This is a lengthy feature on the Russian Drift Series, especially tailored for those who wish to understand how it’s run, its milestones to date, and an introduction to its top drivers and their cars for the 2019 season.
You can think of it as 101 of drift culture in Russia, starting with how the championship initially came to be.
Just like in Japan, drifting in Russia started on the street. Around 2004, local Moscow enthusiasts congregated late at night at a place called Sparrow Hills, close to Moscow State University. This was a straight piece of road, but it did have a u-turn area where those that took part could hone their basic skills.
It wasn’t a safe spot and crashes happened, so in order to avoid trouble with the police, enthusiasts began to search for more suitable locations. Eventually they moved to large car parks, and within the space of a few more years the motorsport was legitimized locally.
2007 was the year of the first official competition, an event held during Japfest and surprisingly named ‘Formula Drift’, but with no affiliation to the actual Formula Drift. There’s a Russian proverb that states ‘The first pancake is a blob’, and that rang true for the country’s inagural drift series, which within the space of two years, was bankrupt.
On the back of this failure, Timofey Kosharniy, Dmitriy Semenyuk and Aleksandr Smolyar created the Russian Drift Series (RDS).
The series started to gain some real traction when Dmitriy Dobrovolskiy took ownership of the RDS in 2016. He unified the championship (prior to this the series was split into regions: West, East, Siberia, Ural) and created what is now known as the Russian Drift Series Grand Prix (RDS GP).
Bringing in international drivers and judges and running the events on world-class tracks made the championship what it is today. Dmitriy often says that “every round must be better than the previous one,” and this motto really works.Russian Drift Pilots
Yes, it’s quite common to call a racing driver a pilot in Russia. Got it, comrade?
I contemplated which drivers to profile in order to give you the widest variety that RDS GP offers, and in the end went for the highest-ranking, most experienced, and biggest personalities.
Georgy ‘Gocha’ Chivchyan
Gocha needs little introduction – hailing from Siberia he’s the current FIA Intercontinental Drifting Cup champion, as well as a two-time RDS GP champion. In 2013, he participated in Japan’s D1 Grand Prix series, and to everyone’s surprise made it straight through to the Top 8 before having to retire with technical issues.
For as long as anyone can remember, Gocha has drifted the same yellow Nissan Silvia S15. He purchased the car from a Japanese auction house around 15 years ago, and in the time since has continued to develop it.
In 2011, the car lost all hope of being street legal and became a real tuning experiment of what this chassis is capable of, and in its current form is equipped with a 700hp SR20VET engine that revs beyond 9,000rpm.
Arkadiy is Gocha’s childhood friend, but also a fierce competitor. He’s a three-time RDS Siberia champion, but before those titles was already regarded as the godfather of Siberian drifting for organizing the first events and pushing drift culture to the masses.
He’s not only loved for his aggressive drifting style, but also for active involvement in drift-related projects, as well as being an honest (often sarcastic) and fun car show host.
Of all the cars on the RDS GP grid, Arkadiy’s is the most powerful. Think 1,200hp and even more torque.
From 2009 to 2016, Arkadiy campaigned an R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R, but from 2017 he switched to an R34 Skyline with a R35 VR38DETT engine swap – without a doubt the most advanced R34 drift project in the world.
Without going into too many details, the engine features twin Garrett GTX3071R Gen II turbochargers and is managed by Link Thunder ECU. A Samsonas sequential gearbox runs into a carbon fiber driveshaft before driving 18-inch wheels fitted with Toyo Proxes R888R rubber.
If you’re searching for the quintessential Russian drifter, look no further than Fedor Vorobyev.
Fedor is a simple guy with a simple Russian name who pilots a Lada 2105. Originally developing his skills in circuit racing, Fedor moved to drifting in the early days. In 2018, he had a big crash in Krasnoyarsk at the Russian version of the Ebisu Minami course, but the car lives on and Fedor is pumped for the new season.
In the early days, Fedor was able to win events with the Lada’s tuned Soviet engine in place, but as the competition grew the car was upgraded with a Nissan SR20DET. Then in 2016 a 2JZ was fitted in the chassis, and from that moment on there was definitely no power disadvantage – perhaps only an aerodynamic one.
The Toyota Aristo-sourced engine produces 700 horsepower and 800Nm of torque, and is connected to a BMW ZF320 gearbox. The sedan sits on a mix of Clubturbo and Nissan front and rear suspension, and features a 180SX steering rack and an S14 subframe with R32 GT-R brakes.
Evgeniy Losev should be familiar to Speedhunters readers – he’s the snow and ice drifting ace, and three-time champion of the Winter Drift Battle in Siberia. For the 2019 RDS GP series, he’s the Fail Crew teammate of Arkadiy. Evgeniy is a serious competitor, always driving on the edge and ready to slay his opponents.
His Toyota Mark II (JZX81) is one of the old guns of the series having been used since 2013, but those years of development have resulted in a razor-sharp package with a stroked, single BorgWarner turbocharged 2JZ engine producing 850hp at its heart. Backing it up is a TTi sequential gearbox and Silvia S15 suspension.
Damir has always been a consistent driver and right now he’s making a comeback. He missed the 2018 season, but given that he was the only driver able pressure and catch Kristaps Blušs in his Eurofighter BMW at Moscow Raceway, he hasn’t lost his touch.
This pair received two OMTs and in the end Damir came on top and continued on to the third step of the podium.
The Toyota Altezza has for a long time been Damir’s choice of drift machine, and for this year he built a new one, complete with a 750hp 2JZ. Even though he has a lot of experience building drift cars, Damir was surprised that his new one emerged “so perfect” from the workshop.
Furthermore, this particular Altezza has an emotional attachment; it was a drift project of Andrei Chubenko, who sadly passed away before finishing it. He was a big fan of Damir, so the fact that it’s now being used in competition is pretty cool.
Sergey Kabargin is the series wildcard; when he’s on it he’s fighting for a podium position, while on other occasions he could ram a Top 32 competitor and call it a day.
At 55 years of age he’s the oldest driver in the RDS GP, but he’s loved by many mostly for his strong jokes and honest way of speaking in his weekly YouTube vlogs.
The mad creator has always had top-notch cars. For many years Sergey was driving heavily modified Toyota Supras, then he got a Chevrolet Corvette from HGK that American fans also saw in Formula D competition.
‘Flanker F’ is his latest creation.
Initially a collaboration with the Zenvo hypercar brand, the Flanker F features a carbon fiber/Kevlar monocoque chassis based around Corvette C6 mounting points with a longer wheelbase, and it’s produced in Sergey’s own facility. The engine is built around an RHS aluminum LS V8 race block and displaces 7.6 liters.
Ekaterina ‘Katja’ Naboichenko
Katja is one of two female drivers competing in the RDS GP this year. She’s talented, but as it’s only her third season in the top-tier series her racing skills are still being developed. Katja is also the third driver in the Aimol Racing Team, making her a teammate to four-time RDS East champion Ilya Fedorov, and the renowned Daigo Saito.
What Katja lacks in drifting accolades she more than makes up with on the marketing side of her campaign – she has more fans than most of the RDS field of drivers. But that’s not to say Katja isn’t a highly capable driver – just last weekend she earned her first trophy for a third place finish in RDS West.
Her Toyota Altezza setup is fairly simple, revolving around a trusty 2JZ with 700hp. The interesting part about the car is that it previously belonged to Damir Idiatulin, so there’s no question it has what it takes to win.
Nikita does a lot for motorsport by producing detailed documentary series on the subject. He’s also the only factory-supported driver in the Russian Drift Series, having been backed by Toyota since 2018. If he didn’t coin the hashtag #motorsportindanger (#автоспортвопасности), he definitely popularised it as one of the key memes in Russian drifting.
It’s usually used when the competition is tomorrow but your car is still half built and you’re missing some parts – that’s motorsport in danger. Nikita often finds himself in such situations, but he never gives up.
From 2015 his weapon of choice has been a 2JZ-powered Toyota 86 that produces around 900hp. The car has survived few big hits and even a fire in 2018, but after a lot of development, this year Nikita seems to really have a handle on it.Not Stopping
Russian drifting has always looked up to Japan, event organizers preferring technical tracks over those suiting high speed power-slides. The dream of fostering the best drifters on the planet has grown year by year, and I personally feel that Georgy Chivchyan’s trip to Tokyo in 2013 showed that it can be a reality.
Every driver and fan looked forward to the 2014 D1GP versus RDS event in Vladivostok where Russian drifters could meet and battle against the Japanese, and five years later the Russians took an historic win over the best drifters of Japan. Now we’re seeing Japanese drivers wishing to compete in Russia, not the other way around.
It really feels like the Russian Drift Series is on the right path, which means the best is still to come.
Additional Photos by Evgeny Murugin