Drifting made its way to the United States from the mountains of Japan in 1996 and has been building steam since. Eight years later in 2004 Formula Drift also found its way in the U.S.. Which is all fantastic, but that’s not what I want to talk about. Part of this evolution in drifting, is the grassroots drifting clubs and teams that have formed across the country. I won’t be getting technical in this as I am not a driver, but an observant, curious car enthusiast and photojournalist.
When first telling someone about drifting the typical response is, “that's so cool that you race!!”. Not quite, sometimes that is the case as there are some grassroots cash competitions. That's not what I’m talking about here though, I’m talking about coming to the track with plenty of tires ready to shred, ready for seat time, ready to learn, maybe make some new friends, but first and foremost to have fun. Okay, safety is also pretty important. The easiest way to explain drifting to the unknown is to show them a video.
Grassroots drift days (DD), are run by local drift clubs. Typically this is a group of people with the shared passion for drifting that organize DD’s. It’s so important that we show these people the appreciation they deserve. This isn’t their full time job, yet they handle the schedules, driver and media approval, social media, tech inspections, our stupid questions, insurance and so much more. These people are part of what makes grassroots drifting what it is. At the events I have attended, organizers make sure that everyone feels welcomed throughout the day, setting the expectations that this is how we treat people here, with kindness, smiles and respect.
So really, what's the hype about grassroots drifting? The cars are each unique, usually bright, some works in progress and overall creative from how they look to the builds themselves. They sound cool, unless it's a VQ, the sound of rev limiters going wild, turbos spooling, tires laying down their marks on track, the sounds of your friends cheering you on from the stands, the media rooting you on even though you just dirt dropped directly in front of them. It’s a community unlike any other, that encourages standing out from the crowd. That will help you in a time of need without any hesitation. Be it forgetting the key to your car at home, but Nissan only made seven variations of the key and someone on track happened to have the right one and was able to get a copy made. Or breaking your third axle for the day, only an hour before the final round of a small competition series. Leading to your girlfriend frantically calling local parts stores and asking everyone on track with a BMW E46 if they had a spare, while the broken was was being removed. Ending with a replacement axle from another driver and a third place win. These examples are what I refer to as the magic of the drift community. When things seem impossible to overcome, once word is spread we work together for a solution, even with people we've just met to get people back on track. I don’t understand how anyone would not want to be a part of that.
I could write all day about drifting, but even that wouldn’t be enough, you have to experience it for yourself.