Sunday, September 14, 2008

Drifting: Aren't You Dead Yet?

Watching the Beijing Summer Olympics reminded me that the Winter Olympics is just around the corner. But you can bet your ass that one particular winter "sport" that I will not watch is figure skating. Why? Sure, I suppose you COULD qualify these people as "athletes" and they do train, but I can't exactly see them as anything but ballet dancers on ice. Look at every major sport in the world - basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer, football, rugby, track & field, skiing, cycling, etc, etc, etc. They all have something in common: a quantifiable measure of victory. There's a score. There's an elapsed time. What does figure skating have? A bunch of fat, old "judges" doling out scores based on who the fuck knows what.

In motorsports, the same standard holds. Formula 1, Indy Racing League, FIA GT, DTM, GP2, F3, ALMS, NASCAR, NHRA, etc, etc, etc all have a quantifiable standard by which winners and losers are determined. Whether it's the number laps or ET, there is something to say one guy won and others lost. And this means that each driver has to perform at his / her best over and over again, consistency being the goal. That's what determines champions and runner ups.

Does this same quantifiable standard apply to drifting? Nope. There's no qualifying per se. There's no lap time. There's no ET. Rather, much like figure skating, it's judged by people who frankly haven't won shit. Name one judge in the current Formula Drift series or the defunct Nopi Drift series who is a champion of anything. Judging is never consistent as it's completely subjective. If you aren't a champion, how do you recognize champion-like performance? How do you judge something for which there is nothing consistent nor really quantifiable? Entry speed? Slip angle? Amount of smoke generated? Sounds like someone is blowing smoke up people's asses more than anything.

So there's no consistent basis for judging. Let's talk about the drivers. Tanner Foust is the only guy out of the drifting pack who seems to have the talent to do something aside from clutch kicking or pulling on the handbrake. There's no one else who's achieved real success outside of drifting. (Does winning in drifting count as success in the macrocosm that is motorsports?) And who are all these people that come out of nowhere and all of a sudden have become drifting "stars"?

Does drifting help the industry? Sure, it led to the sudden explosion of used Nissan 240SX's all over the place, but what did it achieve?

No, it did not increase demand for REAL products.

If no one is buying parts, then it doesn't make sense for manufacturers to support drifting. That support dried up a long time ago. And when was the last time you saw a fully sponsored "works" race car compete?

No, it did not help sell tires.

If you've been to any drifting practice days, you know that Chinese tire brands dominate - Nankang, Wanli and Maxxis to name a few. So all that money and product major tire companies invested in drifting have not paid off at all. And these shitty Chinese tire companies are thriving because of it.

No, it did not improve the "tastes" of younger car enthusiasts.

You've seen it. Old, beat up 240's with primer, ill fitting body kits (see below) and steel wheels roaming about. What is old is new again, but what is old isn't fresh (for the most part; there are nice examples out there albeit rare).

No, drifting is not growing.

Quite frankly, the public is so over it. D1 died in the US. Whether the reasons were political, economic or social, it died. To expect D1 to come back to the States is a fantasy at best.

Nopi Drift collapsed as well.

Formula Drift tried to go into new markets; they aren't going back. 3 events in California, 1 event in Vegas, 1 event in Washington state, 1 in Jersey, 1 in Atlanta. Eh, what about the rest of the country? If drifting is so big and growing, why isn't this event list more diverse in scope?

Notice any similarities between the current state of drifting and the death of sport compact drag racing?

Yes, it created yet another new marketplace for knock off parts and companies.

Did it create a new marketplace for knock off companies? Of course it did. Anyone who considered building a serious drift car probably suffered a serious case of sticker shock when looked at the parts list alone - SR20DET swap, front mount intercooler, upgraded turbo kit, boost controller, stand alone, toe rod, tension rod, subframe bushings, LSD, etc, etc, etc. This is not even taking into consideration fabrication costs (stitch welding, cage, etc). Naturally, wanna be drifters looked for cheaper alternatives (turbo'd KA, welded open rear differential, etc) and shitty wanna be parts. I can think of a dozen "brand" names that came out of nowhere, offering "drifting parts."

Yes, it created yet another incorrect example of the motorsports lifestyle for the younger generation.

The top echelon of motorsports contains fine examples of ultra-dedicated drivers. Formula 1 drivers, for example, have basically been driving before they entered 1st grade. Even weekend SCCA club racers have dedicated YEARS to becoming very, very good on the track. Name one drifting "star" who's actually dedicated this much time, effort and resources into his craft? As I alluded to earlier, I can only think of only one driver who can make it outside of drifting. As for the rest, it began and will end with drifting.

Yes, it gave Universal another excuse to create another stupid movie.

Need I say more?

R.I.P drifting. I await the obituary.