If you're an avid reader of Speedhunters, you may have read a recent post on 'what car culture means to you' and it got me thinking. There probably isn't a single sector of the automotive world as married to the word 'culture' as the Japanese car scene. When I think of Japanese culture, I only think of one thing. Aggresive styling, meaty fitment, hard driving and obnoxious colour schemes.
I started driving in 2014 and that enabled me to travel to Mondello Park, a location I was more than familiar with from almost monthly visits with my father. Something I had never spectated, though, was drifting.
Due to working weekends, I could never attend the big IDC events, so the smaller private trackdays had to do. Looking back now, I'm glad this was the case. You see, if there was one word that would best describe the differences between competition drifting and grassroots, it would be style.
In mid May 2015, I got an invite on Facebook to a new private drift event being held in Mondello. Organised by a well-known name in Irish drifting and hosted under the famous Clubloose banner, I knew this was one to attend. I'd seen the videos from Englishtown, the aggresive driving, the outrageously low and wildly modified cars.
To this day, I still consider that first Clubloose event the best drift event I've ever attended in Mondello. And it's simply because the cars on track were fantastic. There were no over heating, battered E36s. No silly looking competition cars with fake bodykits and Wisefab steering racks. No heroes attempting to skid the whole track in 1st gear.
Close your eyes for a second and you'd almost think you were on the main straight at Sportsland Yamanashi. I don't think I've ever seen a full grid of properly styled drift cars at Mondello since. Being exposed to these guys trying to emulate true Japanese drift culture was inspiring. I have no doubt that it is the sole reason I've very little interest in competition drifting today, where the true roots of the sport have been somewhat lost.
With most of these cars, function follows form. It's all about style. If the car doesn't look good sliding, what's the point. Sure, in most cases handling is compromised, but these cars were never built to compete against the next guy. They were built to have fun and to look good doing so.
In all the drift events I have attended since, only one comes close to that day in May. 86 Fest. Each year, towards the end of August, the circuit is filled with screaming 4-AGE's for a celebration of Irelands lovechild, the Toyota Corolla.
Like Clubloose in 2015, 86 Fest always attracts the cooler stuff. Cars and drivers that, for one reason or another, don't often appear in the same quantity at the more mainstream drift practice days. Seeing these super low, hard driven cars on track is so refreshing, and each year I fall in love with drifting all over again. Sadly, it's likely we won't have the privalege of 86 Fest this year, but absence will only make the heart grow fonder and I've no doubt next year will be outstanding.
I hope you've enjoyed looking back on these photos, I hope they sparked some good memories and perhaps that little bit of motivation to get the pride and joy back out on track - when we can safely do so of course. I know I'll be eagerly waiting, camera in hand.
Photographs: Clubloose 2015, AE86 Fest 2015, Auto Heroes 2015.