G'day, Zac here! Now I know it's been a while since I've posted on a blog but this one is pretty special to me. An early warning: This will be picture-heavy!
Since we like to do some team-building exercises here at Gktech, I was able to convince everyone to go drifting! I'm fortunate enough to work with some great guys, with most of us coming from a motorsport background but not all of them a part of drifting. Drifting is a pretty important part of my life personally, and I've been able to make some incredible memories due to it. So to get the opportunity to teach some of my friends how to drift? I wasn't missing it.
Funny enough, I've been around drifting for nearly 10 years already at only 26 so I'm at that point where I'm the grumpy old dude at the track who does nothing but complain about V8's and replica wheels. Complaints aside, drifting has shaped my life and who I am. Without drifting I wouldn't be in the position I'm in today so I really do recommend to anyone who hasn't experienced it to get out there and get involved! Hey, I've made friends worldwide and spent time in Japan, the US, and NZ with people from all over the world!
Since teaching someone to drift isn't the easiest thing, we needed the perfect venue. I once tried to teach my Dad how to drift at our local track and he put my S13 headfirst into a wall, safe to say I'd like to avoid this happening again. So, we hired the Winton Raceway skid pan for a Saturday session, being a massive wide-open space with nothing to hit you can't argue it is perfect for the occasion! We all brought our personal cars and the 350Z was taken to be used as the 'school car'.
All week I was watching the weather, as it's been pretty miserable in Melbourne with constant rain and freezing temperatures. Originally forecasted to rain all day, the closer we got the better it looked. With 9 of us attending and some having other commitments, only 6 of us left on Friday and stayed the night in the local town of Benalla. Everyone knows what this means, small country town and a group of friends sounds like a couple too many beverages. Luke managed to find a place in our own city which sold strong zero beverages, a popular Japanese drink that consists of 9% alcohol. Safe to say that's how to get the weekend going right, instantly the laughs and smiles were contagious.
As the Friday pub meal got a little out of hand, it was definitely a rough start to the day on Saturday haha. Letting everyone sleep in I headed to the track super early to decide on a course layout and get the paperwork ready. I actually had a moment to myself to catch my breath and reflect on drifting for a bit, standing in the middle of the skid pan watching the sun come up I definitely found a sense of content. It's pretty crazy the emotion you can experience through motorsport. With loads of fresh air, the sound of kookaburra's going nuts and the sunrise glinting through the clouds I instantly felt better about any morning (possibly hungover) blues.
Fortunately, it's pretty affordable to hire the skid pan for such a limited amount of drivers. Without some big track regulations, scrutineering was a breeze. As most of the cars there were street registered and driven there, you won't find too many flashy body kits or dodgy mods!
Deciding on a simple figure 8 layout, it was time to get everyone in their cars. It's crazy that no matter where you go in the world, drifting pits always look the same! We started with basic drifting technique, understanding counter steer, how the car feels without traction and LOTS of reminders to relax in the drivers seat. I often see people in full panic mode, ninja hands going crazy, pointless E brake pulls and getting lost in the flurry of action. I'll always recommend that people learning to drift understand what it feels like to lose traction, if this means spinning out 1000 times? Then so be it.
Pro tip: Drifting is meant to be fun. Nobody is a professional straight out of the gate, don't be discouraged if it doesn't come to you straight away. Instead of focusing on what you can't do, focus on what you can do!
Man, 350Z's hey. You wanna hate them but you just can't! This is the perfect beginner chassis, full of torque, NA, absolute tanks and easy to get a bit of steering angle out of. It was great to see everyone out there giving it a go, with massive smiles all around! As the morning stayed damp, we took advantage and left the pan open for people to practice.
I've been pretty unfortunate with recent events. Constantly destroying drivelines in my own car and taking extreme measures to ensure nothing continues to break, I still find myself continually running out of luck. A great example of this is after doing the first demonstration of a figure 8, my car shut off and had to be pushed into the pits. After some diagnosing, it appears my trusty walbro fuel pump had called it quits. With all wiring working as it should, it was simply a dud fuel pump. That makes 7 events in a row with an early in the day failure, just the last time I drove killing a GTR diff of all things. Seriously right!?
Regardless of any car troubles, I was still over the moon to see everyone giving it a go! With the first timers having a ball in the Z. Drivers like Dylan giving advice to everyone jumping in was a huge help in getting hang of the basics!
Even better, the sun has come out. The track was drying quickly and the fun was really about to begin!
A really cool thing about this day was that I got to see John bring his S14 back out of retirement. I have a LONG history with John (everyone's favorite general manager). Between his brother-in-law buying an S13 off me when I was only 16 years old, to me buying my first track car off john 7 years ago, and even in 2019 being a key factor of me driving over 25 events!
John's S14 was always cool to me, regardless of motor choice. This car was LS swapped 9 years ago and has been LS turbo for 8 years now, one of the older LS turbo drift cars in Australia! Whilst it's bounced between Zenki and Kouki front ends, he's always had that great white on bronze combo. Over 650hp to boot, this car was a cloud machine in the dry!
Of course, we had a BBQ at lunch. Taking some time to have some laughs and eat a classic sausage in bread combo. Using the down time of lunch, Cliff and I headed out and changed the track layout. Not entirely sure what we were going for, made something work. Mixing two hair pins with a long sweeper and creating a really cool reversible layout allowing you to do a lap in one direction and change direction at the end of the lap fluidly. Rather fun!
As the track dried up the driving improved, with my 180sx still out for the count I decided to jump in the Z and run some tandems with Dylan in his RB25 S13. I still can't get over how effortless the Z is to drive, I've never driven such a point and shoot sort of car, from no laps in it all day to tandems straight off the bat!
As for my own car? I was stressing. I had driven my car 3 hours to the track on Friday, and now I need to somehow get it home. After doing all of the diagnostics and calling every parts supplier within an hours radius, I was left without options. The only idea? Hit it with a screwdriver and treat it like a starter motor. Long story short, it got me through the last hour of the day AND home. Who would have thought? Honestly this car man, kills me. Regardless, it was nice to get some laps in.
I don't love the way my cars been driving lately, it's reminded me the importance of simple cars in terms of progressing as a driver. An over built hard to drive car really can be detrimental for drivers looking to progress. Although, I need to remind myself it is just a street car no matter how overbuilt.
It was really an enjoyable afternoon, some small oil cooler issues on the Z, misfire on John's S14 and my fuel pump playing up we all started to wind down pretty early. Liam was putting on a great display of driving in his R32, stock Rb20 car with stock lock and stock diff! It was super cool to see him making it work with such a standard car!
Another stand out in the fleet was Josh's S13! Beautifully styled and possibly the cleanest car there. Josh comes from a grip racing background, also owning a WRX and driving for a local workshop in timed events. It was a steep learning curve for sure, it's always interesting seeing the transition from grip to drift. Safe to say he got a hell of a kick out of it and is looking to pursue it further, even putting his hand up to drive at the next local beginner day in Vic!
In summary, a fantastic day with lots of laughs. From seeing a few of the guys go from never breaking traction to putting some corners together. All the cars that drove up made it home and there were no major issues, always a plus at the end of the drift day! Although, my front type X lip fell off and snapped in half (good one idiot, doh!).
From the hangs on a Friday night with a few too many beverages, to the excitement of learning to drift and even the road trip home I find that drifting continues to be worth the pain. It's crazy hey! Hopefully next time some more personal cars can make it up, and maybe even drive on a full track! Thank you to anyone who takes the time to read this, it's always fun documenting what goes on behind the scenes.
Also, a big thank you to Harry from Fun! for coming out and covering the media and Cliff for the event preparation and lending a hand on the day.
Thanks again for reading,