16 Mar 2017
A fortnight ago Drift Challenge Australia once again returned in 2017 for another year of door-to-door, tyre frying action. Held from 25th- 26th January, Round 1 saw the series return once again to the Apple Isle and my home track, Symmons Plains Raceway, Tasmania. Once again continuing their run of Guest Drivers, DCA would see Forrest Wang, Formula Drift Pro Driver from Las Vegas, America attending the event. He over the course of the weekend continued to impress and at every moment try to put on a show for the crowd, showing his skills against Australia’s best whilst adapting to a RHD vehicle.
The event attracted drivers from around the country who had to make the trek over Bass Strait. With hopes of driving with the American Pro and to try and acquire some points on the board for the season this journey was seen as a small sacrifice.
Saturday morning entailed a lengthy practice session where I tried to fit in as much driving as possible, concentrating on the clipping points and driving lines the judges had asked for in the earlier mornings briefing. Having driven this course since 2009 the lines asked to be run by the judges were different to any I had been required to do in the past, whilst difficult they would in turn be great for tandem competition battles and close proximity driving.
After the lunchtime spectator pit walk qualifying would ensue. Heading out and completing a couple of warm up laps in my allocated 1HR session I then staged in the qualifying lane, completing two judged laps one after the other. I felt they were fairly decent with the car being placed in most of the clipping zones as asked by the judges. Only time would tell at the event dinner/ party later that night whether I would qualifying in the Top 32 Battle tree or be packing up early for the weekend. All the drivers who were unlucky enough not to qualify were called out first, from then drivers announced from Position 32 all the way to 1 were called out and congratulated. I ended up placing just inside the Top 10 with 8th position.
The Next morning I would once again complete as much practice as possible this time however concentrating on tandem practice and “chasing” as this is the most exciting part of drifting and will ultimately progress you through “battles” during the competition. After bringing the car in half hour short before the competition started to prepare I would then stage up against my first opponent George Bullock from Tasmania. George drives quite the unorthodox drift car in a Holden VL Commodore wagon! First I would lead being the higher qualifier with the length and chassis disadvantage of the VL not evident as he man handled it around the track staying on my tail. Positions reversed and run again my slightly stronger chase and better lead line would see me through to the Top 16.
Stopping for a lunch break spectators were again allowed access to pit lane to view the competitor’s cars and chat with the drivers, even some lucky fans collecting some free prized Penrite Oil stickers! After the pit lane was cleared drivers were gridded up in their Top 16 positions where I would meet another Tasmanian local Michael Healy in his 2JZ-GE powered Toyota Celica. Being a Naturally Aspirated car I was expecting him to not be too quick off the line, but with no turbo lag the little Celica rocketed off the start! With a great lead line run by Michael I was able to capitalize with my chase, running closely and showing dominance in our battle got me the nod from judges to continue on.
Next opponent in the Top 8 would be South Australian and the #1 Qualifier for the event Dale Campaign in his RB25 powered Nissan S13 Silvia. Dale is a veteran in the Australian scene and I knew he would give 110%. Chatting in the pit lane before we headed out we discussed our entry styles, lines and start line techniques so there would be no surprises and we could maximize trust in each other to try put on a show for the spectators. With no games, just pushing each other to the limits the first battle was judged a tie and we were escorted around once again complete another two runs. Dale lead again with a brilliant lead line allowing me to get extremely close, gaining lots of points from the highly scored 3rd clipping point zone. With the advantage from the previous lap I lead the next run, Dale pushing in a little too close on turn 1 didn’t leave himself enough room to transition without making contact. The split second decision to hit me or spin was made and Dale looped the car out, sealing myself the victory.
The Top 4 saw myself against Tasmanian Taylor Forward in his LS1 V8 powered Nissan S13 Silvia. Taylor had just made short work of the international guest Pro Driver in his Top 8 drive and was going all out to gain a podium spot helped by his recently upgraded suspension setup. Being the higher qualifier I would lead, with Taylor putting in a great chase mirroring my every move with awesome proximity. Positions switched and Taylor now leading I did my usual dive into turn 1 getting close of Taylors rear ¼. During his transition of direction into turn 2 though he made a small waiver/ straighten putting my timing off to switch, this in turn did not allow my chase the same opportunity as the line I had given Taylor. With this mistake not getting past the experienced judges I was on through to the final Battle!
Now guaranteed a podium spot all stress was gone, the final battle with Local driver Matt Harvey in his S13 Silvia was going to be a spectacle! I have driven with Matt numerous times and we know each other’s style very well. As Matt qualified 2nd he would lead first, knowing his cars superior speed I jumped the start by one to two car lengths. With the start timed perfectly and Matt putting down a textbook lead run he left me plenty of room to be on his car at each and every turn. Now giving Matt the same opportunity with my lead run I could see him all over the rear of my car, run completed and Matt emerging from my tyre smoke hot on my tail we would need to wait until presentation to find out the victor. Later on the podium was made up of 3rd place Kale Scott of South Australia, 2nd Matt Harvey with myself securing 1st Place! It was great to back up my 2016 Championship with a win to start the new season.