You may have seen car drifting on television or played a drifting-themed video game. In Kent, Washington, young average Joes that don’t mind burning through pairs of rear tires like a fat man tears through a six-egg omelet gather at Pacific Grand Prix Motorsports Park to do just that.
“It’s a great way to release stress if you’re in it for fun,” said local drift artist, Tom.
“It’s just honestly a f*****’ blast. It is just absolutely fun.”
Tom is a good man of Polish descent, hence the insignia on his 1992 Nissan 240 SX’s windshield, “Polish Tom”. He has no formal drifting credentials, no business card or professional affiliations, but he can drift his 240 SX around the PGP track with impressive control and unique style.
“All you gotta do is kick the clutch pedal and that’ll put a brake, bring up the engine RPMs, and then suddenly you release so it brings the back end out,” he explained, “Otherwise you can just rip on the e-brake and give it gas from there. Basically you want to be able to get the car to break the rear end loose and hold it loose while maintaining traction in the front so you can still steer, and that’s pretty much it”.
Being in control while out of control is the name of the game. The heavy smell of burnt rubber and clutch envelopes the track like heavy Los Angeles smog from the near constant banshee drone of smoking tires.
A sign hung on the chain-link fence that divides the pedestrian entryway from a sharp button-turn at the end of one of the track’s straightaways warns spectators they’re at risk of being struck down by flying debris from the raceway. Several feet to the left of the sign is another that advertises the onsite children’s play structure positioned precariously at the apex of the button-turn.
On the average sunny day at the track Tom will completely destroy at least four pairs of rear tires in his Nissan, an impressive feat considering the thrifty ride is a far cry from a brawny burnout machine and has no major modifications besides weight reductions and a stiffened suspension.
Out on the track the spectrum of cars screaming in dissident harmony is a mixed bag of homemade machines that look like they just rolled off the set of a Mad Max movie:
80’s Datsun station wagon
BMW M Series
Etc, etc, etc.
Of the mix, Nissan 240s such as Tom’s and Toyota Corolla’s are the most common types of cars at the track; they’re cheap and easy to build for drifting. If one of them flies into a wall or bounces off of a fellow drifter mid-turn it’s not a big deal.
In the pits, zip-ties are common tools for reattaching body parts. When that won’t suffice there’s generally another pit within earshot that’s willing to gift a compatible part. If time is of the essence requests can be expedited up the race tower for broadcast over the announcer’s speaker system:
“Collin Westin needs an S-13 tie-rod,” if anyone has one please bring it to pit number eight”.
“Does anyone have a length of radiator hose they can spare? They need to cool down in pit twelve”.
Domestic lager beer and Corona are available for purchase from a cooler positioned behind a folding table, but few people are drinking. Most purchase a pit pass for an extra $10 and congregate near the cars with a group of friends, one of which is generally a guy such as Tom that has a car he’s brought to drift in sessions that run from early afternoon until dusk.
During the giddy downtime between explosive bouts of drifting, pit supporters are inevitably divided into groups of crack-mechanics and girlfriends. Undercutting the jovial mood, a sense of sharp urgency is always present.
As in most pits, Tom’s trusty crew of pals is nearly outnumbered by spare tires stacked atop each other like dark kamikaze Michelin men awaiting their first and final mission.
During these fateful times, a fresh pair of rubber is bolted to the rear of the 240, whatever repairs can be made to the car are performed, and for reasons known only to Tom, he hands a spare helmet to one lucky person who will ride shotgun with him during the next session.
A friend of mine from the Coast Guard whose sailor’s thirst for the hops led him to imbibe in several aluminum-bottled beers had the heavy helmet dropped into his hands during the second to last session of the day. I handed him my portable camera with instructions to capture the experience. Watch the footage in new videos and here:
You may have noticed what a flippin’ blast that appeared to be. To learn more about attending such events in person, visit www.pacificgp.com