EVENT: King of Europe Round 5: Roadtrip to Romania
The King of Europe drift championship is taking place, as the name suggests, all over Europe, which means that drivers from many different countries take part. In turn, it also means that most of the events don’t exactly happen next door. Which is why I drove to Romania in my old E36 for a weekend. As driving through Romania presented itself as an interesting journey, I shall start my report with a few pics I took on the way, to concentrate on the drift action farther down the page.
As with round 1 of KoE I once again travelled with my friend and KoE-contender Philippe “Dirt Drop Phil” Guillot (picture above). But as he had bought a new tow car since the last trip, there wasn’t as much space as there used to be and we had to add my car to the convoy, with four people alternating between the driving and passenger positions. Because there was gonna be three full days of drifting, two of us started at my place at 8pm wednesday, caught Phil and his trailer somewhere in Germany and, after crossing Austria, arrived in Budapest, Hungary, at 6am thursday.
In Budapest we took a little detour to fellow KoE drifter Adam Kerenyi’s warehouse to pic up some fresh Federal RS-R which were guarded by a Hungarian Tire Guarding Dog. I am not completely sure if that’s an official breed of dog. After squeezing 32 tires into Phil’s Sprinter we continued straight on towards the next border.
Shortly before entering Romania, the motorway ends, which means that roughly the last 500km of our trip consistent of normal one-lane main roads. At this point, there is one important adjustment that you need do make. You have to acclimatise to what for us simply became known as the Romanian Driving Style. Which basically means driving like a maniac and overtaking everywhere, even when there’s traffic coming the other way. Due to the non-existence of motorways, all the main traffic including lots of heavy trucks travel along these roads, so if you don’t overtake, you could be stuck behind a slow vehicle for hours. Which means that even the big rigs overtake.
It seemed a bit scary at first, but it turns out it works quite well. Except for the odd bus falling of the road and causing a huge traffic jam. Especially on the way back, when two of us in my BMW left more than two hours after Phil and had to catch him. I really became a fan of how fast you can cover ground this way.
There were more modern cars than I had expected, with modern houses in most villages and the odd Mercedes S-Class parked in front of them. Most people drive small european cars, although there’s often the odd relic from the cold war era to be seen, in both architecture and cars.
What one sees very rarely are cars with big engines, though. This is due to the very high price for fuel of around €1.20 per litre in comparison to the average income of €340 a month.
Nevertheless, the aforementioned Romanian Driving Style makes for flowing progress through the countryside. Except if there’s a railroad crossing, which would cause some cars serious problems. The one in the picture by far isn’t the worst we came across, sometimes the rails stuck almost halfway out of the tarmac.
Many farmers still use horse carts to transport their crops, these are quite a common sight in Romania.
The fact that they aren’t allowed to go onto the main road makes for one of the coolest road signs I’ve seen.
After having conquered all challenges thrown at us, we finally arrived in Brasov almost exactly 24h after we left my place at around 8pm thursday. For a change we had booked a hotel (they’re quite cheap in Romania), so after a beer or three with the guys of Cartu Drifting who stayed at the same place, we all went to bed. The following friday morning we arrived at Prejmer Circuit, which is a newly built track 20 minutes (RDS) from Brasov.
(Picture source: www.motorsportnews.ro)
Mainly used for carting, it is certainly big enough for a decent drift track although not a very high speed one and the King of Europe organisation had done the usual thorough job of turning it into an appropriate looking venue for an international events with hundreds of banners and flags.
The selected drift zone consisted of an entry into a right kink, the following tight left turn and outside clipping points for both corners necessitated a very fast transition. The judged track then ended in a very long right turn with another outside clipping point.
It didn’t take long for the usual suspects to start pulling some very nice entries into that first turn. There I caught this pic of Adam Frank in the Cartu Drifting E46 2JZ we featured earlier.
When I went further out to the track the first time, the first car that caught my attention was Dmitriy Illyuk’s crazy screaming S13. I’d heard a lot about him and actually seen him in Austria, but back then he was driving the car with an, as he put it, “dead engine”. Well, I haven’t seen many driver/car combinations as aggressive as this!
Another special car was the Audi Quattro of Bogdan Padurariu, which he put to very good use as well. The glorious 5-cylinder sound was a cool preview to the upcoming Gatebil Rudskogen, although as opposed to most crazy Audis running there, this example was of course converted to rear wheel drive to compete in drift events.
Friday afternoon was basically one very long practice session, which was a nice change from the usually very tightly packed time schedule of KoE events. Especially as this and the very long last turn meant that we photographers had a lot of opportunities to experiment with long exposures on guys like Francesco Conti in his supercharged E92 M3 GT4.
Jerome Vassia in his PS13 was smoking nicely.
Arpad Enekes in the LS7 Mustang is getting stronger and stronger.
One of my favourite pics I got is this one of Adam Frank, who also took me for a ride. Thank you very much again, Adam!
There were also some cool local cars to try exposure times on, such as Jumy Iulian in a BMW E36.
Ilarion Grigorici didn’t bother putting lights on his E36, they wouldn’t shine where he’s going anyway.
I was told by a local photographer that until a few years ago, the guys in Romania were doing either drag racing or some burnouts in parking lots. When the actual sport of drifting become known in the country, Sorin Ene was one of the first ones to adapt. Clearly, him and his S14A running a turbocharged BMW engine are capable of incredible drift angles now.
Szabo Istvan brought another car that isn’t too common in drifting nowadays, a Mk.3 Supra.
The E30, such as Alex Kellu’s example, is called “bear” in Romanian, although my source couldn’t really tell me why.
As this picture demonstrates, the rules for photographers also aren’t quite the same as some of you might be accustomed to. He’s not on track yet, so that’s still better than in some other places.
After practice, Romanian traffic momentarily got even crazier because the entire field of drift cars drove to Brasov for a drift demo, for which the Romanian police had crossed off a section of a double-lane road right in the city centre during rush hour.
For the 20 minute drive there, all the cars put on number plates. Some of the plates on the international drifter’s cars looked slightly less official than others and some cars were from different countries than I had thought, but no-one really cared. I don’t know how it is in your country, but I wouldn’t want to try that in Switzerland.
Most Romanian drift cars actually had their actual official numberplates, Ramona Rusu (above) drove her E30 V8 to the track every day. She also told me that she regularly takes it out to wash and refuel it.
Applying Romanian Driving Style to drift cars makes for some interesting overtaking techniques, filmed by Romanian television of course.
In the city, there was a big screen put up and an MC interviewed every driver before his demo, here he’s talking to Cartu Drifting’s Adam Frank.
Every driver had 5 minutes to do a show and there was enough space for some quite fast manjis quite close to a crowd that got larger by the minute.
The whole ceremony was as always masterfully directed by the Chief of Smoke, Mike Procureur.
On the way back I had an opportunity to try some remote rolling shots, the remote part meaning that I set the camera up for my friend Simone on the passenger seat and she clicked away. Result, I’d say!
On Saturday, there was some more practice, followed by the qualifying, which was valid for both the Romanian National GTT Drift Championship and King of Europe, with some drifters taking part in both of them.
Of the KoE regulars, 15 drivers had come to Romania, among them the both V8-pedalling Benjamin Boulbes and Calin Ciortan. The latter had freshly painted his S14a converted, AMG V8 equipped S14 in white, although the new bumper didn’t stay in pristine condition very long.
He wrecked it slightly during his first qualifying run (it was fixed with tape and zipties until the next day), and as KoE rules forbid running without bumpers (and stickers), a replacement had to be used. The front bumper of Amerigo Monteverde’s E46 fit the S14 surprisingly well!
There were no huge surprises, with last year’s champion Adam Kerenyi in his supercharged Dotz/Monster E46 winning the qualification in front of Conti and Illyuk.
As always at a King of Europe event, there was a lot of media present. It doesn’t matter at what time you take a walk through the pit, there’s almost always a driver getting interviewed by someone. In this case, Phil and Jerome Vassia are talking to a Romanian television network.
Unfortunately, there were also the other ever present occurrences: broken cars. Phil broke one of his driveshafts on saturday morning but was able to replace it in time for qualifying, only for the other driveshaft to break during his first battle, which was the end of the weekend for him.
Dmitriy Illyuk suffered a broken turbo on saturday, but him and his mechanic replaced it very quickly and he was up and running again.
On sunday afternoon, the KoE battles were to take place. Unfortunately the heavens opened right before they were about to start, which is why the above pic of Arpad Enekes vs. Adam Kerenyi from the sunday morning practice session is one of the very few smoky battle pics I was able to get.
So instead of shooting non smoking cars in not enough water for any cool effects, I decided to stay with the drivers and crews for once to shoot their reactions.
I don’t regret this decision, especially as Nicolas Delorme’s giant killing run, during which he won against Nicolo Rosso, Dmitriy Illyuk (after two one more times!) and, after a very narrow loss against Francesco Conti, also against Calin Ciortan to get third place, caused some loud cheers and applause in the pits, especially by his father.
With this, he repeated his performance from KoE Round 2 in France. With his E30 equipped with the engine from an E36 M3, he is now definitely this year’s giant killer in KoE.
The final came down to an exciting battle on the partially drying surface between the two top contenders, Francesco Conti and Adam Kerenyi. After going “one more time” once, Adam was able to win the battle and with it KoE Round 5.
Which was of course more than enough of a reason for another interview!
For me, it was an incredible weekend with lots of great action and even greater people. Drift events are so much cooler if you drive there for hours but once you arrive, you’re in the middle of a bunch of friends. See you all soon!