Talk­ing to a drift- smith

The Witness - Wheels - - RACING -

AHEAD of the re­turn of Drift Kings to Japfest at its new venue, Sil­ver­stone Cir­cuit, the event team caught up with 2015 win­ner, Chris Smith, ( 27) to ask him a few ques­tions about the skill and cul­ture of drift­ing.

Japfest is the UK’s premier Ja­panese car show and takes place on April 24th, 2016, at Sil­ver­stone, the home of Bri­tish Mo­tor Sport.

How did you get into drift­ing?

I started drift­ing in 2013 as I de­cided I wanted to do some­thing a bit dif­fer­ent. I had a mod­i­fied Vaux­hall Nova that I used to take down to Santa Pod for drag rac­ing, but it wasn’t ex­cit­ing enough. A cou­ple of peo­ple men­tioned drift­ing, so I thought I’d get my­self a cheap car and start mak­ing a go of it, and it kind of de­vel­oped from there!

What was your first car?

I started off with a BMW E36, which is quite a pop­u­lar en­try- level drift car as there are plenty about at sen­si­ble money. Ja­panese drift cars are of­ten a lot more ex­pen­sive, and are prop­erly de­vel­oped ma­chines.

On my first time out, I stacked the BMW into a wall, which wasn’t the best in­tro­duc­tion, but I stuck at it and got bet­ter from there.

Win­ning Drift Kings 2015 was the high­light of my ca­reer so far.

What do you drive now?

My cur­rent drift car is a Nis­san 200SX S14A, which is one of the most pop­u­lar cars among drifters. There are so many tun­ing parts you can get for them, and most of it bolts on.

Plus, it en­ables you to be part of the thriv­ing Ja­panese car cul­ture.

What makes for a good drift?

For me, style is more im­por­tant than speed, though you’re mea­sured on both.

You know when you’ve got it right as the car feels at home, it feels set­tled, and you can see the wall of smoke that you’re build­ing up as you go along. There’s a kind of con­nec­tion there, you just know when you’ve got it right.

How does it feel to be be­hind the wheel of a drift car?

It’s funny, be­cause I’ve al­ways felt at home in a car with­out grip.

For some peo­ple that feel­ing’s a bit dis­con­cert­ing, but for me it’s very much the other way round. Drift­ing is all about car con­trol, and a con­trolled drift is a very skil­ful and dif­fi­cult thing to mas­ter. But when you get it right, it feels great. It does take a lot of prac­tice though.

Do you do all your own re­pairs and main­te­nance?

I built my cur­rent car my­self — I did ev­ery­thing apart from the spe­cialised weld­ing we had to carry out when we re­moved the boot floor.

I know ev­ery nut and bolt of that car, and I’ve taken it apart and re­built it many times.

A lot of the bits for the Nis­san are avail­able off the shelf from spe­cial­ists such as Drift­works, which makes it eas­ier to build a car up from scratch — al­though 200SXs are get­ting harder to find in good con­di­tion th­ese days.

How do you get along with other drift driv­ers?

It’s not like other forms of mo­tor sport. There’s no snip­ing in the pits, just a bit of ban­ter. If some­one needs a bit of help, we all muck in to help each other out. At the end of the day, we’re all there to put on a show for the crowds and that’s what mat­ters most to all of us.

We’re all good mates, re­ally, though it’s good to have some healthy ri­valry.

What will be the high­light of Drift Kings 2016?

I think I, along with a lot of the other driv­ers, am most look­ing for­ward to the chance to drift at Sil­ver­stone. I’ve nev- er had the op­por­tu­nity be­fore, and it’s a great venue with su­perb vis­i­bil­ity for the fans.

In terms of putting on a show, it’s the per­fect place for it. — News­press.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

Chris Smith, 2015 win­ner of the Drift Kings se­ries in the UK.

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