As stereotypical as it sounds, it really doesn’t feel like that long ago that I was writing my 2012 end-of-year review. 2013 has absolutely flown by and there has been plenty of memorable moments, but unfortunately with the highs come the inevitable lows and with every headstrong, caution to the wind decision there is a life lesson waiting to be so harshly learnt. So, where do I begin…

 

The start of the year saw the much-anticipated release of Summertime Funtime – Street Drifting. A lot of people don’t realise how time consuming editing video footage is, let alone censoring every potential object that could land any of us in trouble with the powers that be. Frame-by-frame censoring of a numberplate bolted to a car hurtling into a roundabout is neither easy nor fun but, as I value the driving licenses of those involved, it was a dull yet completely necessary ordeal.

I have subsequently been approached by a number of media companies regarding this footage, the most recent of which being the BBC who wished the use the footage for the second of their “King of Speed” programmes hosted by actor Idris Elba that was aired a handful of days ago. As much as I would have loved to see my mates tearing things up in their shonky old Nissan’s on national television, there was absolutely no way that I could honour their request for uncensored, non-black & white raw footage with no legal protection for myself nor the drivers involved. I unfortunately had no choice but to politely decline their offer.

February saw a welcome return to Anglesey circuit for what was to be the second open pitlane drift day held there. Despite the weather being atrocious, the three circuits, diverse array of cars and ambitious group of drivers made for a properly enjoyable day of drifting.

Unfortunately, it was to be the last open pitlane practice day to be held at the circuit for a substantial amount of time. While I have always enjoyed events organised by the folks at Drift One (with this one being no exception) the rules and expectations enforced at an international circuit are very different to those laid down by smaller circuits. The circuit owners were less than impressed with the situation and, to the dismay of many, drifting at the circuit was a no go until further notice. Those who were excited at the prospect of a fantastic new drift-friendly venue were left disappointed and deflated and it wasn’t to be until later in the year that we would venture to a whole new venue (more on that later).

With March came the eagerness of summer and, for a group of friends, it also brought with it some fantastic news. Having followed the progress of “SkidRoh” throughout the 2012 British Drift Championship, I was delighted to hear that Alex, Joe and Matt had received major backing from local company Car Loan 4U. I headed down to Tunnicliffe Signs with the guys to collect their cars, talk drifting and share the excitement of what possibilities the 2013 competition season could bring. I was chuffed to be working with the guys at the numerous upcoming events they had on their schedule and none of us could wait to get stuck in.

April saw the first round of the British Drift Championship take place at Lydden Hill and it was cool to check out the new builds that were out in force for the 2013 season. However, the talking point for the event will always be Baggsy’s roll in qualifying after hitting the tyre wall along the first corner, something I don’t think anyone could have predicted beforehand. Drivers’ attention to safety increased noticeably at subsequent rounds as a result of seeing what can happen when you truly get it wrong.

While the roll was somewhat unpredictable, Team Japspeed’s Paul Smith taking the Super-Pro victory was a tad more predictable in comparison and set him on course for a potential back-to-back championship victory.

While I was there I also got to check out Norfy’s Southern Style Sileighty, a car I’ve always had my eye on since getting involved in the scene. Despite there being an entire paddock filled with competition level drift cars, this comparatively bruised, battered and technically inferior car parked away from the action got more attention from the public than any other drift car present. Street style and soul will always shine through.

As Japfest came around the summer season was well truly upon us and, more annoyingly, so were the ridiculously early alarm calls. I headed down to Castle Combe with the Car Loan 4U boys and girls and had a great time watching them take part in the drifting demonstration sessions.

I didn’t get much time to check out the club stands but, while there were some truly fantastic cars there, the images of a few certain monstrosities will be forever burnt onto my retinas.

In the final drift session Matt managed to stove his 300ZX into the tyre wall after an ambitions 100mph + entry but, on the other hand, managed to walk away with the £1000 cheque for the joint highest entry speed (109mph if I remember correctly) along with a number of other contributing factors. I can’t remember who I handed my camera to to take this picture but it was a fantastic moment for all of us involved with the team.

The return of summer also meant long nights, campfires…

…and cool cars coming out to play again.

Round 2 of the BDC saw me head to Pembrey which isn’t a journey I fancy doing in a loud and uncomfortable S13 again any time soon. However, to be honest the trip was worth it just so I could take this photo of Mike Gaynor throwing down an absolutely ridiculous backwards entry in his Top 16 battle against Hugo Fernandes…

…which neatly brings me onto one of my first gripes of the year. Despite his insane lead run and very much acceptable chase run, Mike was eliminated as a result of the entry pictured above not being in accordance with “what the judges were looking for”. Now, we can argue about the dos and do nots of drifting all day long but, in situations like this (that had the crowd giving Mike a standing ovation for his efforts) it is disheartening to see the driver involved getting knocked out for a reason that is lost on the majority of those watching. It’s the equivalent of watching a thrilling battle in a Formula One race, only for the results to be overturned afterwards by unscrupulous race officials; it ruins the entertainment factor which, ultimately, is why the public want to watch motorsport.

For example, check out this video from an early D1GP round. While overtaking is generally is frowned upon in competition drifting, just listen to the excitement in the commentary and the anticipation from the crowd. It’s this spectacle that helps to push the sport to a wider audience and stunting this growth will inevitably see the sport hitting a glass ceiling in terms of appeal and popularity.

This round was also the first time the championship (and, in most cases, the drivers) had visited Pembrey and, for the drivers in the lower classes at least, it showed. I wrote the following after the event and it’s a statement I still stand by today:

“There are some fantastic drivers in the BDC and some similarly fantastic cars sporting spec lists the length of your arm with some of the wildest engine conversions you could ever think of. However, while this may be necessary in the Super-Pro class where the drivers are dealing with every last milimetre they are away from the clipping points, it seems to me that it is somewhat of a hindrance to the drivers in the lower classes.

It appears to be the case that drivers in the Semi-Pro and Pro classes are being judged amongst each other based more upon the money they have thrown at their cars rather than their skills out on the track. Obviously this isn’t the view that the BDC judges take, but it was something that I witnessed all too often in the pits as drivers spoke to each other.

There are so many drivers throwing every last penny they have towards building the most outrageous drift car they can and, while it is great for the championship and the sport of drifting in the UK that drivers push the envelope with their cars, it seems that far too many competitors are pricing themselves and, to certain extents, each other out of the sport as they try to outdo each other.

Having spoken to numerous Semi-Pro and Pro drivers (some of whom I’ve known for a few years now and have watched their progression through the sport) there are far too many that, having spent all of their money on building a crazy car to compete and run at the highest level, they can no longer afford to hone their skills and, more importantly, enjoy the sport in a relaxed environment due to their championship commitments. I just don’t see the point in pitting yourself into a national championship but not have the means to practice for it – would an Olympic athlete enter the Olympics without practicing beforehand?

By no means is this a dig at the BDC and I don’t want anyone to take it that way – Sweeps and the team are a fantastic bunch of guys and girls who run the championship not for profit, but for the love of the sport that we all enjoy. The events are well run, well organised and, more importantly, good fun. I just wish some competitors would just take a step back for a few minutes, watch a few rounds of D1SL and think to themselves “is my hugely expensive to build/run/maintain turbocharged/supercharged V8 powered creation really necessary? Can I do what these guys can in simple Nissan S-bodies with SR20s that are both relatively cheap to run and maintain? Why are they having fun and why aren’t I?”.

Keep drifting fun is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot these days, but I wish people would actually pay attention to it when they say it. Remember why you got involved in this crazy sport in the first place and never forget it.”

On the upside, Alex from Car Loan 4U Drift Team managed to take the victory in the Pro class which meant we left the track on a positive note!

All concerns and doubts in my mind after Pembrey were shattered shortly afterwards as I headed to Teesside with Ed for a day of open pitlane drifting on the Teesside international circuit with only a handful of other drivers.

There was no competition, no pressure and everyone had an absolute blast pushing their cars further than they would usually dare. As you can tell from the laughs in the video below, not even a crash could dampen our spirits (despite Ed’s S13 being our only form of transport to and from the track!).

I also got the chance to work with Dan of Daniel Bridle Photography on this short video he put together. It was cool to work on someone else’s footage for a change and the video was an absolute hit, with the play count currently standing at just over 84,000.

The Teesside round of the BDC followed shortly after and it was, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most fun events of the year for me: three days of red hot weather, camping and drifting. As I wrote after the event:

“There are two ways of approaching a British Drift Championship round: you can either be very serious and focus on nothing but achieving a result, or you could just try your best, have fun with your team and spend the evenings camping trackside, having a few beers, drift triking and having a laugh with the other teams that share the same values. I’m glad to say that this weekend’s round at Teesside was very much the latter for myself…and that Teesside’s West Course also makes for a cracking drift triking track.”

However, there were a couple of things that left a few people with a sour taste in their mouths. Dirt drops are cool, we all know this. Unfortunately for us, the people who don’t find them as entertaining are the track owners who have to clean up the mess afterwards. In an effort to try and reduce dirt dropping, any drivers who put a wheel off track were awarded a zero point score. However, in the battles this rule did nothing but confuse the spectators and alienate the drivers. Battles were being won by those who spun out purely because their opponent put a wheel off track, and this brings my back to the point I raised earlier with regards to entertainment values. When you can hear members of the crowd openly questioning a result that, in Joe Public’s (and in most cases, the drivers’) opinion should have gone the other way, you are left with a bemused crowd and pissed off drivers (some of whom vowed never to return to the series). While I understand the requirements to respect a venue, there is a point at which rules and regulations become counter-productive. Do you see BTCC drivers being disqualified for touching the gravel/grass/run-off zones? (You don’t, is the answer to that question). While it is a situation that needs addressing, I certainly don’t believe the zero point rule is the correct way of going about it.

Shortly after Teesside I found myself down at Lydden Hill again, although this time it was for the Mayhem show sponsored by Monster Energy. The event was a free for all in terms of motorsports and their various disciplines and it was pretty cool to see some rallycross action. The long waits between the drift sessions made for a very long weekend but it was good fun all the same.

Next up on my calendar was JAE, a show I’d never been to before but who I was I to turn down an invitation from the Finalboss boys?

While I don’t really enjoy static shows in any shape or form anymore JAE was certainly an exception, with three days of drinking, BBQing and…more drinking being pretty much my agenda at the event. I also got to take a closer look at some of the coolest street cars around at the moment with Ezza’s S14 being one such standout car. It was cool to hang out, discuss drifting and eat chicken and I’ll almost certainly be heading back to Wicksteed Park again for next year’s event.

I’ve featured plenty of awesome cars on this blog in the past but getting to take a closer look at Phil Morrison’s JZX110 at Trax was a real highlight. It’s definitely one of the standout cars in the scene at the moment and rightfully so, everything from the savage engine setup to the early 2000s period correct wheel and bodykit combination is completely on point. The custom rear arches are also pieces of metalwork art.

After the disappointment at losing Anglesey there was a real cry for a fresh venue to emerge on the drifting calendar; the completion of Driftland filled that void nicely and their Grand Opening Weekender event was an absolute blast.

There were so many nay-sayers during the construction of the venue; “it’ll never work” they said – “I give it a few months before it goes tits up” said others. However, as I sat there watching cool car after cool car run the wall, drivers from all over the country leaving their cars with giant grins on their faces and people high fiving each other in the pits, I knew what we had here was something special. On this small piece of tarmac in Scotland it felt like a new chapter had been opened for UK drifting: Europe’s first purpose-built drift track, built by a handful of people so many more can have the time of their life.

With the memory of Driftland still fresh in many people’s minds it was time to move on to another fun-focussed event; DriftMatsuri, which saw a welcome return to Anglesey. I had a small hand in the organisation of this and couldn’t help but feel a little bit of excitement as the drivers headed out for the night time demo.

Since Awesomefest back in 2011 people have been desperate for an event of a similar nature; with DriftMatsuri I think the foundations have been laid for what can well and truly be an unmissable event in 2014.

Since Matsuri things have been fairly quiet, although I have been focusing on my own drift car and finally being able to take part in more practice days. Over the last few weeks I’ve managed to make it to DWYB and Birmingham Wheels and had an absolute blast at both. Over the coming months I hope to give the car a bit of a refresh and get both reliability and aesthetics up to scratch in preparation for next year’s fun and games.

Speaking of refreshes, you may have noticed the site has been on the receiving end of some visual improvements over the last few days – I’ve got big plans for 2014 and hopefully I’ll be able to put these into action in the near future. For the last three years I’ve pushed myself to bring an alternative perspective into the limelight using nothing more than a camera, a keyboard and an internet connection and I have no plans to stop anytime soon.

I hope you all enjoy a properly pissed-up New Year’s Eve and I’m looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible at a driver’s briefing/tyre changing queue/burger van in 2014. See you on the other side!

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