Formula Drift Asia Melbourne, like other motorsports, is all about the on-track action. Wheel-to-wheel drifting, banging panels and roaring engines. But there’s another side of it often doesn’t make it to the TV screens.
Sure, you get the press conferences, but there’s a lot more that happens that doesn’t make it to your screens. Like much of what goes on on Friday’s media day, for example. Here, us folk get the chance to wander the paddock before the punters arrive, meet and chat with the drivers and organisers and do lots of other stuff. For the teams, it’s a chance to get first dibs on the track, testing out set-ups and hopefully find and get rid of any gremlins that might crop up.
Sadly, crop up they did. Fredric Aasbo, Daigo Saito and 2012 Australian Drifting Grand Prix champion Rob Whyte all encountered problems over the first two days.
Fredric seemed to have throttle-related issues, and Daigo had multiple troubles with his turbo system.
Meanwhile, Rob Whyte had some clutch slave cylinder bolts come loose mid-run, resulting in the pedal going to the floor and damage to his ridiculously expensive Holinger sequential. Thankfully, being in Melbourne, Holinger’s factory was not too far away, and parts could be sourced relatively quickly.
Of course, when you’ve got a brand new car, as in Fredric’s case, or a machine pumping 1200HP, like Daigo’s, trouble is always likely to crop up. Thankfully, Fredric…
Daigo, and Rob all managed to get things sorted before competition started.
Another aspect of Fridays is media rides. Here, those who choose to do so get to ride alongside the pros. Now, I’ve been in 400+ horsepower cars before, and gone sideways on skidpans as well, but nothing quite prepares you for the rush that is drifting at a high level. The slamming acceleration that comes from a stripped out 500+ horsepower car, the lateral G’s, the feeling of sliding along at 60mph or more. I got out knowing exactly why the pros do it.
The one downer was I completely failed to recognise the difference between the recording and standby lights on my new GoPro and didn’t record a second of my run with Aussie Alex Kantarovski, but here’s a shot of me looking nervous beforehand.
Talking of videography, Friday was also a chance for official Formula Drift Asia film maker Yaer Productions to get all their documentary-style on-boards done before any chance of their thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment being shattered by on-track collisions.
The media day ends with the official driver’s briefing. Of course, this is usual, but this round it was especially important, as the Formula Drift Asia track on Sunday was going to be completely different from the one used Friday and Saturday. This is because the Australian Drift Grand Prix guys, who competed Saturday, have always used a certain track layout, and Formula Drift wanted a different one. Not only did this mean Friday practice was less useful than usual, it also meant the poor track workers ended up working through the night on Saturday to get the course ready for FD Asia.
Of course, being a driver’s briefing, Speedhunters’ Larry Chen (our next Shoot the Shooter, by the way) was on hand to document proceedings as well.
Ably accompanied by their man (usually) in Japan, Dino.
The day hadn’t quite finished yet, though. First was the official driver’s photo.
Followed by the not-so-official driver’s photo.
Before we finish up, I’d like to share a few other things that caught my eye that weekend off the track. First off, Mad Mike’s tyre/tool trolley, which, if you look carefully, has stretched tyres on very cambered wheels!
Sticking with rubber (pardon the pun), this is how much of it accumulates in the wheelarches, wheels and other crevices of just one corner of a serious drift machine after a day of competition. In this case, Saturday’s Australian Drifting Grand Prix winner, Nick Coulson’s, VE Holden Commodore Ute.
On Sunday, Australian Drifting Grand Prix officials also participated in a tradition I hadn’t seen before at a motorsports event..
Not to be left out, the Formula Drift Asia Top 16 drivers threw T-shirts.
Finally, I’d like to leave you with a rare moment at an FD Asia event – Daigo Saito cracking a big grin at the post-race press conference. It’s not like Daigo never smiles. In fact, he’s got this permanent underlying happiness to his face that is a joy to watch, but it’s rare he cracks a toothy one.
OK, that’s a little look at what happened off-track at Formula Drift Asia Melbourne. Hopefully it gave you some more insight into what happens away from all the burning rubber and thunderous engines.