(2010 ARTICLE) FORMULA DRIFT And Its Future, My View


FORMULA DRIFT And Its Future, My View
by Justin Banner

Being only a few weeks away from the finale of Formula Drift at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale, it seems like certain people have a view on how Formula Drift is getting away from it’s core, grassroots drifters. Some of the guys who have been in it since the beginning say that the influx of V8s is “the cancer that is killing the sport.” Or it’s difficult to enter the pro-level because the budgets for the good teams is too high, nearly unlimited in the view of some of them. The reality is that is the cost of motorsports, but the grassroots up and comer has a lot look forward to.

Today, if you look at the points ladder of Formula Drift, the top 10 is dominated by near tube chassis, V8 powered purpose built cars with budgets that seem unreachable to the Average Joe. Turek and Millen being the lone cars under 8 cylinders (Turek in a 4 and Millen in a 6). It’s because of this that many original, die-hard fans view feel that Formula Drift has lost it’s way and become a shill for Corporations, money, Drift Alliance, black helicopters, or what every flavor of the week they decide to sip from. Drift Alliance? Well, that would help if more than 3 of the top 10 were DA members and they are spread out (JR 1st, Turek 4th, and Forsberg 6th). Corporations and money? Well, of the top 10, 4 are on Falken, two are on BFGoodrich, two are on Maxxis, one is on Hankook, and one is on Toyo, that’s pretty close, but Falken does sponsor MANY cars that are not in the top 10 and they are 1st, 2nd, 5th, and 8th. More of a hedging of bets than anything else. Monster Energy only sponsors one car and JR is the current points leader, but is advertising isdominated by NOS Energy, yet Forsberg is 6th. Kind of kills that idea, too. Black helicopters, well the government has been around me more often, but I now work at a place near a Quartermaster Base. So much for that.

The reality is that the cream has risen to the top this year. JR has been doing better and better as the Mustang chassis has evolved from porkish drag car to a M3 fighting Pony Car. Dai Yoshihara has gotten better as his S13 LS1 powered car has been in development. Tanner Foust is finally getting into a groove with his tC NASCAR car and has improved over last year. Really, to say that Formula Drift is buying into the things that conspiracy theorists say it is, is to take away from the teams and driver’s who have performed better, stayed more consistent, or have developed their cars prior to this year. Essentially, what these guys are saying is that these guys aren’t talented. Reality has shown otherwise.

The development of Formula Drift has also created a new avenue for smaller budget, grassroots drivers. Working in conjunction with XDC, grassroots drivers no longer have to jump into the shark pool that is professional drifting. A touring series that not only works with the professional series, but also gives those guys looking to step up to FD by giving them the chance to qualify for a FD License. Can’t afford to go FD? Run XDC! Honestly, to look good in the eye of some sponsors, it is sometimes better to perform your best in a lower class rather than not perform at the top level. On top of that, it also gives larger budget teams the opportunity to develop drivers before stepping them up into the professional level, as we have seen with Steve Angerman and Gardella Racing, and I believe that this will be the future of many future top level drivers.

On top of that, there are the many, many legal grassroots events that take place at tracks, parking lots, airfields, bases, and anywhere else they can be held. Locally, for me, Driftwater is holding more and more events each year, Drift Nirvana has their unique grassroots drifting with even more unique trophies. Streetwise Drift is recognized as a Formula Drift Pro-Am series. Opportunities to drift legally haven’t been this good since drifting got it’s hold on America and I can only expect it to get better. As more guys look for ways to do so legally and tracks and other facilities look to get more money in, the grassroots is only going to get better, but it will take the grassroots drivers to organize and encourage their fellow drifters to go legal and encourage tracks and facilities to allow them to drift.

The future of drifting, professional drifting to be exact, is a very similar path that NASCAR, Formula Car, and WRC have followed, but must try to overcome their short falls. I have foreseen, and continue to foresee, the tube-chassis drift car. As the speeds and angles of Formula Drift have increased, there will be a need for more safety. A tube chassis car will provide better safety, but increased costs. We’re not far off that now with many cars just some square tube away from being so. Also, with more manufactures looking to increase brand awareness through drifting, FWD cars are being converted to RWD through an open interpretation of the drivetrain rules. This still, in my opinion, not take away from the skill of the drivers. It doesn’t matter how a car is built (as far as tube chassis vs. uni-body), what it’s drivetrain once was, it still takes skill, setup, and balls to take a car past 90* at over 100 MPH. This will not change, no matter what kind of car is used.

The secret is containing the look of the car. The bodies must stay in the same dimensions as the road going versions. No COT type “stock cars,” no silhouette cars, the wheelbase, width, height, and dimensions of the drift cars must be the same as measured on the road going car. The floor pan can be in any shape required to fit the drivetrain, the firewall can be any shape in order to fit the engine/transmission selection, seating can be as needed to be the safest and best fit for the vehicle and drive, so long as all of this will fit under the body of the road car. This is where NASCAR lost it’s way and how FD can keep it’s way while allowing a larger mix of cars. Manufactures will like it better because now their vehicle, despite being FWD can enter and increase their brand awareness with the fans of FD. Should V8s and V10s be banned? No, not in the Professional level, anyhow. Engine development should be championed in any professional level of motorsports and drifting shouldn’t be any different. Don’t like a V8 or 10, build something that can keep up and quit b*tchin’. You’re in the big leagues, act like it.

While, yes, this will increase costs, but again this is the professional level of Drifting. XDC could still continue it’s current level and allow the Pro-Am driver to develop for the future level and retain the current model rules in XDC and FD, with V8s and 10s in cars that orginally had them, but nothing else. Grassroots will be the entry for the fan that wants to step up and try with cars that are above street-legal cars, but not at the same level as XDC. This is the NASCAR/BUSH/WEEKLY type stepping stone that I have championed since I spoke up about how drifting could and should progress and be better for everyone involved. We do have a great model going right now with FD/XDC/Grassroots and its only going to get better.

So, in closing, I see Formula Drift getting better and more fan oriented. It will become more exciting, faster, with bigger, deeper angles. Cars, at the same time, will become wilder, safer, and more advanced in their builds. FD will grow and advance, just as it is doing now. The cars in the future of FD will be far different than what we are seeing now, and it will be because they will need to. The disgruntled fan of today, however, will still be disgruntled.

See you at the track!


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