USA GRASS­ROOTS

NZ Performance Car - - Contents - WORDS AND PHO­TOS: ASH­LEIGH MON­AGHAN

ASH­LEIGH MON­AGHAN CHECKS OUT GRASS­ROOTS DRIFT­ING IN THE US

If you’re lucky enough to live in close vicin­ity to a nearby race track, there’s no doubt you’ll have at­tended a lo­cal grass­roots drift­ing event at one time or an­other and ex­pe­ri­enced first­hand the thrills, spills and fun that the New Zealand scene so fre­quently has to of­fer. With count­less lo­cal days un­der my belt, I fig­ured it was about time to ex­pe­ri­ence how sim­i­lar days on the op­po­site side of the world stacked up.

Jump­ing on a plane I headed to Cal­i­for­nia for JustDrift’s an­nual All Star Bash, which mixes to­gether around 2000 like­minded drift fa­nat­ics, an in­fa­mous desert race­way, in­cred­i­ble builds and sev­eral world-class driv­ers — for what is most likely the great­est drift event of my life.

It’s hosted over a week­end at Wil­low Springs In­ter­na­tional Race­way (an hour north of Los An­ge­les), and with over 150 cars en­tered I knew that ASB14 (as it was coined) was go­ing to be on a whole new level from any drift­ing day back home. Af­ter ac­cept­ing an of­fer of a com­fort­able bed and living quar­ters with FD Pro driver Pat Mor­daunt and his team, I soon found out how lucky I re­ally was. Af­ter un­load­ing our rig, it wasn’t long be­fore I no­ticed just how many peo­ple were set­ting up beds in­side tents, among tyres in their trail­ers, even in the boot of their drift car.

As the cars be­gan to line up track­side I found my­self putting faces to the names of peo­ple who had in­tro­duced them­selves to me, via the in­ter­net, prior to my ar­rival in Cal­i­for­nia. Much like our iconic and tight-knit drift­ing cul­ture in New Zealand, the sense of com­mu­nity that held All Star Bash to­gether was phe­nom­e­nal, and I of­ten found my­self in awe at the amount of ‘new best mates’ I had sur­rounded my­self with. I’m not go­ing to lie, one of the main rea­sons I chose to at­tend All Star Bash was to be en­light­ened by its driv­ers, ve­hi­cle mod­i­fi­ca­tions and en­gine choices. Aside from the iconic hand­ful of cars I fol­lowed on­line, and the con­fus­ing S-chas­sis dif­fer­ences be­tween Amer­i­can and New Zealand mod­els, I was sur­prised to find sev­eral similarities to our grass­roots cul­ture back here. For sure, V8 en­gine swaps were plen­ti­ful, but I cer­tainly found a lot of love for the more Kiwi style with the trusty Nis­san SR–pow­ered mo­tor, ba­sic sus­pen­sion set-ups, cheap wheels and sec­ond-hand tyres. Af­ter all, we are one and the same re­ally, scrap­ing by fi­nan­cially in or­der to fund the next great drift event.

AS THE LATE AF­TER­NOONS SET IN, SO TOO DID THE CROWDS — RIGHT ON TIME FOR THE TEAM DRIFT BAT­TLES, WHICH WERE UN­LIKE ANY­THING I HAD SEEN AT HOME

To en­sure di­ver­sity and ac­com­mo­date the amount of driv­ers in­volved, two tracks were opened for full-length abuse — thus mak­ing it hard to de­ci­pher what to watch and where to go, as a whop­ping 60 cars were burning rub­ber at any given time. Whether tear­ing up the 2.9km ‘Streets’ course, or ven­tur­ing fur­ther up the hill to wit­ness driv­ers ca­reen through the in­cred­i­bly steep Horse Thief Mile, it wasn’t long be­fore we saw the car­nage start to stack up. With the 2014 For­mula Drift sea­son re­cently over, pro driv­ers took their fi­nal op­por­tu­nity to jump on track in their pro-spec ve­hi­cles and mix it up with the am­a­teurs. The na­ture of the dusty tracks, as well as a com­bi­na­tion of the driv­ers and their ob­vi­ous care­free at­ti­tude, def­i­nitely kept the ex­cite­ment alive, while spec­ta­tors cheered at the sounds of V8 lim­iters and scrap­ing kits.

As the late af­ter­noons set in, so too did the crowds — right on time for the team drift bat­tles, which were un­like any­thing I had seen at home. Judged by a ute-load of FD driv­ers, I watched as teams of up to six driv­ers drifted in ex­tremely close prox­im­ity to earn the right to be named the best in the event, re­ceive an abun­dance of prizes and win an ob­tru­sively large tro­phy. I could tell right off the bat that this wasn’t taken too se­ri­ously, and lo and be­hold, teams were crash­ing, cheer­ing, and even throw­ing dou­ble-cab pickup trucks into the mid­dle of their bat­tles.

Be­ing an end-of-sea­son event, All Star Bash fo­cused pri­mar­ily on tak­ing care of driv­ers, crew and me­dia who had taken a bat­ter­ing from the sea­son just gone. It’s a week­end to let loose, if you will, one at which they could burn the rest of their tyre sup­plies and not have to con­cen­trate on any­thing other than hav­ing a fan­tas­tic time. Nat­u­rally, af­ter the cars were put away and the trail­ers locked up, the fun fac­tor was turned up an ex­tra notch — but it was never taken out of con­trol. Re­spect for the or­ga­niz­ers, the fa­cil­ity and team gear was given the ut­most pri­or­ity, mak­ing it even more ac­cept­able to get up and ex­plore the pit bays and cam­pout ar­eas of our peers. Aside from the wicked sun­burn and sandy shoes, I couldn’t fault All Star Bash. As usual, Char­lie Ongs­ingco and the JustDrift or­ga­ni­za­tion have done a mag­nif­i­cent job to cre­ate a flaw­lessly fun and safe event for what is clearly a very strong grass­roots drift­ing cul­ture. The friend­ships made and mem­o­ries I’ve taken from the ex­pe­ri­ence have proven priceless, not to men­tion my new ad­dic­tion to the USA drift­ing cul­ture, crew and more. I would not hes­i­tate to bite the bul­let and fly back next year for an­other round of grat­i­fi­ca­tion, how­ever, I count my­self lucky to be living in a coun­try with count­less race tracks and event days sched­uled.

Till next time.

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