A recent trip to round two of the local drifting series left me thinking about how the punters watch and interpret battles. It’s a debate that has thrived for years among those who watch and those who are involved with the series, amid continued misunderstanding by the punters of — and outright disagreement with — the judging criteria that the competition is based around.
It was clear to see that those who were buying tickets valued proximity during battles over maintaining line and, to a degree, angle, and felt that those who drive aggressively on the lead car’s door should be rewarded for their efforts — evidenced by the absolute roaring from the crowd during the Cole Armstrong versus, well, everyone battles.
So, the question that’s been raised time and time again is, do the rules need to be adjusted to favour proximity over line for the chase car in order for punters to better understand how a battle has gone? Ultimately, proximity is the easiest factor for punters to understand. Seeing a chase car go doorto-door with the lead car the whole run creates the effect that they’ve done enough to win.
In short, my answer is no. Proximity shouldn’t be favoured over the existing criteria. However, where a lead car is throwing down a run that meets the line, speed, and angle that the judges have asked for, and the chase car is matching that same line, speed, and angle, then proximity should be rewarded for the chase car. If a chase car is shallowing out or diving off line and forgoing angle to gain proximity, then it will lose points.
Line is not only important for a lead car to score well but for a chase car, too, as, without emphasis on maintaining line, the lead car could drive as shallowly as it can, making it near-on impossible to throw down a good chase, which ends up looking messy for both cars. A good line sets up and allows a good chase, as the chase driver can anticipate where the lead car should be, and push hard through the smoke.
I think that most people will agree with that, and what’s funny is that this is exactly how the current rules are written. I think it falls down to communication with the audience: people felt a disconnect between what they saw and how that was ultimately scored.
Perhaps the solution can be found by looking at international series, in which, in the likes of the Irish Drifting Championship and many Japanese competitions, the judges are on the mic, ready to explain how they’ve scored before announcing the decision and then moving onto the next battle; or the scores are displayed alongside quick notes — too shallow, off line, straight-lined, etc. — on the big screen at the track. The information is there on the fly, and is recorded on live documents that teams have access to, so communicating that same information to the crowd will clear up some confusion, even if only a little.
None of this meant to take away from the solid job and hard calls the judges had to make over the weekend or the mammoth effort put in by all of the behind-the-scenes crew to make it happen, and I know that this very debate is under review by all those involved.
I just want to see competition drifting here continue to thrive and to keep the crowds coming back to future events.