Drifting. Most of us are familiar with the idea - fast cars going sideways, judged on a combination of speed, style and aggressive racing lines. What may seem like reckless abandon to the untrained eye is, in reality, a beautifully synchronized and deeply technical display of automotive control. Burning rubber, screaming turbochargers and the occasional crunch of twisting metal are part of the exhilarating soundtrack - music to the ears, indeed.
The Formula DRIFT series, one of the largest drifting series on the planet, has grown to epic proportions since its inception in 2004. Throughout the 2010 season, dozens of teams have traveled to each event, putting thousands of miles on their respective transport rigs and compiling countless stories along the way. These teams exhibit a certain amount of camaraderie at each event; with so many great people involved in Formula DRIFT, it would be hard not to enjoy yourself and smile all weekend. But the competition is fierce. On the track there are no friends, just the driver standing between you and the podium.
At Round 4 of Formula DRIFT, I was given the unique opportunity to access the minds of Gary Gardella, owner of Gardella Racing, and team driver Ryan Tuerck. I got to see how things went down behind the scenes - the nitty gritty mix in the pits, a place many journalists aren't allowed. I learned a lot in my two short days in the company of Gardella Racing, and the entire team is a real class act, showing me the upmost respect, patiently trying to ignore my camera shoved in their faces while they work. Here are some of my favorite moments of the weekend.
As the sun set and the teams began to roll out, I took the opportunity to pick the brains of Ryan, Gary and the crew one last time. The general vibe is that of satisfaction, with a dash of disappointment. The most prevalent feeling is one of promise; the sights have been set on a first place finish in the next round of Formula DRIFT in Las Vegas. Ryan is unharmed from the wreck -mentioning a slight headache - but after being checked out by the doctors, he is confirmed to be in full health.
As the crew packs up, Gary tells me that he considers the weekend to be a success, and when I remind him that his car has essentially been smashed to hell and back, on both sides, all within the last 48 hours, he laughs and smiles. "You're right, Nate. But that's all part of the game," he tells me. "Wait until you see how we rebuild it for Vegas." And on that mysterious note, I said my goodbyes and parted ways with Gardella Racing. With such a good group of guys, and an uncommonly good display of sportsmanship exhibited throughout the weekend, I can't wait to see what's in store for the next round.