Now that the U.S. has gotten their first taste of real professional drifting, it's time to face the facts. What I'm about to say is not only controversial, it also tends to be blown way out of proportion (I just thank our forefathers for the first amendment). Although every citizen has been granted the freedom of speech, I'm lucky enough to write for a nationally-distributed magazine-so I can hide behind the reporter's guise-so I'll let the bitching begin.
People in this industry have said drag racing matured in the blink of an eye. Considering it started out as an underground scene in the early eighties, only to break into the mainstream in less than a decade tells us that big time manufacturers want to spend money to get their fair share of the industry. When it all started, the import industry was based off of a bunch of kids that liked to street race-drag race in particular. From there we have gradually seen street racers turn into professionals with big time sponsorship involvement. While not all can say they were there from the beginning and made a career out of it, most can say they were part of the movement in import drag racing. For that matter, even companies that have been there from the beginning can boast about being the industry icons from back in the day. Today we have new heroes and plenty of old ones as well as different car manufacturers jumping into the mix to the point where it has gone mainstream. How it all started has become dust in the wind. In my opinion we lost all the fun of racing to big companies with a lot of money and different sanctioning bodies telling us to race their way.
Now we are starting all over again with drift racing. What most people don't know is drifting has started and is still in its underground street-racing phase. We are now seeing kids that started in the streets and moved on to the D1 Grand Prix. It's the beginning of another direction into the import industry but rather than the drifting scene building its own wings for flight, it's the same companies that blew up drag racing that will eradicate what true drifting is all about. We are faced with the companies that jumped into drag racing and even the car show scene trying to get their piece of the pie on the drift era. D1 Grand Prix will always be the big drift show that racers and spectators will look forward to, but in due time we will have anywhere from two to five other sanctioning bodies that will pop up to get in on the action and this will end the era of racers just out to have fun. Where companies see dollar signs, the true drifters that started in the U.S. just see having a good time with friends. Soon racers won't be allowed to compete at certain races because of sponsor-related drama or, even worse, weight breaks and car setups will hinder their competing. Eventually there will be different classes to compete in and even more decision on the route you want to take.
The corporate domination and corruption of a businessman's way to make a buck will destroy what drifting is about. What is now racing among friends for a $20 trophy will turn into the morbid frenzy of trying to make the most money and how to stay on top of the game. As of right now, American drifters don't know much about sponsorship and how it works. All they know is if a tire company wants to sponsor them that means they don't have to pay for tires anymore. Considering tires are the main thing that hits their wallet, they are happy just to get tires instead of getting paid. Eventually they will understand how things work on the sponsorship side of things and how to utilize their driving ability to make money. This will leave you with two types of people: the racer that wants to make a living out of it and will eventually forget about what drifting stands for and the racer that wants to keep it real but can't compete due to his financial status.
On another note, while attending the D1 at Irwindale Raceway, I noticed a few of the old school drag racers (that have now moved on to the professional ranks) wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Days after the event I heard a few of these guys were on the prowl for cars to buy to get in on the action. Now here is another problem I see: It was these same guys that started in the drag racing era and have since became icons in the import drag racing scene. Now, with this new era of racing, they too want their piece of the pie. But it really makes you wonder what they're after. When they attended the event, did they look at the cars and say, "That looks fun. I would like to try that," or are they looking at the sold out crowd and saying, "I better get in on this cause it seems to be getting popular."
To finish my constant complaining I'll end it at this. Drag racing has gone corporate and its popularity will continue to grow because everyone that was once a racer will get their kids to come out and watch. Drag racing has not died and it will go on stronger than ever, but it matured fast and I already see this happening in the drift world. As of now it's in its underground phase and has just moved up two levels to the professional ranks in the U.S. thanks to the D1 Grand Prix. D1 will always have one thing going for them in the U.S.: you have the chance to compete against Japan's best. So when we start seeing all the other sanctioning bodies pop up, keep in mind that it started from the streets and D1 is the closest to the street level. But this makes you wonder what corporate U.S. will try and do with it and only time will tell. One thing is for sure though, get ready for drifting to grow at a faster pace than import drag racing.