Drifting champion Sky Zhao now teaching his skills here
Since the inception of D1NZ in 2003 drifting has dramatically increased in popularity here and with that comes public interest to get involved in the sport, so professional drifter Sky Zhao sought out a way to make accessible.
After setting up drift academies in Jingang, China and Japan’s famous Ebisu circuit, Zhao launched New Zealand’s own version, focusing on the fundamental principles of drifting, with exercises developed to teach the basics of how to drift.
Both Nissan 180SXs for the drifting academy run the world famous Rocket Bunny kit
“The drift academy is a tailored course set up to let people experience drifting or handling the car sideways in a safe environment in safe cars,” explained Zhao.
“All these cars are purpose built for going sideways. They’re very simple to get a handle on drifting. A lot of people don’t want to build a car to come drifting and deal with that hassle. For just a few hundred dollars they can drive our car and get a professional lesson.”
At first glance the cars, two Nissan 180SXs, appear identical. Both are fitted in the affectionately known “Rocket Bunny” body kit, but underneath the skin it’s another story. The first of the Nissans runs the factory standard four-cylinder SR20, the other an LS1 V8 power plant. As Zhao says, the two cars look the same but are very different cars to drive.
A student learning during the class at Meremere last weekend.
“They’re both Nissan 180SXs. One car runs the factory SR20 2 litre turbo but it’s been tuned up so it has about 350hp, where the other car has an LS1 Chevrolet V8. It’s a totally different approach as the V8 gives you a lot more low down torque.
“Having two cars gives the driver more diversity. All the drivers get to experience the turbo and V8 cars and get the whole driving experience.”
Last Saturday saw the first event held by Sky Zhao’s drift academy featuring the introductory and master class. The first half of the day saw participants learn the basics of drifting; those who excelled in the morning are later invited to join the master classes in the future where more complex exercises are involved.
Tauranga’s Piripi Thwaites made the trip to Meremere for the day to learn the ropes of the two Nissans. For Thwaites, the academy was an easy and enjoyable way to get involved in the sport.
“It was a really good atmosphere. Because it was quite a small group of people there isn’t the pressure of everyone watching,” said Thwaites.
“The tutors are really relaxed about it, they don’t have high expectations. You feel a lot more comfortable, it’s definitely something I’d look at coming back and doing. It’s good to keep progressing; I’ll do the master class and see how that goes.
“The cars are really well set up, everything’s really good on it and well thought through. They’re the only Rocket Bunny 180SXs in the country so it’s pretty cool.”
After a successful first outing at Meremere; Zhao wants to expand the academy over the North Island. Zhao believes the arrive-and-drive package makes the academy more accessible for the general public.
“We’re promoting drifting as a proper motorsport where people can have fun in the cars. What I enjoy the most is seeing people, when we put them in the car and they’re having fun, with a smile on their face,” he said.
With the second drift academy day already close to being fully booked, plans are already underway for more events at Meremere and Hampton Downs. - Velocity
For more information, go to /driftacademyint on Facebook