The last visit Speedhunters made to HGK Motorsport was five years ago. At the time, Paddy wrote: “HGK-prepared cars are head and shoulders above anything else I’ve ever come across.” And this was said before Kristaps and Harijs, the masterminds behind the HGK brand, had even rolled out the now famous BMW Eurofighter.
In the time since our visit, the small Latvian company based at a post-Soviet racetrack has well and truly cemented their position as one of the top drift car builders anywhere in the world. So I thought it would be worth dropping by again to see what’s changed.
The HGK Motorsport garage is still situated at the same humble location, and it’s easy to spot for the sheer number of BMWs parked up outside. But the shop won’t remain here for much longer; a new HQ is being finalized as we speak.
One of those BMWs sitting outside is Harijs’ own sleeper X5. It’s turbocharged with a manual gearbox and rear-wheel drive – not bad at all!
Since the HGK Eurofighter’s debut, there are now a couple of dozen examples in existence. James Deane has one, as does Daigo Saito. Other drivers from Europe, USA, the Middle East, Africa and Asia received long-awaited deliveries as well.
It’s no surprise that when people hear ‘HGK’ they think BMW chassis and huge American V8 race engines, but there’s no exclusivity here.HGK Goes JDM
When I stopped by the workshop a week before the only major international drift event in Europe this year (thank you COVID-19), the guys were working on a pair of Toyotas. One was an AE86, and the other a fresh A90 Supra – a chassis that’s yet to prove itself in competition.
The very first HGK Supra belongs to Nikita Shikov, one of the top competitors in the Russian Drift Series. Harijs and the team handled everything you see – something that took longer than initially anticipated due to parts delays with the global pandemic – and I made it to Latvia just in time to see it before it was shipped off to a workshop in Ukraine where a big-power 2JZ is being fitted.
As always, HGK’s work is outstanding. There’s a perfectly-welded roll cage, a custom rear subframe for the Winters Performance quick-change diff, carbon composite everywhere, and well thought-out ergonomics. After the 2JZ heart transplant, the A90 will return to Riga in order to have its fresh carbon-Kevlar body panels panel. After that, it will be heading back to Moscow, where it’ll hopefully make its drift debut in the current RDS season.
The Hachiroku should be somewhat familiar to European drift fans – it’s the car driven by Austrian Clemens Kauderer, a long-time HGK customer. Previously a grassroots build, the AE86 is in for a full pro-spec overhaul that should see it emerge as competitive force in the top-tier championships. Under the hood is a Nissan SR20 with Neo VVL head, possibly the smallest engine to ever see the inside of the HGK facility.
As you can see, some major chassis reinforcement has taken place, and special attention is being given to completely sealing the cabin off from tire smoke.
Besides the two JDM machines, the garage is sheltering Kristaps’ two personal E92 Eurofighters. One is the car that took him to a Formula Drift Pro win at Road Atlanta in 2018 and more recently competed in the Oman International Drift Championship; the other is a slightly lighter version that’s supposed to be in Russia with Mr. Blušs at the moment. I’m sure you can guess why it’s not….
All is not lost though. HGK are ready to put on a show in their naked-Kevlar Bimmer at a Drift Masters showcase event. Judging by Kristaps and Harijs’ happy faces, they’re feeling comfortable about hitting up their home track, Biķernieku Circuit this weekend. Having the equivalent of Nordschleife for drifters just behind their garage walls definitely makes them the team to watch.
I’ll be sure to catch up with HGK Motorsport again when they’re in their brand new facility and some sense of normalcy has returned to the world. Hopefully that’s sooner than another five years.