Boasting one of if not the largest purses in a drift competition in the country, Turismo Drift held its fourth ever event at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, where 15 drivers found themselves competing for the $5002.00 top prize. Started in 2016 by now Formula DRIFT Pro 2 driver Hooman Rahimi, the series advertises itself as "for the drivers," providing an opportunity for serious competitors to earn mega-ish bucks in the process.
Turismo Drift began the seeding-based qualifying format carried on by its East10 Drift pro-am sister series, where drivers have a set amount of time to lay down their best runs for the judges. Due to the number of qualifying drivers, this system presented a bracket where the top three drivers got automatic bye runs into the Great 8 round of tandem eliminations, while the remaining ten drivers battled it out to fill in the other five positions.
Dmitriy Brutskiy, piloting Michael Essa's old Formula D BMW Z4 and who looked very strong at the East10 pro-am in June, fell to last year's US Drift runner-up Noah Michaels in his Torqstorm Superchargers S13 in the first pairing. Joseph Lampe and his Lexus SC battled Jake Elliot's S13 next, with the Lexus getting the nod. Next was perhaps one of the most unusual battles one would expect to see at any drift event - against David Leffel's 1964 Ford F-100.
Of course, it's no ordinary F-100. Under all that patina sits a massive twin-turbo 6.5L V8 putting down an insane 950 horsepower to the rear wheels. Originally sitting on a 9-inch Ford four-link rear suspension setup, Leffel realized it was less than ideal. He switched to the IRS setup from a '15 Mustang, with the front end being custom built to widen it by nine niches, helping to achieve the angle he was after. A T11A dogbox transmission and Wilwood Pro knuckles and spindles under the front help round out the unusual, but effective, package. Ultimately, some contact with the wall with the truck gave McGuire a pass into the next round.
Pro 2 driver Troy Manners, who won the second Turismo round in 2016, drew the black S14 coupe of Steven Fishel in the next bout, with Manners sliding into the Great 8. Finally, Michael Wallis' S14 coupe defeated the C5 Corvette of Marc Rose to round out the first set of pairings.
Jonathan Nerren, who got second to Manners in that 2016 competition and who competes in Formula DRIFT Canada, defeated Michaels in the first battle of the Great 8. McGuire and Lampe were up next, with the S15 taking the win. Nerren's Zenna Tire teammate Joseph Love, who finished third in the inaugural Southeast Drift Union series last year, defeated Manners to advance on. Matt Lynch and his LSX-motivated Mustang knocking out Wallis' S14 rounded out the Great 8.
Nerren and McGuire threw down hard in their Final 4 pairing, with Nerren ultimately taking the win. Love grabbed the win over Lynch, pitting the latter against McGuire in a battle for the bronze, while the Zenna Tire teammates duked it out for the win. McGuire would find victory over Lynch to clinch third and the $1,000 that came with it.
"I'm trying to drive with as many different people as possible," McGuire, who won the Lonestar Drift series in 2014, said. "I know a lot of them through Facebook, but to put a face with a car and go door to door, what's what it's all about."
Being a new chassis for McGuire, the first part of the day was spent getting used to the platform. Concerning that LS7 power plant, he said his end goal is to make the setup as reliable as possible. He purchased the engine through GM Performance, then immediately tore it open and added around $6,000 worth of race style internal parts, including the rotating assembly and four stage external dry sump. He ran Pro 2 in 2015, and said he's trying to build the car on the knowledge of everything that's been proven at the top level.
"If I can get a backing to drive pro again, hell yeah I'll do it," McGuire said. "It was a dream to get my license, but the budget is crazy to drive anything pro."
The final pairing between Nerren and Love saw Nerren clinch the win, along with the $5,002 check. With Love taking home $2,500, the teammates left with an extra $7,500 between them.
"I'm still $2,500 broker because that's all going back to the shop," Love joked afterward. "It's always fun running Turismo events, and running against my teammate in the finals was about all I could ask for. I'm proud of him and myself, and it was good being able to podium in my third year (at Turismo). Third time's the charm I guess."
Nerren shared that sentiment. "I love competing, it really gets me amped up and pushes my limits. We make each other better drivers, and the fact we found each other in the finals was just the perfect day for me and the Jonahtan Nerren Racing team on Zenna Tires."
For Nerren, it's both less stressful yet seemingly more intense to do battle within his program. "There's a no-holds barred mentality going against Joe. He's part of that Myrtle Beach crew and those guys go harder than anyone we've driven against. It was a win-win, and the stress was out the window. We've driven against each other a lot, I know his style and he knows mine. I have to drive 110 percent and not leave anything on the table, or he's going to suck it up and take advantage of that, and I expect him to."
When the competition was over and the champagne sprayed, drivers hit the course again, giving ridealongs and enjoying some stress-free seat time. That's when Leffel's truck hit the wall. Luckily, Leffel and his passenger were fine, and the damage to the truck was largely cosmetic.
"We're used to running 295 series tires, but were on 265 for this event, so she slipped out from under me," Leffel said. "Most of the damage is superficial."
Plans haven't yet been made for the next Turismo event, but it's possible the series will return to the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway once again in 2019.