When drifting stormed into America’s race tracks and parking lots a few short years ago, enthusiasts on both sides of our border took notice.
It was September 2003 when Japanese sanctioning body, the D1 Grand Prix, held the first stateside drifting event in Irwindale, California in front of a frenzied packed house. Formula Drift (a.k.a. Formula D) soon joined the party with a competing series of its own – this one featuring more homegrown talent than the D1 – that’s fast growing into an American powerhouse with five televised events, including one that overlaps with a Champ Car World Championship event. There’s also the Falken Tire Drift Showoff series and it too has been gaining steam along with the U.S. Drift Nationals, which is backed by the NASA. In addition, “learn to drift” schools are popping up everywhere and clubs such as Club4AG have even begun hosting drift clinics to help hopefuls go from average Joe to serious Pro.
Drifting is also attracting all kinds of drivers from many different motorsport backgrounds. In 2006, the Kasey Kahne Foundation hosted a freestyle demonstration in Irwindale called “Nascar vs. D1.” Although drifting already had a strong foothold in the U.S., this exhibition match between some of the D1GP’s best drifters and some rising American and European drift stars against a stacked team of Nascar superstars was a key turning point for the sport as not only did the thousands of new-to-drifting fans in the seats like what they saw, but the national media coverage it received virtually cemented drifting’s presence over here.
In Canada where progress has been slower, but steady thanks to a deep passion for this new form of ’autotainment,’ the past few years have seen drifting ease its way into Northern tuner culture with exhibitions and clinics taking place more and more. Edmund Manasan, owner of Racemode Media Inc. and longtime ambassador to the Canadian tuner scene, believes “...the sport of drifting is the now and future of Canadian motorsports.”
A few years ago, a group of hardcore Quebecers saw the potential for drifting and created a grassroots-type series called Drift Mania. It caught on so quick that Castrol jumped into bed with them last year to conceive the Castrol Drift Mania Canadian Championship.
Now in it’s second season, the Autodrome St-Eustache (which is about halfway between Montreal, QC and the Ontario border) will host three out of five events this season; however, the drift maniacs are looking forward to an important stop at Downsview Park in Toronto, ON for round four on August 18-19. Due to its close proximity to the downtown core, the event will likely be the biggest of the season, and many people have high hopes it will be the Canadian equivalent of the Nascar vs. D1 event with respect to impact. The 2007 Castrol DMCC wraps up the following weekend back at the autodrome.
The season-opening DMCC event on May 20th is proof that drifting in Canada should be taken seriously. More than 3,000 fans turned out to take in the fire-breathing, smoke-throwing, car-crashing entertainment from the edges of their seats despite a whole lot of rain. But series sponsors Castrol, Toyo Tires, Yokohama, General Tire and Kumho Tires were surprised and impressed by the strong turnout. Brands such as Mazda, Shell V-Power, Bully Clutch, Snyper Brakes and Rocawear, to name a few, have also pledged their support to the DMCC.
The panel of judges the DMCC has selected for the season is quite possibly another good indication of good things to come. They are none other than Formula D pro drifters Tony Angelo and Chris Forsberg.
Over 30 vehicles were registered to compete in round one and compete they did. After the puddles had all dissipated and the tires stopped ground to a halt, the solid performance of returning competitor Frederic “Steady Freddy” Girard and his R32 Skyline had impressed the judges enough to claim his first ever first place finish. Second and third places went to the hometown favorites Haig Kanadjian and Marco Santos. Not only are they teammates for the freshman General Tire/Automotion Drift team, they faced off in the final with Kanadjian’s red Infiniti G35 fending off his Santos’ Nissan Silvia S13 for the win.
With the growth of drifting in Canada happening rapidly, there were also a few new (to the DMCC) drivers and sponsors on hand. Yokohama, for instance, teamed up with Onderground Designs to unveil a pair of blue Silvias belonging to JF Chiasson and Kevin Grenier. Even Kumho Tires (a newcomer to drifting) has hooked up with Road Motorsport to make a statement with a brand new team consisting of a JDM Fairlady Z of Domenic Desrosiers and a ’91 RWD Toyota Soarer of another top prospect Carl Nadeau.
Overall, the first Castrol DMCC event of the year was a big hit despite the wet welcome. The sideways action (à la modèle Canuck) resumes on July 8th for round two. Here’s to getting some better weather because what drifting fan doesn’t enjoy the aroma of smoking tires under a hot sun?