It’s noisy, dirty and looks completely out of control, but for the participants of drifting at Western Speedway, it’s the safe, legal thrill they’re looking for.
“At the end of the day your face is covered in tire, your lips are cracked, you’re completely exhausted,” said Dorian Redden, a driver from Saanich. “You’re so happy, you’re so satisfied.”
Drifting is the act of taking a vehicle through a turn using controlled oversteer. In other words, it’s a sideways burnout, where the rear wheels of the car slide through a turn at a greater angle than the front wheels. It feels like you’re a moment away from getting in a terrible accident, but it’s all under control.
The sport, defined by the sound of squealing tires and the smell of burnt rubber, has been going on at the Langford speedway for about six years, with the Capital Drift organization running events for the past three.
In competition, drifting is typically done in tandem. Drivers are judged on speed and angle, but mostly style. Proximity to one another and to the wall are also considered.
The occasional “wall tap” – touching the track wall with the back bumper without losing control of the car – also impresses judges.
“It’s difficult. It’s a lot of concentration and control, and very, very quick reactions,” said Danny Cox, also from Saanich. Cox’s car, a Nissan 240SX, the staple of drifting, proudly wears a target decal and is scuffed with the paint of a few of his friend’s cars, with their signatures above the marks.
The combination of elements make this sport an obsession and addiction for participants. They refer to the night before a drifting event as “Driftmas Eve,” and get as little sleep as a child waiting to unwrap their toys.
“When I first started drifting, I would do a lap and I wouldn’t even remember the lap, I’d be so intense and high on the sport,” said Langford driver Andrew Casey. “It gets your blood flowing.”
“If you do a good run, you’re smiling, you’re freaking out, you’re high-fiving your buddies. It’s just the best,” Cox said.
Most of the guys doing it – primarily males get involved – have an auto mechanical background, but also come from the skateboarding and BMX bike world, lending to the extreme sport appeal of drifting.
The typical story sees the car-crazy youth attend a drifting event before trying it out for themselves and getting hooked.
“For kids that are skateboarding, breaking ankles, going to emergency, beating their bodies up, you get a little older and get tired of that,” said Matt MacLeod, who lives in Victoria. “This is a way to still get out there and do something stupid … but not risk your body.”
While the drivers may seem like a ragtag bunch of ex-skaters, they put a lot of work and passion into their sport. For that reason they discourage other drivers from ruining their fun by doing things like drifting on public roads.
By being big on inclusion, Capital Drift helps discourage reckless drivers from giving all drifters a bad reputation. New members are warmly welcomed and those interested in learning about the sport are always welcome at practices and events, to speak with drivers, watch the show and even go on ride-alongs during non-competitive runs.
Capital Drift practises about once a month and runs competitive events typically five times a year at Western Speedway.
The first of 2014 happens tomorrow (April 19) at the track. Drivers practise throughout the day, with the competition starting at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 to watch, with children under 12 free.
For more information, search Facebook for “Capital Drift.”