Another year, another STL event at Driftland in the bag! And of course, through all of the YouTube videos, live streams and on-board footage, where would we be without the traditional post-event blog post.
After drifting myself at STL!1 and subsequently spending STL!2 on the sidelines, I wasn’t quite sure what to do this time round having only recently resurrected my C33 and finding enjoyment in simply using it every day with the occasional bit of fast road use on the side.
Nevertheless, on Wednesday morning I filled the Laurel with tyres, tools, spare parts and a sleeping bag before embarking on the roughly 270 mile journey up the M6 towards Driftland. After almost putting the car on its roof in the rain at STL!1 I’d already decided that I’d be sitting out any wet sessions but, seeing as the weather forecast looked perfect (well, as perfect as can be for Dunfermline), I thought I’d better prepare myself for lots of driving.
My first stop was Aldi to stock up on food for the road. Pro tip: small wraps are the the king of on the road cuisine, while family sized bags of Doritos are the worst if you care about retaining the finish on your steering wheel.
I always seem to end up stopping for a break at this particular service station on the M6 by accident, as it’s quite possibly the least low and/or wide car friendly place imaginable. Tall yet narrow speed bumpers everywhere and also, for no apparent reason, width restrictions laid out with concrete blocks.
A few hours later I arrived at Driftland, ready to catch up with the early arrivals and check out the cars that were newcomers to the STL! events. The first that I got to see in person was Lewis Noakes‘ F20C-powered AE86. I’ll post some more photos of this little screamer on WORK Equips shortly.
Photographer Callum Alton wouldn’t be drifting but still brought along his decked IS200 on Buddyclub P1s for the party.
Alfred, on the other hand, would be drifting his IS200 and this would be its first outing with its new turbo setup. Similar to Lewis’ car, stay tuned for some more photos of this.
2001 styling at its finest.
Keeve rocked up in his decked S13, along with tales of motorway debris-related woes while checking the underside of his car for any potential damage.
I’m so glad he decided to ditch the idea of going to 18s and stuck with his trusty 17″ VS-XXs.
Conveniently, Jaime and her S13 (also VS-XX-equipped) arrived just afterwards.
Dave Saunders was busy unloading his R32 at the time so I decided instead to grab a photo of his inspirational door card trimming.
Drivers and cars continued to arrive throughout the evening under the sky that never really went dark (the days are some of the longest of the year in the middle of June). Pretty much everyone was camping at the track which, in my eyes, is what makes the event so much fun (so long as it’s dry!). Likeminded friends, plenty to drink and excitement for the following day’s drifting.
After a few hours’ sleep in my Laurel (another Pro Tip: Bride Brix recliners are hideously uncomfortable for sleeping in without sufficient additional cushioning) I woke up super early to try and beat everyone to the showers (plot twist: they were locked anyway) and grab some more photos of the assembled cars before any potential on-track accidents could occur.
Purple cars can only be properly appreciated in daylight.
How long would Dan‘s front bumper last at this event? Only time would tell.
While Alex has a cleaner record sheet for keeping his bodywork relatively in tact, my money was on at least some of it exploding during the two days of action.
Contrary to popular belief, STL! events aren’t a BMW-free zone. So long as they look good and are driven well, they’re more than welcome…so the super aggressive Gary Boyd and his Buddyclub P1-wearing Compact could be found in the pits on Thursday morning.
The format for the event would be same as always; a chilled out morning followed by drifting 11-6pm with a short break in between. On regular days the track can only be operational for six hours, so this format allows everyone to have a more relaxed beginning to the day before getting stuck into track antics.
With roughly forty drivers entered per day, track time was set to be as abundant as ever. Rarely did I ever see more than two queues for the track (which meant a maximum wait of around ten minutes prior to hitting the track), while the sessions ran to their usual five minute lengths (unless there was no queue, at which point the track would switch to an open pit lane). For some drivers who were experiencing STL! for the first time, they told me that they had had more seat time in the first three hours of the Thursday than they had had at all of their drift events this year combined.
After all, regardless of the social aspect, that is the purpose of the event. I’ve always stood by the belief that you don’t learn anything as a driver by doing one lap at a time, separated by sitting in a queue for twenty to thirty minutes at a time (at some venues this is the case). Smashing around a consistent circuit at your own pace for five minutes straight is how you improve your ability; did your initiation not go as planned? No bother, try it again thirty seconds later and do things a little differently.
Dave was one such driver who benefitted massively from the extended seat time, going from taking it steady to mixing it with the big boys within a matter of hours.
Adam Ivell is part of the STL! alumni and one who has previously benefitted from drifting in such a relaxed atmosphere. He was a relative beginner when I invited him up to Driftland last time round and the progression he made over two days was nothing short of staggering (winning the Most Improved Driver award at the time). While his S15 is still rocking stock steering lock, he continued to progress this time round and was soon getting involved with twinning and larger trains with much more experienced drivers.
After doing a lap of the pits, running the STL! merch stand for a good while and spectating everyone else having fun, I warmed up the Laurel and headed towards the track. Not keen for a repeat performance of my last outing in it (where the gearbox exploded at Three Sisters on the second lap), I made sure to warm the gearbox up properly this time, leaving the transmission turning over in second gear for a short while with the car on the jack.
You can also see Harry Hudson in the ex-Huxley Motorsport RA28 Celica ahead of me. I knew this wasn’t going to be a chilled session!
After a trouble free few sessions I made it back to the merch stand to give the SR20 a breather and to see how everyone else was getting on. I loved the new look for Matt Hurford‘s MX5. Everything from the kit and wheel choice, the colour combo, the sleepy lights…
…to the sticker choice was spot on. I had an unhealthy obsession with that Dunlop sticker for some reason.
Pitting next to Matt was Tom Gidden in his refreshed S14. Having previously been seen in various shades of green and black with a set of deep VS-KFs, the car was now entirely red and sporting a set of AVS Model 6s. I’d been eyeing up this exact set for my C33 but it appears that Tom beat me to it and scooped them up first. I’ll post some more photos of this car shortly, just so I can highlight the hilariously brilliant interior.
John Fallon suffered a pretty brutal crash at STL!2 that saw his Mark II emerge from the venue with a very bent sill and doors. John hadn’t done much with the car until recently, where it underwent a full body repair and respray. It was literally finished the night before the event and, while it was a shame not to see John on track, it was at least nice to see the JZX100 restored to its former glory.
In one of my last sessions of the day one of my boost pipes popped off, causing me to limp back to the pits while belching plenty of black smoke. After reattaching the relevant pipe and firing up the Laurel again, I noticed the SR20 still wasn’t idling right. After a quick inspection I found a potential cause; there was a hairline fracture around the top of the stainless steel turbo elbow.
Despite having removed the turbo setup off my old S13s countless times and getting the procedure drilled into my head, I’d never even touched it on the Laurel which is testament to just how reliable it’s been over the last three years or so. The absolute angel and old-Nissan-wizard that is Freddie Sharvell got well and truly stuck in and, despite us removing the elbow only to snap a stud in the hot side of the turbo in the process, he remained determined.
Both items were taken over to Lee Smart Racing who, conveniently, is located on the same site as Driftland and happened to be open at 8pm on a Thursday. After welding up my turbo elbow and drilling and tapping my turbo hot side, Freddie and I headed to Nandos with a few others for a quick pit stop before returning to the track and throwing everything back on. With nothing left to do but to bleed the coolant system, we finally settled into some well earned beers shortly before midnight and tried to find whoever else was still awake and drinking.
As I mentioned previously, when you’re in some of the Northernmost parts of the UK it doesn’t tend to go completely dark at night during the summer. I took this photo not long before midnight if I remember.
The following morning I made another early start to try and win the shower race (this time I won convincingly) and snapped a few more photos. Andy Dyer drove all the way up from Devon in his N/A C33 to come and check out the fun. I love his car so much, it gives me an irrational want for another, cleaner N/A C33 for which to potter around town in. Then I remembered that I really don’t need any more four door Nissans.
Stew Noble made the journey up from the Midlands in his gorgeous period correct S15 that could be found hammering round the Driftland circuit on both the Thursday and Friday.
Sukhy‘s C35 was wearing considerably less aero than it started the event with come Friday morning but it was still running properly. He’s planning on selling it soon and, like Andy’s C33, I really want it. I can never refuse a black car with chrome door handles.
I angled this photo carefully so that you can’t see Gary asleep in the drivers seat.
Unfortunately, Dan’s front bumper didn’t last long at all, so Stuart from GarageSR kindly brought down an OEM item for him to run on the Friday.
Another BMW! Matt’s cool little compact.
I’d bought a few new pairs of 215/40-17 Event tyres to bring with me (they were the cheapest on eBay) and I definitely can’t recommend them. Compared to the Rovelo RPX-988s that I used on my last trip to Driftland (which were absolutely awesome, by the way), they were utterly rubbish.
A few laps of the full outer circuit on Thursday afternoon scrubbed them in but, after linking the short circuit a handful of times on Friday morning, huge chunks began to fly off them. I went out for another session but it was pretty useless; the car had no lateral grip and I must have nearly overshot the first hairpin about five times in a row. I’ve never known a tyre go from average to terrible so quickly or dramatically, so I won’t be buying these again. I know it’s the norm for some budget tyres to fall apart in such a way but the deterioration of traction was mind blowing with these.
Nathan in his Z33 provisionally won the STL! Driftland Bank Award sponsored by Hennessy with this impressive effort. Thankfully, the car came off surprisingly well with some broken bodywork and a bent tie rod being the only casualaties (which was ideal, considering he’d be driving it home!).
Joey‘s very simple but effective CA18-powered S13 that was drifting both days.
…and Connor in his R32.
Will Brignal‘s cool S15 could be found in the pits too.
It was getting towards the end of Friday’s drifting and I had specifically warned everyone in the driver’s briefing that, from experience, the last hour or so was when we always saw the highest number of crashes. Tom set the standard with this nice little beach number…
…but Toby and Connor Wilson really took the crown for the event’s biggest/most talked about incident. There has been a lot of talk across the internet about what could and should have happened but the vast majority of it is bullshit from wannabe internet heroes. Toby’s S15 was straightened out within a couple of hours by Garage 21 to the point where it could have another tail light fitted (there was no structural damage), whereas Conor’s MX5 was back on track within fifteen minutes of the crash (and was repaired entirely the next day). Nobody was hurt, both drivers laughed it off and it made for some pretty dramatic video footage (I’m sure Toby’s subsequent YouTube video will attract plenty of views!).
Considering his heroic effort to get back on track, Conor won the STL!3 Hennessy (kindly donated by Keeve).
With everything said and done on track, it was time to pack up and begin the journey home. I had actually had to put a halt to my own drifting on Friday afternoon after a spontaneous look under my car revealed a pretty catastrophic water pump failure. However, it appeared that the problem seemed to go away when the car was moving, which was bizarre but also kind of handy. There is a scientific explanation as to why this was happening but I’ll save that for another day.
Either way, I made it to nearest Shell garage in one piece, with the coolant being thrown out of the water pump while it was idling. After a slight top up, I swallowed some brave pills and continued on my journey regardless with one eye permanently watching my water gauges while holding a hand over my air vents, patiently waiting for the air to inevitably go cold (the tell tale sign of a car that doesn’t have enough coolant). Considering how hot it was, this made the journey a far from pleasant one.
After an hour or so of driving I pulled over at a services where water was continuing to pour out of the pump while the car was stationary. I switched everything off and went and grabbed some food for half an hour or so so I could check the coolant level on my return. Loe and behold, the radiator was still almost full, so I put a little extra water in there and carried on, this time a bit more relaxed. I just had to cross my fingers and toes and hope that I wouldn’t hit any traffic on my journey…
Everything was going surprisingly well until I decided to lower one of my windows, which randomly caused the 10A fuse that governs the dashboard and tail lights to blow. Thankfully I had a spare, so I chucked it in and carried on my way. Things were going great until I opened a window again in my half asleep state and the same thing happened again. This time though, there were no motorway services for the best part of twenty miles, I didn’t have another spare fuse and there was no way I was going to lie on the hard shoulder in the dark while trying to translate my fusebox cover. I styled it out until the next safe point to stop where I borrowed the fuse from something unimportant (I think it was the power mirrors?) and continued back to Street Track Life headquarters.
I’d never been happier to see my Primera at 1.30am. I grabbed my essential belongings out of the Laurel and drove straight home to enjoy a much needed shower and some pizza.
As always, I can’t thank everyone who was a part of STL!3 enough. The drivers, the photographers ,the spectators and the ever-professional Driftland staff, all of you help to make these STL! events as fun as they are.
I’d also like to thank everyone that stopped by to pick up some Street Track Life and 326POWER merch! I’ll admit that it was a bit of an afterthought to take so much stock up to the track with me and I was quite apprehensive if it was going to be a worthwhile endeavour or not but wow, how wrong I was. Thank you so much for your continued support, it really does mean so much to me to see people wearing clothing with my brand’s name on.
Oh, and of course, there will be an STL!4. Watch this space.
Check out more photos from STL!3 from the below photographers:
I’ve also created an STL!3 YouTube playlist to include on-board footage from the drivers. I’ll be updating this as and when drivers upload their footage but there are already three videos that you can check out below.