Competitors in the Drift Masters European Championship (DMEC), or any other drifting series for that matter, aren’t used to putting everything on the line for a single event. But thanks to the current pandemic, that’s exactly what they had to do at a ‘live or die’ showcase at one of the most fearsome drift courses in the world. One event, and only one driver could be crowned King.
That sounds heroic, I know, but I’m seriously pumped after the event in Riga, Latvia over the weekend. It felt so good to have my face pelted by shredded tire rubber again.
Above the tactile experience, I felt a very different comradery at the track. Everyone was really happy to see each other. I’m known for my high introversion, but even I was making new friends and talking ears off with mates I haven’t seen for a whole year or longer. Our very own Jordan Butters was on the media duty as well, and he’ll be bringing you a story that delves into some of the new features that DMEC came out with this year.
It seems surreal, but here were are, only four paychecks away from Christmas 2020 and living out the new normal. In the current climate, motorsport is predominantly experienced through a screen, and many competitions have been canceled altogether. The last racing event to be featured on Speedhunters was in March.
Most European drift series organizers are now looking forward to the 2021 season, but before writing this year off completely, they made one last stand with a one-off event.
Latvia and its famous Biķernieki circuit were chosen as an ideal location for the showcase. This Soviet-era track, with its high speed and full-throttle transitions was the perfect proving ground for the drivers – more than 40 of Europe’s best, all of whom had government approval to enter the country without having to spend two weeks in quarantine, provided they tested negative for COVID-19.
James Deane, Jack and Connor Shanahan, last year’s winner Martin Richards, and Polish heavyweights Piotr Więcek, Adam Zalewski and Grzegorz Hypki were ready to battle in front of a sold-out audience, albeit one limited in numbers. In total, 15 countries were represented.
By the end of qualifying, the top three spots were occupied by Więcek, Deane, and Jack Shanahan respectively.
As the battles unfolded, there were crashes, fire, and other misfortune. Piotr and James dominantly battled their sides of the tournament table and met in the final, while Jack Shanahan took the win over Adam Zalewski, who had a nasty de-beaded tire and ended his day before a proper go at a potential third spot.
The European fans witnessed a truly FD-style tandem performed by two of the best, ‘Candyman’ and ‘The Machine’. From where I was standing, it felt that both runs were close to identical, but the judges did spot a slight error in Piotr’s chase run. James Deane was named the King of Riga.
I can honestly say that no one was holding back at this event; after such a long hiatus, everyone was pushing to the limit, resulting in an amazing spectacle.
With such a strong showing in Riga, all eyes are now on the delayed Formula Drift championship, which kicks off in just a few weeks’ time. For the sake of the sport – and its fans – hopefully FD can rise up in these challenging times and put on a season opener just as exciting as what we witnessed in Latvia this weekend.