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Drag Racers and Drifters - This Is Why They're Hot

If You Only Had One Race To Choose, What Would You Do? Our Industry's Top Racers Dish Out Why Their Racing Is The Best

Jonathan Wong
Sep 11, 2007
Photographers: Terence Patrick, Super Street Archives

If this were a perfect world, the Jessicas (Alba, Biel or Simpson-we'll take any one of them) would submit to our every whim and drivers would be able to hop into any car and perform any type of racing, whether it's drag, drift or road racing. But the harsh reality is, the Jessicas would never lay a finger on us, much less look in our direction, and drivers stick mostly to one type of motorsport. It's only recently that those who have enjoyed success as heavyweights in their respective sports have moved on to a whole new type of competition or have meddled with forces they never thought they could have taken on. We sat down with some of the most respected drivers in our industry to pick their brains on which form of motorsport is the best and why they've moved over or never even left the sport that kickstarted their formidable careers. We're sure you'll be asking yourself the same question, "Drag, drift or time attack/road racing?"

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Stephan Papadakis
My experiences lie within drag and drift. The drag is really cool from an engineering standpoint, with the vehicle itself, the horsepower you make, the development you do as far as making the horsepower to create those huge numbers out of a small 4-cylinder engine and the acceleration-they're just extremes of every part of a car. The drifting is less about the car-of course, it's still important-but it's 90-percent driver. What's cool is when you get back from a drift run: instead of drag racing where you work on the car, you work on your driving, style, line, whatever. It becomes more of what appeals to you-is it the car or the driving? Drifting also gives you a wheel-to-wheel competition that not many other motorsports can do. Definitely not time attack and definitely not drag racing, either. Drag racing can be exciting because it's side to side, but the downside to time attack is that there's no car-to-car competition since you're basically going against the clock. The Super Lap Battle really shines for the manufacturer and their production vehicle, which becomes a "tuner" car with tuned parts. The competition between shops and other tuners is great because each team has access to the same parts.

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Drag will always be relevant because whatever you drive, you can go to a drag strip, of which there are hundreds of in the United States, and you can race it. The reason why it's less popular now is because it went from the grassroots to this pro level and everybody wants to run what they have, but in order to be competitive, you need a ton of money and a crazy car; it's just so much to go out there and do well and not feel like you're at the bottom of the food chain. Lately it seems like drag is coming back to the grassroots; people are rediscovering how fun it is to go back to drag racing since it's so inexpensive compared to a lot of other motorsports. Would I ever make a comeback? I'm open to it, but after 10-plus years [of drag racing], it's nice to do something different with the friends I used to drag race with.

There are downsides to drifting, though. Sure, you get a lot of track time, but you're still waiting in a line with 40 guys and girls who are also waiting to get out there, too. With road racing, you're sitting around all day waiting for your group to be called. Each form of motorsports has its pluses and minuses."

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Vaughn ''JR'' Gittin
I've been taking a closer look at professional drag racing lately because of a friendship I've developed with Chris Rado over the past couple of years. Drag racers have balls but the pro drag racing circuit boils down to money that's devoted to R&D. As long as they put the time into the build and get down the track with a reliable car, most likely they'll do well. I don't think I'd join the pro ranks, but I am interested in an amateur series because the cars are more equal at that level; it's more driver skill to see who can get down that track faster. Drag racing's a good adrenaline rush, but rather than six or seven seconds of adrenaline, I'd rather have as much time as a set of tires will last me.

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I did my first Super Lap Battle this year just because, dude, I love to go fast. It's so different to me, such a different mindset as a driver than what I'm used to in drifting. It's super challenging and you're constantly learning things about yourself on the track. Every turn is different, finding the proper lines and what is going to help you go faster is an awesome challenge. Not to mention you're on this huge beautiful track, flying as fast as possible-you get to a point where you're so comfortable, you get into this nice flow, a zone.

Drifting is my love and passion. The reason why I love it so much is because it has every single exciting aspect of motorsports, period. Screaming engines, tire smoke flying, the smells, the sounds, the crashes and the door-to-door pure display of car control-it's a full 100-percent challenge. The adrenaline never stops. From a crowd's perspective, anybody with a heartbeat can't stop watching it. Say you're in a mall parking lot and you hear tires screeching, BOOM! You have to look and see who's doing a burn out in the middle of this damn parking lot. The skill level in taking a car 100mph sideways within six inches from the point of where the judges tell us to hit is an amazing thing to accomplish while you're doing it.

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Christian Rado
Drifting's not where my heart is. Don't get me wrong; I would never put any of the drivers down because a) for them to do what they do is pretty awesome and b) they are so skilled, but it's just not my cup of tea. I'm a diehard racer. I don't know any forms of racing that aren't determined by time or by whoever crosses the finish line first. It's hard for me to get really involved with something that's so subjective because I'm one of the guys who gets screwed a lot (laughs). But that's OK because look at what I get to do. It's still f---ing cool for me to be a drag racer. I love pioneering new technology, stuff that hasn't been done by anybody else-period. Whether it's a show car, a drag or road race car-anything. The reasons why I like time attack and drag racing is because that's what we're doing. Who the hell else has gone out there with 600hp on a front-wheel drive race car-no one. I'm going out there and figuring out all the problems so that other people can do the same thing or so I can break some records. Traditionally the front-wheel-drive cars are slower than the rear-wheel-drives and all-wheelers, but we just want to go faster."

Up Close and Personal
This month we're introducing a new section to Super Street called 'Up Close and Personal,' where you'll get a chance to put a face to the famous racer it belongs to. We're hoping this will allow those of you who may not otherwise have the chance to attend any events to see who does the winning. We'll cover drivers from A to Z and from every genre of the compact performance world. This month we have the pleasure of including some of the most well-known and upcoming drivers who have absolutely captured '07 by storm.

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HOMETOWN San Juan Capistrano, CA
DOB Unknown
DAILY GRIND Stunt driver, private instructor, consultant, professional drifter/rally racer
BEST KNOWN FOR Being ultra consistent as a drifter, providing stunt driving for Hollywood (Tokyo Drift on DVD anyone?)

I'm not involved in drag racing because I'm not interested in it. In fact, I've actually talked to a top fuel team about driving for them! My career is biased toward road racing, drifting and rally racing because when I saw those sports on TV I could relate to what those drivers were going through. I wasn't a racing fan growing up; I watched the road/rally racing because I wanted those drivers' jobs! When you see footage of a drift car or time attack car working its way out of a corner, try watching the front tires very closely - you can get an idea of what that driver is doing to make the car work. To this day I'll watch competitors' cars go around the track and learn things about their setup and car capabilities by momentarily putting myself in their shoes. That connection between the racer and the spectator is what got me interested in all the sports I compete in, and it's what will drive me into other motorsports.

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DOB 2/7/74 (Ed); 9/13/72 (Ron)
NICKNAMES "Brokenboltz" & "Chrome All the Boltz"
DAILY GRIND Computer systems engineer/pro drag racer; crew chief
CARS RACED '89 Honda CRX, '03 Mazda 6
BEST KNOWN FOR Inventing the wheelie bar for front-wheel drive drag racing; first unibody front-wheel drive in the 9s; first seven-second import

"We've been drag racing for years and going into any other motorsport, there's this thing about drag racing being its own different breed. Once we got into drifting, we found that everything we learned in drag racing could be easily transferred [over to drifting], and wouldn't you know it, Ryuji [Miki] is doing great. We started researching other teams that have crossed over, like offroad guys who go into open wheel, then NASCAR; it's like, 'What is that?' In racing, as long as you have a good foundation, program or people, you can move to any motorsport. Why not do it with the sport compacts? Instead of moving to a completely different genre of racing, we want to do it all. We've proven we can drag race and drift, and next is time attack; it's the next logical step. As long as it involves a sport compact car, we'll be there."

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HOMETOWN Hachioji,Japan
DOB 12-24-78
NICKNAMES Dai-chan, Slide or Dai, Sexy Boom Boom
DAILY GRIND eBay/ auctions king, professional drifter
CARS RACED Nissan S13 Silvia coupe, Nissan 180SX hatchback, Nissan S15 Silvia
BEST KNOWN FOR JDM hair that never quits; being a great chaser during tandem drift; highest entry speeds in Formula D

"I think drifting involves more driving skill than modifications. Drag racing is almost more about the horsepower and how much money you put into the vehicle. Time attack uses more skill, but you still need a lot of modifications to go fast. How many times have you seen a Corolla beat a Viper on a drag strip or while road racing? Only in drifting is that possible. I don't think I would go out of my way to try drag racing, but if someone put me into a drag car, I think I'd do very well. I would rather go to a Super Lap Battle first, though; it would be my next move."

By Jonathan Wong
507 Articles



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