The expression "self made" is one that fits professional drifter Aurimas "Odi" Bakchis to a T. He's pulled himself up from the pro-am ranks to lead a very successful career, kicking it off with a Formula DRIFT Rookie of the Year in 2011 and consistently finishing each Formula D season since in the upper ranks of the point standings. He's picked up four podium finishes since '11, including his first round win in '15 at the event in Road Atlanta, and finished just off the podium in fourth at the recent contest in Long Beach to start the '16 season. He's even shined on the world stage, earning a first place in '13 in a round of the Eastern European Drift Championship, as well as picking up a second place in Japan for a round of last year's Formula D World Championship.
Meet the guy, though, and you realize pretty quickly none of that triumph has gone to his head. He comes off as warm and maybe even a little shy, a complete alter ego to the monster he is behind the steering wheel. We're certain his approachable demeanor is at least one reason why Bakchis' sponsors are stoked to back his pro drift program, the latest being Drifz Wheels. Drifz has signed on as Bakchis' official wheel supplier, and together they're working to raise the awareness of the relatively new brand. We recently caught up with the driver at the Formula D Media Day, held just ahead of Round 1, and asked him about Drifz Wheels and the prospects for the season ahead.
Super Street: Are the Drifz wheels you're running this year a design you came up? Or was it something already offered in the Drifz lineup?
Odi Bakchis: Drifz has the design in their lineup (the 308 Spec-R) but we worked together to get the wheel lighter and we changed the sizing a little bit - we basically fine tuned it and it's an amazing wheel now. I'll be running them for the full season.
SS: Will this version of the wheel be offered to the general public? Or is it just motorsport specific? Or is it just for your program?
OB: Right now it's just motorsport specific but there is talk of making it production and possibly offering it [to a wider audience].
SS: What went into the engineering of the wheels you're using? Did you have any say in that process?
OB: I had a say in the things the really mattered to me as someone who runs their own motorsports program. I needed real motorsport lug nuts to fit and Drifz was very accommodating. We bored out the holes and we can run 19mm lug nuts. Center bores were made specific to my Genesis Coupe, which is awesome. There aren't many aftermarket wheels that allow you to pick and choose the center bore. Luckily, this car has a huge one so this wheel will fit other cars. And then the sizing is really important, offset as well; we got really cool, popular offsets and, to me, that's what makes a wheel not only look good on the car but work well, because we're dealing with geometry in the suspension. It's got to have the right scrub and the right tire fitment for today's popular tires.
SS: How much of a concern was wheel weight?
OB: [Weight] is always a concern when you're putting it on a race car where you spend so much money getting rid of un-sprung weight. These wheels are CNC'ed out of a billet piece of aluminum. They're extremely light. It's perfect - I've got the size, the weight, and the details down to the center bore and which lug nuts I can use.
SS: Can you say how much each wheels weighs?
OB: They're right around 20 pounds per wheel, and that's a 10-inch-wide wheel. And it's not a super thinned out wheel that you wouldn't drive on a gravel road, because there are wheels out there that are super, super light, but you gotta be careful not to run over a rumble strip too hard.
SS: Last year we watched you drive your Hyundai Genesis Coupe in Formula DRIFT's World Championship and your Nissan S14 240SX in the North American-based Pro Championship. Are you planning to do any international events again this year?
OB: Right now it's up in the air. We haven't planned to do international stuff. I do have a backup car, and that thing is ready to rock, so if needed we have a car to ship. We've been thinking about it but we're really focusing on the Pro Championship. It's a great series. It's big enough that it keeps me busy.
SS: Did ARK Performance have any say in you running the Genesis Coupe in the 2016 Formula DRIFT Pro series?
OB: We started talks with ARK last season to run the car fulltime and we decided it was more conservative to develop the chassis some more and run it only in select rounds. Plus we wanted to try the World Championship and cover more ground, so it was a perfect fit for the time. Now that we're focusing on the domestic championship, and we have some R&D behind the car from last season, it was a natural fit to run this car for the whole North American series.
SS: What if anything is different this year about the Genesis Coupe versus last year?
OB: ARK Performance gave me the freedom to revamp a lot of the aspects of the car, so we shifted weight around. We got rid of a lot of weight, went to Wilwood brakes, got rid of the brake booster and all the OEM-type stuff to make the car more predictable. Bink Industries helped with getting the front angle kit even more nasty and we changed the rear suspension geometry to get more grip. A lot of techie stuff went into the car in order to get it to do what I, as a driver, feel like a car should do. Everyone's got different opinions about what makes a car fast, some drivers like it to squat, some are anti squat. You get a different answer every time depending on who you ask.
SS: Is there a vast difference between the S chassis wheelbase and the Genesis Coupe wheelbase?
OB: It's a freakish difference. You're talking about 11 inches. The Genesis is about a foot longer from wheel to wheel, and you feel it when you drive it. It's a longer machine to get around the track.
SS: As a driver, it must take a little bit of adjustment to jump from one chassis to the other in terms of predictability and that sort of thing.
OB: It does, but we did such a good job mimicking the car's behavior to my S14 - things like dialing in the rear squat - it was a challenge to do it but now the Genesis behaves like my S14. We went to the extremes of moving the seat five inches in order to get that seating balance the way it is in my 240. There were all kinds of weird things that we had to do like that.
SS: What's going to happen to the S14? Is it just a backup car for North America basically?
OB: It's a really, really fun, badass backup car right now. It's going to hang out, and if an opportunity comes around we'll use it if we can't use the Genesis.
SS: You're a pretty fierce competitor and low key at the same time. There are a lot of admirers of your driving style, and it seems like over the course of your pro career you've surprised a lot of people, too, exceeded a lot of expectations. As a competitor, is it tough to know you have a lot more in you than what a season's final standings might reflect? Emotionally, how separated are you from a season where you didn't get to where you think you should be?
OB: I think that's how a driver feels when they first step into a very competitive sport. They know they've shined in practice or outside of the events, but as years go by, as a driver you realize where it really matters is in competition. So if you can't really put it together in front of the judges, where it's gottta happen, and you gotta swallow that, "Hey, I did it better in practice," or "I know I'm better than this" - you have to put all that aside, and you have to make it so it happens when it counts.