Failure is something that no one enjoys. Some people enjoy paper cuts or having to urinate without somewhere to go, but no one likes to fail. The feeling of inadequacy is a feeling that can topple even the strongest will, rendering them into a useless puddle of embarrassment and shame. We as a species, however, mightily enjoy watching others fail. Go onto YouTube and search the word fail. Doing this will result in about 79,900,000 videos available for you to enjoy at your leisure. We seemingly can’t get enough of watching people go through that which would ruin anyone of our lives permanently.
There is, however, a particular type of human that looks at failure in a different sort of way. They seem to have accepted that they don’t fit into the standard roles that popular culture has assigned each of us. They don’t like the mainstream rules for human interaction. Their greetings are often loud and gregarious, laced with obscenity and good-natured ribbing. Their departures are usually no more than an awkward hi-five or a simple nod from across the parking lot. They have loads of tattoos, piercings, cut-off tee-shirts, and vape pens. Their sandwich is tuna, no crust. Even though no one likes the tuna here.
They are drifting enthusiasts.
There are only two things that matter in drifting; authenticity and shredding tires. This is true from the most grassroots level all the way to the pro levels. Drifting enthusiast come in all shapes, sizes, genders, colors, creeds, etc… and what they drive is even more diverse. Battered buckets whose sole purpose is to tote around massive intercoolers and a driver. They are at once horrible and brilliant things. The mix of cars that are literally chassis and a seat that compete with high-dollar purpose-built machines is astounding. What’s better, the look of the vehicle doesn’t play much into the success of the car. Just having a huge budget doesn’t guarantee that you will be victorious.
More often than not the first genuine congratulations bestowed upon the victor comes from the defeated. Teams come together to repair cars that are damaged but haven’t finished so they can go back out and compete, even if that means helping their direct opponent win. Imagine if Hamilton’s crew ran over to Vettel’s box and repaired a broken bit of suspension during a race. That happens in drifting. Drifters stick together because everyone else has cast them off. Traditional motorsport turns it’s nose up when drifting is brought up, yet when a NASCAR driver gets loose and avoids a crash with a controlled drift, they are praised for their excellent car control.
It’s the mix of being considered outcast, of accepting the idea of “if you suck, you suck,” of being apart of a community — perhaps for the first time — that allows drifters not to fear failure. They know that as long as they push themselves and their machines all the way to the limit, they can’t fail. The spirit of competition is more important than the outcome. Watching grassroots drifting makes this painfully obvious. Drivers overcooking the final corner and taking a zero even though their opponent took a zero in the first corner, shows that they are unwilling to phone it in for an easy win. The win is not unimportant, just secondary to killing all tires.
I’ve been a fan of drifting for a long time now. But it took a trip to my local racetrack hanging out with other enthusiasts to make me realize how much I genuinely love it. Their unbridled passion for ruining cars and tires is infectious. The sound and smell of burning metal and rubber is addictive. The fact that you can spend the entire day at the track, entertained from start to finish for under twenty bucks U.S. is absurd. What’s more, by going, you are supporting something that is anti-establishment. Something that makes the old, stodgy, exclusive boys club cringe at the lack strict scoring rubrics and penalties for on-track body contact. There are girls there that are more than just mostly nude breathing sign holders. They work on and build the cars that they then go ruin with the boys. It’s like going to CBGB in the mid-seventies and seeing Blondie playing with The Ramones before they were used to sell credit cards.
These photos were shot at Evergreen Speedway: (https://evergreenspeedway.com/category/drift/), roughly forty minutes north of Seattle. It is also home to the Northwest stop of the Formula Drift series:(http://www.formulad.com/schedule/monroe) which will be held the 20th-21st of July this year.