Our Obession With Drift – The Queensland Raceway Matsuri
Matsuri was bright and intense, it was fun and exciting with old friends and new. It was chaotic and still calm with people everywhere doing many different things yet an attitude of cool soaking over the QR paddocks. There was so much going on and despite the 2 day schedule there was so little time. Everywhere you looked there was something happening, mates peeling out of sheds in groups to hit a track in trains, newer drivers easing into things on the skid pan, pro level cars flicking toward short track wall at unfathomable angles and speed. All of this, all the time. We didn’t need 24hrs, we needed 2 weeks to take all this in.
My matsuri story, like most started weeks ago. With preparation that began at a calm and calculated pace, and concluding as frantic. The Midnight Mechanics were planning to attend as the four original members (Cass, Grant, Jase S and myself). But with a week until D day and a gremlin suspension problem with no solution to be found, Jase S pulled the pin. Cass however refused to be defeated, with an engine expiring and in pieces less than 24hrs before the event kick off, it was touch and go to say the least. With an enormous thanks to Ant from Kaizen Garage, a donor 20valve bottom end was found to mate with his recently rebuilt head. My dirty 31 was in standby mode but an obvious second choice. My car found itself at the tail end of a two and a half year build and with only days to be track ready. A tune the Tuesday before and final small jobs to do kept me completely busy after work every night of the week. So rolling through the gates with a track ready car in tow was an achievement for both of us. Grant as usual had to do an oil change to be ready for the event (bastard).
Arriving early Saturday morning meant I missed the short track action from the night before, but going off firsthand accounts and a constant photo barrage on instagram, the short track comp kicked arse. A huge spectator turn-out, and a lineup of drivers that felt right at home on the treacherous course meant excitement from go to woe. Mix master Mez from Wreck ’Em laid out the action in a lingo that even the greenest drift spectator could appreciate. Short track comp is, by far the most progressive thing to happen to competition drifting in a long time and a great template to be followed in future.
Saturday morning saw our camp desperately trying to maintain a facade of calm. Our cars were prepped and ready to go for the 7am kick off but we anxiously waited until almost 9, checking and re-checking oil, coolant, suspension setup, working out go pros, talking crap etc. For me personally it was only delaying the inevitable test only a race track can give a newly finished car. Eventually we rolled onto track and lined up for turn 3-6. Our first run was a 3 car train with Grant leading, Cass in the middle and me coming up the rear (get your mind out of the gutter). It was haggard; Grant flew in at speed, initiated with a scando and proceeded to link the course from apex to apex. Behind him Cass and I were in demon throws of understeer to wild oversteer correction. The Go Pro footage really needs to be seen to get a true grasp of how rusty Cass and I were. Of course as the morning continued we eased back into the feeling of our short wheel base cars and before long were mimicking Grants lead and even taking lead ourselves.
Sitting in line waiting for our next runs was a great time to take in some of the other action on track. First off, a mention needs to be given to all the Nice Vibe drivers, every time I saw that purple windscreen banner, smooth precise driving was observed. Whether it was Danny T’s 1jz S13 or Kevin Flower’s black S13 a demonstration was on show of how drift cars should look and be driven. The same acknowledgment needs to be given to all the JDM garage cars in attendance, JDM garage being one of the main supporters of drifting in QLD and with a talented bunch of drivers to back up the company name, represent the sport well. Some other notable individual stand outs were Sam Meredith (Mez) in his mellow yellow 86 (complete with a last minute overnight 4age install). Nick Rombouts and his deceitfully ugly (sorry mate) green S13. Nick seems to be competing with Grant for title of most consistent driver in QLD and finally, Casey Dhnaram from Shirts Tucked In in his NA S13, considering the way he was linking the 3-6 crossover with angle and even smoke, not to mention his first time on track, Casey will be one to watch in years to come. Casey is obviously following closely the lead set by Robert Tilbury over the last few years.
The tracks stayed open until 10pm Saturday night, but from lunch time my car was having dramas so Grant and I decided to load up the trailer at 6:30 and tow it to Sam’s, my tuner. My desperation to get it running right meant I would have driven almost anywhere to get it fixed, but luckily for me Sam lives about an hour from the track. With Grant riding shotgun, constantly reminding me how good his traveler beer was, the hour long drive felt much longer.
The drive there and back and a couple of hours spent replacing likely suspect parts, meant we got back to the track at about 10:30 just in time to witness the mood swing into loose mode.
The JDM garage shed contained lads fixing broken cars (a full engine rebuild went down), hitting the piss and hanging out.
Neil Gregson, annoyed from breaking his SR (it shouldn’t have been a big surprise, it’s an SR) was not holding back and definitely setting the standard of drinks consumed.
The Nice Vibe shed was a little more laid back with Nick Rombouts swapping a broken box and helping QR out by mopping up his shed floor with his body, I don’t think I’ve seen a dirtier human being. The Street Karnage shed was sporting some mean euro rave that quickly drew us in. Drum and Base and plenty of beers are a fun combo that is hard to stuff up. Nathan McKenna was in usual fine form and before the night was over constructed the brilliant plan of putting Jared Ahern’s S14 on tyres in the middle of the skid pan. Jared was asleep at the time (the princess needed his sleep) so the plan was to sneak up to the s14 and with the precision and speed of a humming bird open the car and push it to the skid pan. Nathan opened the door and triggered the alarm. Like a true team player he just sat in Jared’s car and waited for him to arrive, when he did he told Jared “we’re putting your car on tyres on the skid pan”. Jared pulled him out, said “I’ll put a stop to that”, locked his car and went back to bed. Even the greatest plans can be foiled prematurely.
After too few hours of sleep and too many beers the night before Sunday morning was a slightly painful affair. Early on it was clear the heat from the day before would be returning so to avoid overheating issues we fought sore heads, strapped in and got on track shortly after they opened. For the first time of the event I was smiling thanks to my cars performance. Whatever we had changed the night before had worked and I finally got to experience the fruits of a 2.5yr car build. The three of us hit 3-6 track again and worked on getting some good tandems under our belt.
After a while Cass bailed so Grant and I ventured over to the turn 2/dipper track. Our first run was one I don’t think I will ever forget. With Grant in lead position I followed close behind, after clicking into 4th gear and getting half way around turn 2 we both clutch kicked and managed to keep our spacing through one transition and a handbrake extension to meet the dipper. After that run I saw the value of my new 4agte setup, the torque really seemed to slingshot me down the long back straight section. The grin was from ear to ear and for anyone else driving on the weekend I’m sure you had similar grins as solid runs were being put down all over the 3 track layout. By lunch time the heat was well and truly upon us and this time with some strong winds whipping up dust (my eye’s loved it). My car gremlins had returned so I had a chance to check out some of the action from the passenger seat of other cars or from the sidelines. I wasn’t the only one with problems; it seemed that every second camp had a car being loaded onto a trailer.
The heat finally got me during passenger runs with Grant at short track at about 2pm. I’m sure he was fighting the same exhaustion but his driving certainly didn’t show it. The rears were well beyond it and the mad man was determined to pop a pair so time after time he threw his car at the very solid, mean looking wall in a full commitment entry that spectators love to see done right and love even more when gotten wrong. Ryan Beal was also there throwing down equally impressive runs and for a while the two KE’s were the only 2 cars on track, an entertaining display of 80’s Toyota engineering being used for exactly what the engineers didn’t have in mind. After 10 or so runs I left Grant to claim his tyres scalps.
Just before the 4pm finish Cass and Grant found themselves back at the turn 3-6 track pulling off some of the their best runs of the weekend. Cass was really lifting his game and destroyed a brand new pair of tyres within an hour and a half (a true achievement for a 4age). With only 30 minutes to go before Matsuri 2012 was over he quickly changed wheels and went back to continue his high speed turn 3 entry’s. Unfortunately he didn’t allow himself to adapt to fresh rubber and understeered into the wall. So close, maybe 2 runs from packing up the car and calling it a day.
We all sprung back into action and acquired a tow strap and found a robust tree to pull back his bent chassis rail. Any bush mechanic would have been proud of our efforts and after a few hours of Cass performing reverse lunges the car was deemed straight enough, the bonnet was tied down and we convoyed off into the night.
On the drive home by myself I had time to think about what attracts all of us to this particular event. Despite being sun burnt, delirious, tired and personally only getting maybe 6 or 7 good runs all weekend, I would happily do it all again next weekend and the weekend after (or until the bank repossess my house). The reason is, life is just too dull without drifting. If you’re fortunate enough (or unfortunate enough in regards to finances) to experience drifting, chances are you will be hooked. Your priorities will change and other aspects of your life will suffer, but you don’t care because while you’re at the track in your money pit car, in blistering heat, fighting mechanical problems, you’re having the best possible time with your mates. How do you put a price on that? Well Queensland Raceway has, its $300 for the weekend and it’s called Matsuri.