GRASSROOTS: Thunder Drift’s Team Tandem Battle
When most people think of California, usually the first things that comes to mind are sunny days with no chance of rain, palm trees decorating the streets, and beaches around every corner. Well….if the marketing guys ever made it lovely Northern California, land of weather that can’t make up it’s mind, it’d be a totally different story. Last Sunday, Norcal was bombed with plenty of rain, car accidents around every bend, and driving visibility was out the question. I for one was afraid that maybe Thunder Drift’s Team Tandem Battle event wouldn’t be a go.
I texted Thunder Drift’s organizer Geoff Pitts earlier in the morning, curious as to if this event would actually go down. He texts back saying that the session is on regardless of the pouring weather. As much as I feared the weather, rain or shine, I was down to photo shoot the event. With Geoff’s positive attitude in mind, I was ready to witness the epic mayhem that was about to go down at Thunderhill. Besides, rain plus drifting equals a smile on my face any day.
A little before 11AM, I made it to Thunder Hill and as Geoff would put it, the photog and drift gods from the heavens above were smiling upon us. Indeed they were. There was a slight drizzle, but nothing like the torrential weather earlier in the morning. As I headed towards the pits, I heard a faint “hey” from behind and lo and behold it was Joe Ayala and Justin Shreeve from MotorMavens! It has been a few weeks since we met up at Gymkhana Grid at Irwindale, so it was a pleasure seeing the two once again.
After our little FL x MM meetup, I continued onward in search of Mr. Thunder Drift himself, Geoff Pitts. He was posted up by a vendor, chit chatting away in good spirits. Accordingly, Geoff introduced me to Mason Delapp of Aisha Garage, a Japanese parts supplier of hard to find JDM goodies.
Mason was quite the interesting fellow. Years back, he moved to Japan in pursuit of his automotive and business passion. I felt I had a lot in common with Mason, since years ago I used to live in Misawa, Japan, located on the tip of Honshu. We chatted about food, culture, and his visits to famous touges of Japan. It was very cool to see photos of various mountain passes that I’ve seen through pop culture..like everyone’s favorite arcade game Initial D! Haha. But it truly was inspiring to see the actual course and compare it to the video game.
Around noon, everyone headed out to lunch while I accompanied Geoff and Lee, another local drifter, as we made preparations for the competition ahead. The course layout was straightforward, but posed a challenge for all the drifters. From the starting line, the drifters would first hit a long right turn sweeper followed by a chicane then followed by a sharp turn to the left towards the exit. It was a technical yet fun layout.
After making final arrangements, we made our lap around the pits while Geoff made the announcement that competition was about to begin. Due to some of the out of state peeps flaking out, the only teams competing were formed by of our beloved Norcal drifters. There were many familiar faces from Formula Drift Pro Am, including winner Ryan Kado in his awesome S14. For those of you unfamiliar with Ryan Kado, he is possibly Norcal’s child of drifting. With only two years of drifting experience, Ryan has gone from 360 cone work, to full track, and now with the win of Pro Am has acquired a professional license for 2011 Formula Drift competition.
With practice underway, turn one was the spot to be. I caught all the high speed initiation into the long right turn sweeper. I also caught a glimpse of the four car drift train! From the picture, you can see how close I was to the action. Exciting, yet dangerous, but even more exciting to see the cars just drift by in unison. It really puts an emphasis on how much drifting has taken the form of dancing on asphalt.
Here’s a shot of Tomasz Olech’s SR powered AE86 in close proximity with Julian Jacobs’ in his slammed but fitted S14. Both remarkable cars in their own aspect. I for one was pretty stoked seeing Tomasz AE86 sliding sideways in all its glory. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen his SR powered hachi swing it. Julian was also a nice sight to see with his new wheel setup. I’m loving the offset of his S14 nowadays, especially how it balances form and function.
One car I couldn’t take my eyes off of was Ryan’s red S14 smoking up the track. This was my first time seeing Ryan’s car in person sliding around Thunderhill Raceway. The feeling? Overwhelming. Everything is up to its hype and his runs were very clean. Also, with Ryan’s consistent runs, I was able to capture this great close up shot.
After practice finished up, competition was about to begin. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, some of the drifters had to opt out of the main competition leaving only a few left to compete. Nevertheless, the competition turned into quite the exhibition.
Encouraged by Joe’s photos from practice, for the main competition I plotted myself over at the last turn of the course. This was possibly the most dangerous place for any media person to be. There were no guard rails, but due to the low entry speed of the final turn, we were assured everything would be okay..I think.
In the end, Tomasz and Ryan won the overall competition and celebrated in style.
Congrats to Ryan and Tomasz (pictured center below) for the overall win of the day. All the drivers made the most of the competition and we’re definitely proud of you all. Shout out to Thunder Drift once again for hosting the best Norcal drift events.
:. Michael Cabuco
Editor | Photographer of FittedLife.com