Motorsport: Drifting's a smoking sport

By Eric Thompson

Gen Y particularly drawn to stadium-based events which look like controlled chaos.

Judges at the Taupo Park Raceway drifting event were looking for line, angle, speed, showmanship and tonnes of smoke.
Judges at the Taupo Park Raceway drifting event were looking for line, angle, speed, showmanship and tonnes of smoke.

The increasing popularity of Drifting in the 1990s and early 2000s prompted the establishment of Drift Motorsport in 2007.

The idea was to attract more people to the sport and give them an opportunity to learn the skills of drifting outside of having to compete.

The most recent day-long event was at Taupo Motorsport Park on Saturday where newcomers and the odd experienced drifter were able to hone their skills at flicking their cars around in what some old-school rally fans would call a Scandinavian flick.

These events are held monthly at various tracks up and down the North Island and have become an established route into graduating to the national D1NZ championships.

Drifting has a particular fascination and attraction for the Y Generation. Some have put a toe in the more traditional forms of motor racing such as Karting and Formula First but didn't take to the strict structure of those forms of racing, while others wanted to get into something with a grungy, almost underground feel to it.

Drifting's early true underground, illegal days are well gone with the national championship on mainstream television, a national infrastructure and affiliation to MotorSport New Zealand.

Drifting has its roots in Japan when motorcycle racer Kunimitsu Takahashi disappeared into the canyons of his home country for a bit of sideways, and mostly illegal, racing in the 1970s.

It really started to take hold when it was packaged into standalone sport by Keiichi Tsuchiya and publisher Daijiro Inada in the late 1980s and the D1 Grand Prix was born.

The sport remained mainly in Japan until 1996 when an organised event was held at Willow Springs Raceway in America, with one of the contestants being Kiwi rally great Rod Millen's son Rhys. The popularity of drifting took off and competitions could be found around the world, New Zealand being one of the early adopters. Local driver Mike Whiddett is an internationally recognised exponent of the high slip angle sport.

The winner is decided by a panel of judges looking for line, angle, speed, showmanship and tonnes of smoke exhibited by the driver through a small number of linked corners.

In essence, drifting is one of the new style of sports that are stadium-based where fans can see everything, have a quick turn around between races, can be watched in bite-sized chunks and looks like controlled chaos with lots of flair, pizzazz and showmanship.

- NZ Herald

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