The Tectaloy International Drift Challenge
Imagine standing in front of a cheering crowd, in a country entirely different from your own, holding a trophy high in the air after having just competed against some of the world’s best drifters. The cool night air chills the sweat running down your face, every limb is exhausted from a night of fierce competition, but you couldn’t care less because you just won the Tectaloy International Drift Challenge.
I would imagine for Naoto Suenaga, feelings similar to this may have been rushing through him on Saturday the 11th of August, 2012.
The 2012 Tectaloy International Drift Challenge held at Sydney Motorsport Park saw some incredible driving from some of the world’s most esteemed drifters. Names like Mike Whiddet of Red Bull Racing as well as Nobushige Kumakubo and Naoto Suenaga of Team orange are three of the biggest international names to drop for this event, but there were plenty of local heroes present as well. Drivers such as Luke Fink, Josh Boettcher and Jake Jones who all have had an enormous amount of drifting experience outside of Australia.
Being held across the same two days as the World Time Attack Challenge the drifting was limited to a night only event with the exception of a few small drifting presentations across Friday and Saturday. Early Friday some of the drivers got their first crack at the course which comprised of corners 10 through to 12. It was impressive to see Team Orange, who had possibly the least experience on this track of any team there to hold nothing back and to just absolutely throw it in.
For many of us who were star struck enough to just see the cars sitting in the pits, it was a real treat to see Suenaga and Kumakubo inch these two machines closer and closer throughout corner 12.
One driver that immediately ripped my attention away from any other car on track was Curt Whittaker in this ominous looking R34. Where many of the drivers straightened up or dirt dropped during the small straight between corner 11 & 12, Curt plowed this beast through both corners with nothing less than smoke billowing out of the rear tires. Well done mate!
One of my all-time favorite drivers to watch is Beau Yates who is a god among hachi drivers. One could be forgiven to think that such a small, understated car would struggle against the variety of powerful drift cars within the field. With Beau behind the wheel however, nothing could be further from the truth.
It’s amazing to watch this Beams 3sgte powered hatch hassle larger cars such as Danny Kenneally’s Hog’s Breath Cefiro. I have to say too, I love the new livery of the 86.
During the downtime for the drifting, Josh Dobrik and I took the opportunity to troll through the pits. One of the more impressively presented cars is Jake Jones’ S13 wrapped in its silky Advan livery. Jake is recently back home from representing Team Orange at a D1 event in Odaiba, I bet he was rather excited to see the very same Orange Subaru WRX he used in Japan parked next to him in the pits.
As night fell on Friday night the WTAC cars were packed away and the drift cars were rolled out. Friday night was set up for practice and qualifying for the big competition that was held on Saturday, so every driver had to make sure they were putting on their best show. Nigel Petrie from Engineered to Slide easily had to be my favorite driver to watch on the Friday night with his red 180sx. For those that are a big fan or Nigel’s work, we will have plenty of photos of this car and his ETS Drift Ute to show you over the next few weeks.
After a tiring night of driving many of the drivers were happy to chat to each other and relive the moments from each other’s perspectives. Drifting is somewhat a universal language, despite knowing only a small amount of English, Naoto Suenaga had no problem chatting to Nigel Petrie about Friday night’s events.
Unfortunately for Suenaga, a small amount of repairs had to be made to his Evo during Saturday in order for him to compete on Saturday night; the problem being a bolt that had sheared off the rear turbo housing and the dump pipe.
Seemingly not having enough time to pull the entire exhaust off the car they opted to try and weld the dump to the back of the turbo housing as a temporary fix. I’m unsure of what they ended up doing to fix the car as it turned out that the exhaust was too dirty to weld, but it certainly seems like the car was working perfectly fine later in the night!
Saturday night saw much more aggression from each driver. Kumakubo ran some impressive lines all weekend with very little mistakes becoming apparent. As if that was not enough, there were quite a few situations where his skill managed to keep him out of trouble during other people’s mistakes.
One of the scariest moments to watch across the entire weekend was reminiscent of a situation during the 2011 event. Upon entry to corner 11, Steven Sole completely spun his JX90 leaving Kumakubo nowhere to go but way off track. Both cars were still traveling at near full speed when this shot was taken, considering how close they were it’s remarkable that neither car touched.
Almost straight after this, a near identical situation happened between Fanga Dan and Suenaga. Luckily again, no collision was made. With the exception of this one run, Fanga Dan was putting on an amazing show in his VZ Commodore, proving that there is nothing to be ashamed about building a competition drift car that is native to your country.
Once the competition started to heat up, more and more drivers were pushing their cars to the limits, much like Cole Armstrong chasing James Abbot in the 3 Fingers Neat S15.
Eventually the shape of who would be in the top four started to form. Unfortunately for Kumakubo, the Australian boys were just that little bit too quick. Luke Fink drove hard all weekend after recently reuniting with his good old friend; the Holfords S14. Having been drifting in Europe for the past few months, he was eager to get back in the driver’s seat of this beauty with the newly installed OS Giken dog box.
Leighton Fine was working hard in Cameron Hill’s R32 which was borrowed for the event. While Leighton is a phenomenal driver, he wasn’t quite the match for Suenaga on this particular night. Knowing Leighton however, I’m sure he was thrilled to just get the chance to battle such a prestigious driver.
Next up for Leighton was Fink – The battle for third and fourth. These two absolutely pushed the boundaries with both cars and just about rode door to door throughout the entire of corner 12. Leighton held his own and Fink had to settle for fourth.
The Final Battle. Throughout the entire competition, both Tony Harrison and Naoto Suenaga had annihilated some of the world’s toughest drifters in competition. With an almost flawless night, Harrison seemed set for the win. During his second run however, he completely washed out which sealed the deal.
Suenaga had won it. The Japanese driver showed nothing but gratitude to the crowd as they cheered him on. As the top four cars rolled in for the presentations the media quickly circled.
“YEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!” Possibly the only words that best describe Suenaga’s feelings after winning such a fierce competition.
The trophies were handed out one by one. Tony Harrison put in an amazing effort to come second to a driver the like of Suenaga.
Fine and Fink who came third and fourth respectively were ecstatic for Suenaga and were quick to congratulate him on his win. This mateship that can be seen between drivers, regardless of nationality, is an amazing thing to see. It was such an unreal moment to see Luke and Leighton lift Suenaga up in to the air as he raised his trophy.
One can only imagine the feelings of Joy that Suenaga had from winning this competition, so far away his home country. I really look forward to next year’s competition and I hope we will again be seeing Naoto Suenaga and Team Orange at the 2013 Tectaloy International Drift Challenge.
I will leave you guys with this great moment of Fanga Dan carting all his mates back as everyone was leaving the track. I really feel this shows that drifting, even at an international level, is still the sport we love; a sport that runs on the help and love of our friends and family. So if someone you love drifts, get out there and support them! E!CM
2012 Tectaloy Internationl Drift Challenge Placings:
1st: Naoto Suenaga – Team Orange Evo IX
2nd: Tony Harrison – High Torque Performance 180sx
3rd: Leighton Fine – Cameron’s Bodyworks R32
4th: Luke Fink – Holford Motors S14