Running the Wall

Open-wheel formula, touring cars, rallycross, rallying, hillclimbs: there’s many different motorsport classes available to the car fan, yet few are really affordable to the amateur enthusiast. Drifting, however, appears on paper to be relatively inexpensive. Get yourself a rear-driver, spare wheels and a tyre budget and you can get stuck in, so it seems. My first visit to Driftland in Lochgelly, Fife last month proved me partially wrong.

Compared to, say, rallying, drifting is indeed cheaper to get involved in, but only if you don’t bend the car. There’s a reason why most of these cars run with different-coloured body panels, and it isn’t an aesthetic one. You’ve got to factor in spare tyres, clutches, bumpers (for when you inevitably tag another competitor or the wall) or even a whole new engine if your high-revving slides detonate your car’s powerplant. As a result, costs can spiral way out of your initial reach if you’re not prepared. My visit to Driftland UK’s May Weekender with ABZ-BMW and thelowcartel gave me my first in-person experience of a drift event (well, outside of an illicit slide around a wet roundabout) and showed me why cars like the one below are still a lot of fun.
Driftland - BMW - E36 - Scotland | www.motormessenger.co.uk
The Jumanji Nights E36; a legend in Scottish drifting
There’s a gritty allure to Driftland when you first arrive at the circuit. Located in an industrial estate in the middle of nowhere, it’s a fitting introduction to a venue and form of motorsport which is largely free of pretensions. We parked up our cars on the stock car oval for the day’s show and shine competition before heading over to the drift track. The simple circuit – currently the UK’s only dedicated drift track – has several different layout configurations to suit different events and cars. On this day, drivers would face a left-right chicane after accelerating onto the track, closely followed by another chicane. This would spill out into a sweeping right-hander before the main straight. Drifters would enter the final right-hander at speed – with the fastest at 80mph – before looping round and starting a new lap. Despite the relative youth of Driftland, it was clear to see that The Wall had been well-used by previous competitors, with a noticeable collection of gouges and scrapes just before the entry point of the corner.
Scotland - Driftland - BMW - Volvo - Mercedes-Benz - Drift | www.motormessenger.co.uk
ABZ-BMW/thelowcartel club stand
Drift - Driftland - Scotland - Nissan - BMW - Supra | www.motormessenger.co.uk
Is it rear-driven? Yes. Does it run? Yes. Does the boot shut? No.
It’s always interesting to see the variations of machinery seen in different motorsports. Whilst there were your archetypical Japanese coupes on track, Scotland’s weapon of choice seemed to be old BMWs. Asides from an E39 5-Series and two E46 3-Series, more than half the field was composed of E36s in Coupe, Touring and Compact flavours. Nearly all of them were stripped out, with dented panels, mismatched wheels, bonnetless engines, induction kits and straight-through exhausts. A red Compact had a great party trick of popping its boot open unintentionally as it skittered its way through corners. All that downforce must’ve helped, though, as it often ran in tandem drifts with another Compact for most of the day.
BMW - E36 - Drift - Drift Train - Driftland | www.motormessenger.co.uk
The perfect drifting line
I’m certain that BMW never anticipated that their executive expresses would be used for such a brutally unglamourous form of motorsport 15 or so years after they’d stopped making them. As an advert for the durability of BMWs, Driftland is a potent one. Nevertheless, part of me was sad to see so many shagged-looking E36s getting slideways. There were no large accidents on the day, however, with only one E36 losing its coolant and another gently tapping the wall. More than worthy of mention was a particular white E30 Touring with a 2JZ swapped in. It absolutely monstered the field and even gave a professionally-driven Supra a serious challenge with its ludicrous slip angles.
As a relative newbie to the sport, it was fascinating to watch the different techniques of each competitor. The mechanic for Chizfab driving the blue Lexus Soarer would grab the hydro, lock the rear wheels, pitch it into the corner and then quickly countersteer whilst getting on the throttle. Another guy, driving a less powerful E46 Coupe with a spoiler not unlike that found on a GT1 car, would Scandi-flick the car into the bend at the last minute and jump on the throttle. Each competitor initiated and continued a drift in different ways, with the most consistently sideways drivers clutch-kicking their way through the tire smoke.
BMW - E36 - Driftland - Scotland | www.motormessenger.co.uk

 

For me, Driftland was not only a showcase into car control, but a refreshingly low-key and grassroots experience of a very rewarding motorsport for both competitor and spectator. Driftland has a lot planned for 2014, with Speedhunters, Ryan Tuerck and a host of other big names descending upon the circuit throughout the summer. Whilst words and pictures can’t really do the spectacle of drifting justice, I took this video so that fans of motormessenger could have a better appreciation of what a bunch of stripped-out secondhand cars can do with a little provocation…
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