Just like California, Maki doesn't have much in common with Japanese sushi, and pizza served in New York doesn't share anything with the Italian original (apart from the name), American gatherings of European cars and their fans aren't necessarily like events taking place in Europe. Come to think about it, it'd even be freaky to find out such events look the same in two distant parts of the world. The only way to learn what it's really like is to visit one of the events representing the European tuning scene. For this reason, we came to Poland for the Raceism Event—not the first place that springs to mind when thinking of stance and drifting, but apart from its burgeoning tuning scene, the country has the advantage of being located ideally in the middle of Europe. The events here have the rare ability to gather participants from all over the continent—from Sweden up north, down to Bulgaria in the south, the Netherlands and France on one side, and Russia and Belarus on the other. Such a varied combination offers a unique opportunity to learn about all of the richness of the European tuning scene, differing significantly in trends and culture, depending on the geographical latitude. The announcements during the event are even given in Polish and English so foreign guests can be up to date with all of the action happening over the weekend.
If the name "Raceism" reflects anything, it's not the admiration for this contemptible attitude, rather the organizers' limited knowledge of foreign languages that has led to unfortunate associations English speakers may have (That's cool; we have something called "Race Wars" here in the States, an equally unfortunately named affair - Ed.). The name was created following the pattern of words like Buddhism, Rastafarianism, or hedonism, alluding to the fact that, to the people gathered at the event, cars have greater meaning; it's like a cult, philosophy, or way of life. Yes, they are fanatics, but in a good way.
Although the event was organized this July only for the fourth time, thanks to the high level of the cars attending, professional organization, and attractive spot, the Raceism Event has already grown from a spontaneous tuning meet-n-mingle to what can be called the unofficial Polish tuning championships, bringing together cars from all over Europe in one place to actively participate in many competitions judged by an international mix of experts.
Due to its rapidly growing popularity, the event has moved from one of the grand stadiums hosting the 2012 European Football Championships to a more fitting, modern expo premises in the town of Opole, near the German and Czech border. Despite the meticulous preparations, this year's lineup has probably exceeded the expectations of the event's hosts. Around 600 slammed Volkswagens, Audis, BMWs, Porsches, Ferraris, and everything in between flooded not only the buildings but all of the parking lots and lawns surrounding them as well.
It's hard to point out one, let alone a few, tuning fashions trending at this year's event. Apart from the ever-popular resto-mods, many VIP-style projects emerged, inspired by the Japanese tuning scene (even if based on Euro cars as well). There's a growing racer-style craze that has touched all of Europe's performance car elite - BMW 4 series, Porsche 911 GT3 RS, and Ferrari 458 Speciale included. While good, old stance is as popular in this part of the world as a schnitzel with sauerkraut (which means very popular!), the contestants don't fail to amaze when it comes to the choice of cars to stance. A BMW M3 or an Audi Avant doesn't cut it anymore. To please crowds here, Poles put their hands on everything from an Audi A8 W12 and Porsche Panamera all the way to Saab 93 and Mercedes W114 Coupe.
Americans looking for exotic brand names or local specialties may be disappointed; here owners of cars not much different to the ones found in the USA dress them with parts from mostly the same brands that are hot in the U.S. right now, like ADV.1 or Rotiform. Events like these are very much influenced by the latest trends from Worthersee, brought here by cars that have come straight from that legendary show. It's not unexpected to see many Golfs outfitted with high-end parts nicked from supercars, like Audi RS ceramic disc brakes or Ferrari-badged rims. Interestingly, Worthersee has a worthy rival emerging in Poland, which is growing to a similarly trendsetting role. It's the Wolfsgruppe VAG Event, gathering a relatively small lineup of carefully selected cars and, controversially, being closed to the general public - an exception even in this part of the world.
Raceism works only with the active participation of thousands of spectators who attend the show each year. Here the visitors have a rare, but praiseworthy opportunity to meet the judges before the competition starts and let them say where they come from, who they are, and what their taste in modifications is like. Each year, there are seven arbiters to reflect the international nature of the show, coming from different countries ranging from the USA to Russia. Picking the best project from several hundred isn't easy, so the judges first qualify the best projects for a Top 16 contest and work out the winner based on a knockout system, eliminating the rest of the contestants step by step, to the resentment of the audience who don't hold back their emotional commentary. This year, the title of Best in Show went to an Audi TT Mk1 from the German Lownatics team. It won in the final round against a wonderfully executed R8 owned by Buni, a Swiss well-known to the event's audience, the winner of the previous edition of the show with his other car, a by-no-means-less-awesome BMW M3 E91 wagon.
The main tuning battle was only a start to the action-packed agenda. The best projects formed national representations, which were pitted against each other in a tournament called "Clash of Nations," another innovative idea that may pick up in other parts of the world. The rest of the competitions were based on more objective principles; the challenge called "YOU CAN STANCE" saw cars measured in a quest to find the one with the least ground clearance (title of The Lowest), the rims pushed furthest outwards (The Widest), and the lowest height (Slammed category).
The overall static nature of the show was enlivened by some good drifting action. As in other parts of the world, drifting culture is now well developed in Central Europe, being one of the pillars of the European drifting scene and giving the world many spectacular projects and talented drivers. Radio controlled drift cars proved to be just as popular, having many followers not only among kids but also adult lads and gals alike. A meticulously executed diorama with little JDM cars and BMWs with custom extended fender flares and spoilers swerving between cardboard trees and plastic lampposts attracted no fewer admirers than the real drift contest, proving to be no less spectacular.
If there's one thing that makes Raceism unique in comparison to the rest of tuning fests in this part of the world, it's the music played here. As tuner gatherings in Europe are dominated almost exclusively by techno clamor, the organizers of this event chose to give it a special ambience by injecting some hip-hop culture. It was another great feature of the show: the visitors could go to hip-hop gigs played by artists from the US, with graffiti, breakdance, and DJ shows completing an eventful weekend. Even if tuner fests in the US do differ considerably from car parties held in Europe, it turns out such gatherings look for the same things in every part of the world—great cars and having a good time.