Sideways in Arizona
Wildhorse Motorsports Park, Go Fast Entertainment Drag and Drift, May 16th, 2015
There’s something to be said for going to a track to watch grassroots level motorsports. Sure, a professional series may offer some of the most jaw dropping action, but it comes at the cost of time and politics. You get to watch the best of the best, but at great expense and with delays during the event. In comparison, Grassroots events are non-stop. Some people may spin, or the track has to be cleared, but that’s part of learning the sport. What’s great to me is the fact that the guys on the track are just like me. Local gear heads, just wanting to get some seat time in their car.
As usual, the first thing I do at any event is check out the pit areas. It gives me a sense of what cars to look out for on the track, as well as soak in some of the finer details of the builds. I was surprised to see this R32 get trailered in. They are becoming more and more common here in the states, thanks to the 25 year importation law finally being up on this chassis. While I have seen plenty of street driven examples, I like that someone brought in a track rat as well.
I’m not shy about the fact that the AE86 is one of my favorite cars of all time. But I’ve said that when I build one it has to be a Trueno hatchback. And yet looking at this Levin coupe, it’s hard to remember why I was so staunch on my requirements. This car was absolutely stunning, and was well executed both inside and out. I didn’t see it make any passes on the track while I was there, but there’s no doubt in my mind that this car is extremely capable.
Right next to it sat this Subaru, shedding its rally heritage in favor of some skid racing. But you won’t hear a boxer burble from this STi. Instead a 2JZ sits underneath that hood. Yes, this is one of the coolest things ever. It was tough for my brain to reconcile the sound the car was making as it went by. But that’s part of what makes drifting so cool, the sport has inspired quite a few unique builds over the years. This is definitely on that list.
The pit area at Wildhorse stretches the length of the on site lake. It makes for a scenic backdrop, and a really unique environment here in Arizona. The pits were full of the usual suspects, such as the 240sx and Miata. Both cars really make excellent beginners cars, and have the aftermarket support to grow with you as a driver. Couple that with the fact that they are still relatively cheap to acquire, and it’s not hard to see why there are so many around. I noticed quite a few 350z and GTO chassis around as well. I think as the older cars start to become more scarce, cars like those will take their place. RWD, decent horsepower and not terribly expensive. So it still fits the formula.
I had actually planned to drive in this event. I had been prepping my own NA Miata, but I guess the car was cursed. I tried to get the differential welded, and it ended up ruined. Couple that with the fact that it likely had a spun rod bearing, and I just decided to scrap the whole car. Even though I wasn’t running the event, it’s still a blast to spectate. It’s great to see people who are passionate about the sport get together and just have fun. There aren’t sponsorships on the line, or team politics. Just make a pass and get back in line, that’s all you need to do.
Case in point, this Grand Marquis is the absolute epitome of “go out and have fun”. Not many people would think to take an rebadged cop car, put a stinger exhaust on and toss it sideways. I briefly spoke to the owner and he said that all he’s really done to it is swap in a P71 Interceptor computer, and put some Tien suspension in. The car, if you can believe it, is still automatic. If you find yourself with any excuses as to why you can’t make it to the track, you might want to rethink that.
I watched the Grand Marquis make countless passes, and it looked extremely consistent. I wouldn’t have thought of this as being a chassis that would be comfortable drifting, but the owner of this Marquis proved me wrong.
If that isn’t enough proof for you, just look at the diversity of the cars out there. It ranges from daily driver, to Frankenstein. Some brave soul even brought an AW11 MR2 out for some drifting. They have more guts then I do, I don’t think I will ever have the skill to wrangle in that car. The FB RX7 sounded V8 swapped, and was gutted with a hydraulic e-brake. It looks like the owner built a competent little drift car out of it.
I don’t think I can go a single event without finding a few E30s and featuring them. I counted three of them on the track while I was there. I’d like to bring my own E30 out here someday soon. As soon as it’s safe to track again I’ll definitely be on the grid myself.
It wasn’t all just rookies and drift missiles though, some serious machinery hit the track. If you have a roll cage with side impact bars, you can run tandem. The trains some people had going were fantastic to watch. The S-Chassis still seems to be the weapon of choice for Pro-Am drivers, but the odd Subaru and RX7 could hang just as well.
As the light began to fade out, I moved close to the starting line to watch the cars take off. The start line was setup so that they immediately jump into turn one, so the action starts as soon as the cars set off.
The track was lit by a few spotlights here and there. While certainly more than enough to drift with, I had to get creative with where I took photos of the cars. Being backlit, dim and moving fast meant I had to wait until the cars were in the perfect position to get a good shot. I learned a lot though, working trackside afforded me the opportunity to really come to grips with shooting fast moving cars.
The cars tended to initiate at the end of the wall I was standing at, meaning I was close to the action. One of my favorites of the night was this El Camino-fied 240sx, as they were pretty aggressive right off the bat. Plus that’s just a really cool conversion, I’d definitely rock something like that in a heartbeat.
I think you can appreciate the energy of the event up close. From a distance, cars can blend together and drivers are invisible. But from my vantage point I could see them launch, and saw away at the steering wheel. It makes the event come a little bit more alive.
I think events like these are vital to local car communities. It gives an outlet for drivers to stretch their legs and wind out their engines, and gives people a fantastic way to spend an evening watching racing. Whether you’re sitting in the drivers seat, or the bleachers, everyone is here because of their passion for cars. I’d definitely recommend finding an event near you, and giving it a go. It’s hard to be disappointed with a lung full of tire smoke, and an ear full of redline.
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