A lot of us probably never thought we’d see this: D1 drivers in D1 cars in Australia. It was worth the wait.
Suenaga-san in the north-south converted Lancer and Kumakubo-san in the WRX graced us with their considerable presence at World Time Attack this year, and in doing so changed drifting in Australia forever.
Although Kumakubo struggled with setup problems all weekend he still treated us to some beautiful runs.
Suenaga, on the other hand, drove flawlessly all weekend. This shot is the perfect example – he was able to put the car exactly where he wanted it on every lap. If there was a spare mm of track that he could use to be smoother and faster, he would put the car right on it.
I love this shot – came out looking kind of Japanese and makes Eastern Creek look like it has corners. While the top Australian and NZ drivers would initiate flat out at 155-165 km/h and then wash off all their speed in this section of the track to transition before using their 400 million kw to powerslide the rest of the course, Suenaga took a different and altogether more intelligent (not to mention skillful) approach. He would enter at around 145-150 km/h and use all the available track width to maintain an even speed throughout this section of the track. Slow in – fast out. Who ever said drifting was nothing like real racing? Suenaga actually had problems with the extreme slowness of some of the drivers through this section of the course early but by the time the late rounds came along he had it dialled, ultimately throwing a huge angle entry in his lead run in the final to completely eclipse Tony Harrison in the awful (but very fast) V8 Sileighty and force him into a spin. To quote Suenaga-san himself – YYYYYEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It was even a buzz watching the team in the pits. Here Suenaga inspects the dump pipe he just broke…
Team Orange mechanics preparing to fix the car. They borrowed a welder and the guy who wheeled it over offered to weld the pipe for them, to which the mechanic in the overalls very politely replied “ah … it’s OK … we have ah … a welding professional!”
All the stuff above is all well and good, but here’s where drifting in Australia changed forever. For me anyway. I have attended a heap of drift events, probably more than I can count, since I was introduced to the sport in around 2004 at the inaugural Drift Nationals. I’ve been noticing improvements in all the drivers, and have seen closer and more intense drifting just about every time I have been to the track over the past couple of years. I had thought we were getting really good, the equal of many around the world. I was wrong.
It was just one run, but the tandem demo run from Kuma and Suenaga absolutely blew me (and the rest of my travelling party) away. They initiated door to door and stayed exactly like that for the rest of the course, Suenaga edging ever closer as they moved through the track. None of the “close but not too close, then on your door under power” type driving that the best of the locals do, but genuine door to door drifting through switchback transitions. Just like on DVD.
As close as it is possible to get without touching. All at well over 100 km/h, on lock.
As they drove past us side by side I turned to Rob, who was clearly still stunned. We both managed an excited giggle and a shrug. That was about it. Drifting had just changed.
The bar has been raised.