There are a couple of other blog posts that I need to post before this one in order to retain chronological order but, in reality, who cares, so here’s STL4 at Driftland, having taken place Thursday and Friday last week.
For those that are new to the blog, I have been renting out the Driftland venue annually in order to give old and new friends with the same mindset a time and a place to get super rowdy in their street style drift cars.
This being the fourth consecutive year of the event, most of us knew what to expect in terms of hard driving, the coolest cars and the best people. The event has remained as an invite only affair for the last four years, and this has continued to work really well for everyone involved.
Unfortunately, when some people see the phrase “invite only” thrown around, the immediate reaction is to associate this with elitism, and that couldn’t be further from the truth with the STL events.
In the past we have had complete novices enter the track alongside experienced BDC drivers, with all manner of machinery being thrown around hard for the enjoyment of those behind the wheel and the spectators behind the fence.
The key aspects are good style and a healthy mindset. Personally speaking I don’t really care how wide your wheels are, how much horsepower your 2JZ has or how many trophies you have won; if your request to drive at the event is rude, self entitled and/or arrogant, chances are you’re not the sort of person to bring the right vibe.
Sending drivers out on track alongside some of their best friends in similar vehicles encourages a style of driving that is both fun to watch and hugely enjoyable from the drivers seat. Nobody need worry that the person pulling up alongside them on the start line wishing to twin/train places lesser value on the structural integrity of their car and/or their wellbeing; everyone knows the vibe and simply gets on with it.
Since STL1 back in 2016, grassroots drifting in the UK has entered a bit of a slump and the lack of events to aspire to attend is well documented and has been discussed at length. When giving the drivers briefing on the Thursday morning at STL4, the vast majority of drivers had not drifted at all this year, with some not drifting whatsoever since STL3.
While this is quite a sad state of affairs for grassroots drifting as a whole (and something I hope I can help to address in the near future), I was pleased that we were able to offer a time and a place for likeminded drivers to indulge in their passion with some of their best friends.
Anyway, here is a selection of brilliant photos for your viewing pleasure, shot for STREET TRACK LIFE by Laurie Southern Photo.
Due to the distances being travelled by many of the drivers and friends, most chose to arrive during the Wednesday afternoon, giving plenty of time to catch up and check out everyone’s cars.
The setting sun always provides a dramatic backdrop for low, street driven drift cars arriving under their own power. The MX5 trio of George, Frasier and Matty can be seen rolling into the pits above, concluding their drive from Manchester.
Others made the most of the time to make minor repairs, attach bodywork and make a quick dash to the nearest Nandos before setting up camp for the night. While the weather at Driftland can rarely be described as “pleasant”, camping out is half of the fun, smashing some beers and chatting shit about cars all night long.
With a maximum of six hours track time per day permitted at Driftland and with a 6pm curfew, I always choose to start the STL events as late as possible. With a 10.30am drivers briefing and the track going live at 11am, everyone can enjoy a slower paced morning, get a proper breakfast and assign plenty of time to regret what they drank the previous evening.
Rory drove his SR20DE powered Sileighty all the way from South West England and managed to clip the wall with some vigour on one of his very first laps. This car has certainly seen its fair share of mishaps over the years but it always seems to soldier on relentlessly.
The first half of the day saw us using the second cut through of the Driftland circuit, meaning the first corner involved a hard chuck against the wall into a wide 180 degree right hander, before switching back into a left and then another right hander. Above you can see Charlie Hulme and Daniel Rose chucking hard into turn one.
The Low Origin pairing of Alex Law and Dan Joyce didn’t have the grandest of times on track, with Alex’s dashboard and interior wiring loom catching fire after a leaking breather pipe shot hot oil through the firewall. In Dan’s case, a suspected head gasket failure only allowed him to complete a handful of laps at a time before having to return to the pits to empty his header tank (the cause of problem was eventually traced to a cracked liner in the block).
By comparison, their team mate Danny Whyman enjoyed much more track time in his big winged PS13.
After the mid-afternoon lunch break, it was time to open up the full length of the first corner and allow the guys to let loose.
Above you can see Tom Gidden in his S14, on full squat and at full throttle mid-way through the long corner.
Standing on the bank and watching the way the cars squat on power through the last part of the long corner is always interesting. It’s a balancing act between slowing down enough to ensure you don’t fly off the edge of the track, while ensuring that you still have enough forward momentum to keep the drift looking cool.
In the pics above, you can clearly see the difference between Helen Slack‘s R32 and Daniel Rose’s MX5 (both naturally aspirated) in comparison to Sam Burgess‘ S14 with forced induction (and the most aggressive exhaust note possible from an SR20).
Not long had the fastest iteration of the track layout been opened before Scotland’s beloved weather decided to bless us with its unpredictability. In came the rain and, as a result, a half dry/half wet track; the last thing you could ever want when trying to drift with confidence.
Unfortunately this meant the first major incidents of the event; Matt Cooley parked his JZX90 up the bank backwards (resulting in his exhaust having to be cut off so he could be recovered), while Ryan Asquith and the aforementioned Joss had an unfortunate coming together of the Skylines.
The track did eventually start to dry up in full as we neared the 6pm curfew, so committed entries and tyre smoke were the order of the day again.
With Thursday track time coming to a close, it was time to assess any damage, grab a bite to eat and crack a few (read: a lot of) beers afterwards.
Gary Boyd expressing his enjoyment for wall taps.
Friday morning came and it was time to do it all again. Once again, having a late start of 11am allowed for a much more relaxed atmosphere in the morning.
Matty Charters was a newcomer for Friday and was throwing his MX5 with zero hesitation. Excellent sticker placement, too.
Alf Noller had a torrid time on Thursday, spending all day fixing his boosted IS200 with various parts sourced from local scrapyards. The car had broken down right at the end of Alf’s outrageously long drive from Kent, and had to be towed to the track on Wednesday evening. Thankfully he was able to get stuck in with everyone else on Friday.
Friday saw us running the same two track layouts as the previous day, with the first three hours utilising the second cut through before opening up to the full track layout for the final few hours of the event. MX5 chaos soon ensued, as can be seen above with Daniel Rose, Conor Wilson, Dan Prior and Tom van Beek.
The red trio of Tom Gidden, Stew Noble and Lewis Noakes narrowly avoided a car bending incident after Tom half span mid-corner. Thankfully Stew was able to take immediate avoiding action via the gravel trap.
Mid-afternoon the Scottish weather gods once again blessed us with their presence, albeit this time with a much heavier rainstorm, causing many to call it a day and begin loading up their gear. For some though, a bit of patience paid off as the track soon dried off and six or seven drivers had a completely dry circuit to themselves for the remainder of the day.
I’d hedge a bet on there being more seat time in that one hour for most than you would have previously got in a complete year of drift practice days elsewhere, and you could clearly see confidence levels rising and techniques improving as each lap went by.
As the 6pm deadline arrived, so did the end of STL4. I can’t thank everyone enough for attending; some of the journeys you guys drove your drift cars to get to the track were unbelievable. Thank you also to all of the friends and family that tagged along, the spectators, everyone who picked up some merchandise at the STREET TRACK LIFE stand and also the Driftland staff for running a tight ship as always.
With the current state of grassroots drifting in the UK, I think there is potential for us to do something different for 2020. More than one event perhaps? It’s exciting to think about it…let’s see what happens.