Sideways and smoky in Georgia

Sometimes, this job comes with some pretty cool perks. Last week, during my visit to Savannah, Georgia, where I drove the 2020 Toyota Corolla Sedan, Toyota had a little surprise waiting for me - a ride-along with Ryan Tuerck in his mind-altering Corolla Hatch drift car. Suffice to say, the experience made quite the impression on me.

Consider It A Caffeine Replacement

“And, as a special treat, we’ll have ride-alongs with Ryan Tuerck in his Corolla Hatchback drift car.”

My mind snapped to attention, immediately leaving behind errant thoughts of pricing details and trim levels.

It was 9 AM on a Tuesday in Savannah, Georgia, and I was still on Pacific Standard waiting for the first caffeine rush to hit. But suddenly I felt a wave of energy wash over me. “Ride-along… Ryan Tuerck… drift car.” I wasn’t expecting those words to float my way this particular morning, but hot damn, were they a most welcome surprise.

You see, when you’re out on a driving program for the new Toyota Corolla, the last thing you expect to wear is a helmet. Lucky enough, Toyota had one waiting for me when I arrived at the Hutchinson Island Race Track 20 minutes later.

Preparations Are Made

I Took A Ride In Ryan Tuerck's Toyota Corolla Hatch Drift Car And It Melted My Brain
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Upon arrival, I immediately made for the pits. It was cold, with grey skies and blowing wind, but I didn’t really notice.

Before me was the machine the Toyota rep had promised. I approached from the rear, taking in the hatchback’s hugely flared wheel arches and squat stance. One mechanic was busy mounting some fresh rubber, while another splashed some high test into the fuel cell.

Tuerck was milling around, trying to stay warm in his race suit while his crew prepped the car. I also spotted Stephan Papadakis, current team owner and a legendary racer in his own right.

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Note: Ryan Tuerck pictured on the left, Stephan Papadakis pictured on the right.

Papadakis was circling the car, discussing some of the finer technical details with another journalist. The day’s ride-along experience would be on a low-output tune, with less boost and no nitrous. That meant Tuerck would have “just” 650 horsepower to scare the crap outta us, rather than the full-fat 1,000 ponies used in competition.

I Took A Ride In Ryan Tuerck's Toyota Corolla Hatch Drift Car And It Melted My Brain
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Before long, the crew dropped the carbon fiber hood and Tuerck hit the ignition. The Corolla spit into life, gurgling lumpy mean noises through the hood-exit exhaust pipes. The smell of race car filled my nostrils, the acerbic scent priming my adrenaline reserves.

Try Not To Flail

I Took A Ride In Ryan Tuerck's Toyota Corolla Hatch Drift Car And It Melted My Brain
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I wasn’t the first to take a run, so I chatted with the pit crew while the sound of raw internal combustion and shredding tires drowned out the wind. Huge plumes of blue smoke rose above the surrounding tree line.

After a quick tire change (the meats only lasted for a run or two), I found myself strapping into the Corolla’s passenger-side Sparco race bucket.

Race cars are violent, menacing things. They vibrate with a threatening frequency, and they make a sound that rattles through your spine. Business as usual for guys like Tuerck.

I gripped my iPhone and primed the camera feature, reminding myself not to accidentally drop it out the window or flail into the pilot on my left.

Time For The Smoke Show

I Took A Ride In Ryan Tuerck's Toyota Corolla Hatch Drift Car And It Melted My Brain
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With a heavy clunk, Tuerck put the machine into gear, dabbed the throttle, and set off for the pit exit. The vibrations increased, as did the sound levels.

After passing a few cones, the first straight revealed itself. I sat low, but could clearly make out the long black tire marks stretching in curves towards the first apex.

Tuerck gently throttled up, and I could feel the lightweight racer’s incredible potential. This was nowhere near ten-tenths, and it was on a low-power tune, but my brain was already flooded with neurotransmitters.

I Took A Ride In Ryan Tuerck's Toyota Corolla Hatch Drift Car And It Melted My Brain
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With a quick stab at the clutch, Tuerck pitched us sideways, first sliding left, then right as we arced around the first corner. Atmosphere rushed into the cabin, mixing with the sound of the high-strung four-cylinder as the rear tires spun at ever-increasing rpms.

Before I knew it, we were at the next corner, and the Corolla swung back around in an utterly seamless transition. Tuerck stayed in the loud pedal, and smoke quickly filled the cabin down the following straight.

For the next three corners, Tuerck repeated the dance, before powering down the final straight. The whole run lasted less than a minute, but I couldn’t wipe the insane grin off my face.

What an experience. I’ve driven race cars before, but that was my first time in a professional drift machine. The buttery smoothness in the transitions, the ridiculous angle it could achieve, the insane power band… these machines are utterly unique in the world of motorsport, and should be celebrated at every opportunity.

I’ve been a fan of drifting for nearly 20 years now, but I left Georgia with a deeper appreciation. My thanks go out to Ryan Tuerck, Stephan Papadakis, and all the fine folks at Toyota for such an awesome experience. I look forward to seeing what the Corolla can do in the 2019 season - at full boost and with a healthy dollop of laughing gas to boot.

Further Reading

I Took A Ride In Ryan Tuerck's Toyota Corolla Hatch Drift Car And It Melted My Brain
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Ryan Tuerck’s 1,000-Horsepower Toyota Corolla Hatch Is a Reminder That Drifting Is Completely Amazing

2020 Toyota Corolla Sedan - Driven
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Read our full driven review on the 2020 Toyota Corolla.

Toyota Brightens Its 2020 Lineup with a Redesigned Corolla That's More Powerful and Safer Than Ever Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2020 Toyota Corolla.

The Toyota Corolla Hybrid Looks Sporty and Delivers 50 MPG Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid.

Watch Out Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf Fans - Toyota has a New Corolla Hatchback Heading to the New York Auto Show Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback.

The 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback Actually Looks Great With A Huge Grille Exterior
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Read our full driven review on the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback.

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