As the saying goes there is a first time for everything, ask me a few months ago if I thought I’d be attending a Formula Drift event and you’d have gotten the infamous, “wtf, you mad bro?” response. Like most people the major factor that determines how I treat with my wanderlust is finances- well usually it’s the lack of. Then local drifter and TTDA (Trinidad and Tobago Drift Association, my word how many times do I have to tell you the meaning of TTDA?) official, Devon Bartholomew invited me to travel with him and a few other officials to the Formula Drift Orlando round once I can cover my own costs, um what? My initial thoughts were how the hell am I going to do that?! Recalling a conversation I had earlier this year with Formula Drift’s staff photographer, Larry Chen with respect to traveling for photojournalism and the associated cost, where he gave me solid advice to stay away from crowd funding and how much it’s worth to pay for yourself to go to the events if it’s what makes me happy. Given such advice I decided to stop being a little bitch about the cost and work towards earning enough money for it- which I did. A priceless experience! Starting with a 3½ hour flight from Trinidad to Fort Lauderdale in a plane that was losing cabin pressure at 30,000 feet and had to be brought down to 10,000 feet in a matter of seconds- oxygen masks deployed and all, I knew I was in for a hell of a weekend! As if sitting quietly for a flight wasn’t enough to send my ADHD off the charts, cue 3hr drive from Fort Lauderdale to Orlando. *slams head into wall* You can definitely count on a bunch of Trinidadians to fit themselves into a 7-seater mini van with luggage and still have room for more. And you know what’s worst than getting three-hours sleep a night for five-nights in a row? Being woken up at 7AM like clockwork…EVERY. SINGLE. MORNING.
Undoubtedly it’s still the best thing I’ve ever done in my life thus far!
As covered in a previous post, the purpose of the visit to Orlando was to meet up with the Formula Drift officials such as President/Co-Founder Jim Liaw to discuss and learn the logistics of a FD event and how they can be applied to the local drift championship, Drift Motion given that the prime objective since inception was to grow local talent to international standards. In my opinion the local championship series isn’t that far off from attaining the standards at Formula Drift, the main difference is the corporate backing. Apart from that it’s minor differences such as the delegating of tasks and proper time management. It’s like clockwork over here! Way before the team and I set foot onto the track I was flabbergasted, starting from the fast food restaurants and the supermarkets the service received exceeds that which is available in Trinidad, tenfold and this service carried on through the duration of our trip. ‘Murica!!! Don’t let my keyboard warrior antics fool you, in real life (unless I’m extremely comfortable with you) making conversation is very hard for me, safe enough to say I’m antisocial. Due to the fact that I received media accreditation to shoot at the event I was allowed into the venue on Thursday whereas the rest of the team who were VIP pass holders and weren’t allowed entry, given the basis of our trip and Thursday being the least hectic day for the officials I was sent on a daunting mission to meet Jim Liaw to explain the situation and to get the team inside. Breaking barriers! Guess I’m a big boy now. No really look, adult height. Aww yes! Walking into the racetrack the first thing I saw was MadMike and his team prepping the RadBul for a practice run, um um do I fanboy now or go meet Jim to get the team inside? Fanboy. Team. Fanboy. Team. Ahhh rats, team it is. Coming into the trip though I fully understood the purpose I wasn’t aware of the impact that it would have. After a fruitful meeting with Jim and TTDA’s Ian Cox and Roger Hutcheon it hit me, hell I can even describe it as an epiphany. The holy shit moment of all holy shit moments. I realized we were making history! If there was one thing that touched me it is how genuine the drivers and staff were, how easy it was to approach them. Devon shaking hands with Ken Gushi? Sitting for a half-hour conversation with Forrest Wang? NO WAY! These are famous people, the ones you see on TV and the Internet who would think they’d be so down to earth?!
It wasn’t until Friday morning when I realized how spoilt Trinidad had me with respect to media- in order to receive a vest to go onto the track I had to attend a mandatory 30 min meeting. Missed the meeting? Can’t shoot on the track then, fam. Want the vest? Better leave a form of ID so they can ensure the vest is returned. Want to roam the track? “Hell no, stay in your designated media areas- for your own safety!” The track itself is oval-shaped but for the purpose of the event, a layout that was primarily a figure-8 was used. It consisted of the cars dragging off in a straight line and initiating along the straightaway in order to throw the back off the car onto the wall while banked. The banked section is then followed by flat section where the drivers can power through a front clipping point and back to finish the course by following the inner curve of the track to a rear clipping point. The course itself is set by the judges but is over viewed by track safety officials. Based on this drivers are judged on their line, angle and style. The line is depicted as the path which a driver must take while maintaining proximity to the clipping points and zones. Driving angle, it is what it is- the amount of angle the driver is able to achieve via steering inputs. Last but not least is the style which is judged by a few contributing factors such as initiation, fluidity and commitment, while initiation and fluidity maybe self-explanatory the commitment is based on the throttle application, pace and general aggression to push beyond the limits of the track. Balls to the wall. In terms of what stood out the most to me in competition is how much the drivers pushed and the proximity achieved in the tandem runs- no worries about crashing. It’s all part of competition. The best tandem for me is definitely Landerville x Jones in the final run for PRO2 competition where Landerville emerged victorious.
I honestly do hope I can visit sometime soon again! PRO2 Results: 1. Marc Landerville 2. Jeff Jones 3. Matt Madrigali 4. Andrew Lewis PRO Results: 1. Fredric Aasbo 2. Kristaps Bluss 3. Chris Forsberg 4. Tyler McQuarrie Here’s some more of my favourite images of the weekend:
Yes that’s shredded tire bits thrown up from the track onto the bleachers. Maybe if we sweep it up it can be recycled to make new tires? Lol.
The Hammer chasing down Robbie Nishida. Though not showing his usual aggression on track, Aasbo was still impressive this weekend.
Before I gained confidence to make my way into the designated media areas, I was shooting through the fence. Alex Hohnadell runs against teammate Forrest Wang.
The 4Rotor held one of the biggest surprises for me this weekend, I expected it to be WAY louder than it was.
Decisions decisions. What to get Dirty Dirky back home, how about these ladies holding a photo of his car? #waycool
A shot that reminded me I was far from home, very far! PRO drivers MadMike and Aasbo going at it…in practice.
Definitely one of the coolest drivers we met this weekend, shame he didn’t make it further into competition.
Andrew Lewis and local drifter Roger Hutcheon exchange thoughts on their similar Nissan S-13 builds.
The Gush in casual conversation with Forest. It’s so cool that the drivers are like brothers in the pits and leave the fighting on the track.
The only Caribbean driver at PRO level, Jhonnatton Castro. Did rather well too knocking out Long Beach champion Chelsea Denofa in the Top 32.
Our t-shirts surely were one of the best investments on this adventure. I was surprised how many people knew Trinidad and Tobago existed.
That there is more tire packed onto the wall of the racetrack, oh and pieces of someone’s brake light- contact with the wall or another car is inevitable out here.
The PRO2 cars lined up for their opening ceremony. What divides them from their PRO counterparts? Money really.
The transition from the bank to flat ground in the power section of the course is what made the course so interesting for me.
Ken surely put out one of his best performances in Round 3, but only one can advance. Forsberg puts him out in the Great 8.
I’ve never had the opportunity to shoot on film, pretty sure this is what it’d look like if I did though. #blackandwhitefanboy