get old
Grass roots drifting is the best because the sport of drifting is a joke when you get to the higher levels and think it's actually racing. It's not, but motor racing has become so diluted people don't even know what it means anymore. Drifting has always been a way for people to have fun and explore car control. That's really where it ends.
The reality it is it is painfully slow compared to almost any form of motor racing, the drivers do not have to have any kind of physical endurance to compete in the sport, and they are not doing anything that is based on physical position of where they finish.
When you don't take drifting seriously it is always the most fun. And if you ever think drifting is super difficulty compared to actual racing...go get yourself a shifter kart and have a go at a local level. Most people can't even do 3 laps at speed.
These are my favorite articles about drifting with my least favorite being ones where we idolize guys who drive for 20-30 seconds at a time, completely sideways pulling very little G-force and then we all have to pretend that it takes sOoOo much skill.
Nice cars. Looks like a fun event! Though I don't even want to know what AE86s are going for these days. Probably as crazy as the replies to this comment will be. LOL
I have driven shifter carts, and I have done actual track days with my E46. I do drift events with my 86. I can tell you right now that you are absolutely off your rocker if you think drifting doesn't take skill and endurance. Have you ever entered a corner at 60 mph? Slow? I guess some tracks could be considered "slow" (though I would use the word technical) and even so, that would apply to any track based motorsport. There are "slow" tracks in every medium. You're clearly uninformed, inexperienced, and probably think F1 is the "pinnacle of motorsport" or some other corny take. Get out on a track in a drift car, and see how easy it is to maintain drift at speed in a tandem with 4 other cars.
Anyone can drive a shifter kart. Racing one against top level competition is another story. I have coached for a major manufacturer with world champions of drifting. I was able to do things they couldn't do much quicker than them. The sport is a joke beyond a hobby level and you're the one who is completely off base and laughable with your replies.
SKUSA S1 class pro shifter kart driving is top of the food chain stuff. Formula 1 drivers have competed in the Super Nationals and not cracked the top ten. Who in F1 is chomping at the bit to compete in Formula d? No one.
You sound very inexperienced.
The rising price of the machines in the event has killed grassroot drifting, the price of those machines no longer grass root friendly, you'd have to think twice before you bash it
Found the guy who can't drift.
Drifting is so easy I mastered it on mountain roads by the time I was 17. Really not that hard. Wheel to wheel I am still working on after 20 years in the sport. You guys really have no experience and you all sound like dorks who have never driven anything that sustains over 2-3G.
Come to FL
First and foremost: amazing photography, this is the reason why I´m still on this site on a daily basis for 15 years now.
Grassroots drifting remains just the best for me, drifting is always about having fun and kind of a lifestyle. Thank you very much for sharing this.
Man and the cars at this event were amazing. It´s Japan after all and I can´t believe, how much cool cars were in attendance.
Exactly right - a gathering of friends that happens to also have drifting at the same time.
Exactly. BTW I just realized that I follow your YouTube channel. Man, this is my favorite channel right now, You´re so talented. Your videos always transfer the vibe of the event to the viewer in a perfect way, I love it!
Yesss, looking forward to more of that Corona....
More on that car soon!
Wooo. A good reminder that it's fine to start small.
I get nervous about driving my car 2 hours to the track, but I'd love to confidently be able to do that.
These are the articles I come here for. Great coverage and photos. Pouring over the photos to pick up little details reminds me of when a monthly magazine was your only source of info.
I’m curious. At least from where I’m from on the west coast of America, a lot of people drive to a track day the afternoon before the event, and set up a tent at the event, or stay in a hotel close to the track. How common is camping overnight at the track in Japan? Are there people with tents in the pits?
Can't wait for the spotlight on the Corona hardtop coupe !