Fun fact: Australians invented the word ‘hoon’. So it should be no surprise, then, that we love to get sideways in Australia. Yet, for all the passion Australians have for losing traction, we’ve never had a top flight international drift competition make its way down under. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case.
That’s because Formula Drift Asia hit Australia last weekend with a bang you could hear from space. Taking over Melbourne’s Calder Park Raceway, fans were treated to a cacophony of sounds, an eyeful of amazing sights, and the best-smelling tyre smoke money can buy.
The weekend kicked off properly on Saturday with the Australian Drifting Grand Prix. Ostensibly a support event (and a non-points round, too), this was actually one of the most important days in Australian drifting history, with FD Asia licenses up for grabs for the top six.
This made for some fierce competition, and even prompted the return of Beau ‘The Show’ Yates, former ADGP champion, from a year’s hiatus. Sadly, his time off seemed to have dulled his skills, as while his AE86 was looking very sharp, he didn’t progress past the top 16.
For others, the day ended even earlier, with all-round good guy Simon Michelmore hitting the wall at lunchtime. He got going again, but only scraped into the bottom-end of the results.
Thankfully, he provided an awesome show beforehand.
Indeed, one of the great aspects of the ADGP day was its non-stop action. Even in the downtime between segments, organisers provided demo runs from guys such as Jim Schembri, of the Three Fingers Neat crew, to keep the crowd entertained.
Obviously, as is the tradition, you could also meet your favourite drivers, all of whom were incredibly genuine, friendly and just happy to meet their fans. The crowd’s enthusiasm was palpable, too, given 99 per cent of attendees had never seen their heroes outside of YouTube and TV.
In the end, despite some incredible performances from many, it came down to just two: Nick ‘The Drift Kid’ Coulson in his VE Holden Commodore Ute, and Tom Monkhouse in his borrowed S14.5 Silvia.
And while Nick took out the day’s spoils, Tom, who didn’t even know if he was going to drive until three days beforehand, ended up the real story of the weekend. More on that later.
Come Sunday, the fans packed out the stands as the international superstars hit the stage.
Mad Mike proved a crowd favourite, as usual, with his BadBul FD3 looking, and sounding, as mean as ever.
Sadly, in a rare series of errors, Mike ended up taking himself out in his top 16 battle with Thai national ‘Oat’, first spinning into the outside wall at turn two, then spinning out again on entry to turn one. Despite putting on one of the best shows of the weekend beforehand, Mike’s competition run was over. 🙁
However, Mad Mike’s departure left the door open for none other than Tom Monkhouse, who borrowed yet another car to compete against the big boys. First, he downed an out-of-form Robbie Nishida.
Then took out Thailand’s ‘Oat’ (pronouned O – At). Despite being an Aussie, I felt a twang of disappointment here, as Oat was easily the funniest guy that weekend. Sat next to Fredric Aaasbo and Mad Mike, his method of getting attention was to hand out posters while telling spectators they’d make their cars go faster!
Lastly, Monkhouse took out experienced Formula Drift Asia competitor (and fellow Aussie) Josh Boettcher. Incredibly, he was in the final. But who would he meet?
Sadly, it would not be one of his Australasian buddies. One by one they fell to the big guns. Daynon Templeton, who looked great in qualifying…
Went down to the champ, Daigo Saito.
As did Aussie Jake Jones in his immaculate Onevia.
Saturday’s winner, Nick Coulson, ended up on the wrong side of Fredric Aasbo’s monster machine (easily the crowd favourite thanks to its looks and frankly ridiculous NASCAR V8 sound).
And despite a sterling effort, reigning 2012 ADGP champ Rob Whyte suffered the same fate. The only other Aussies in the Top 16, Khoudar El Haouli…
Fell to compatriot Josh Boettcher, while driveline gremlins ended a very promising run from Michael Prosenik in his US drift scene-inspired V8 S13.
The other Asian drivers didn’t fare too well, either. Rio Saputro Budiharjo, in a beautiful R34 Skyline, ended up losing to Mahaputera Wibowo…
Who in turn lost to Australian Josh Boettcher in the Top 8 battle.
In the end, it came down to the battle of the titans to lock-in the final spots. Fredric Aasbo and Daigo Saito had an epic stoush at Long Beach to start the Formula Drift season, and that run continued in Melbourne. As night fell, all you could hear was Aasbo’s megaphone-exhausted V8 as he powered into the first turn, sparks flying from the GT86’s undercarriage.
Unfortunately for Fredric, despite his best efforts, this time Daigo got the better of him. That said, I think some in the crowd thought Fredric was robbed.
That just left probably the most unexpected final in Formula Drift Asia history – multiple champion Daigo Saito in his 1200HP Lexus, versus complete unknown wildcard Tom Monkhouse in a borrowed Laurel. You couldn’t have scripted it.
Sadly, the fairytale was not to be, but hey, second against the best drifter in the world in a borrowed car is not to be sneezed at. Indeed, with Josh Boettcher taking out his third place battle with Aasbo, it was an Aussie 2-3, which gave local fans plenty to celebrate.
Yup, you could safely say Formula Drift Asia’s first visit downunder was a huge success. Let’s hope the tradition continues next year.