Kiwi brothers fronting the changing face of drifting
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Jenkins brothers looking to make their mark on the motorsport world
It was the wee hours of the morning and I was weaving around the roads which serpentine Mangere's industrial district, searching for a meeting point with two young drifters — brothers. ‘A pair of young hoons’, the misinformed might say.
Finally locating them, I noticed a long pair of skid marks that went all the way from one end of the road to the other, plus an artful doughnut around one of the roundabouts. They said it wasn't them, but didn't fail to see the irony.
Troy and Ben Jenkins are both competitive drifters in the Demon Energy D1NZ National Drifting Championship, and they find themselves in the middle of something of a war. The rise of drifting as a sport has been incredibly rapid, but it hasn't been without issues.
The sport continues to endure undeserved criticism from other racing fraternities, and simultaneously the emergence of professionalism in categories like our domestic crown has prompted purists to question whether the sport is abandoning its roots.
But it's that professionalism that has seen the brothers Jenkins and their Brian Roberts Towing crew rise to prominence.
The three of us meet at this awkward time as the team aim to Tetris all of their vital tools and Troy's immaculately presented Nissan Silvia S15 into a container for October's World Time Attack Challenge in Sydney, where Troy will compete against some of the best drifters in the world at one of the biggest race meetings in Australia.
It's nearly the end of a long road for the brothers, who along with their team of supporters have just finished rebuilding and dressing up Troy's gleaming drift car for what will be its international competition debut. Ben's S13 Silvia will follow suit over the coming weeks, before being shipped down south for the Waimate 50 street sprint.
“I'm just going to try and enjoy it,” Troy says of the invite only WTAC event.
“We're spending a swagload of money getting over there so of course I want to perform, but I also want to enjoy it at the same time — otherwise we'll get on the plane home two days later and think ‘well, that was a big blur’ and just go straight back to normality.”
It didn't take long to realise that Troy and Ben, despite their flat-peak caps and laid-back demeanor, weren't really your stereotypical drifters. As we talked further, it became clear that they more than understood the commercial side of the sport.
Like many others in the discipline, the pair's connection to cars started out innocent enough. “Dumb stuff on motorbikes” merged with an interest in drifting back when it was much less of a juggernaut, eventually blossoming into them helping out some sideways friends of theirs. Naturally they then got their own cars, and history is the rest.
“Drifting was probably seen as, shall we say, a bogan sport back in the day, where it was just about skids and sinking beers,” explains Troy.
“It's changed over the years really fast, and I think it's just going to keep going. I don't think it's going to become as much of a commercialised sport as Formula Drift USA, but we're certainly getting there —we're starting to get international recognition now.”
Being brothers occasionally provides Troy and Ben with an advantage trackside over some of their competition.
“We just work off each other. One of us might have a better line or be more suited to the track, and we can come together and talk. And even though Troy's in Pro and I'm in Pro Sport, I can still help him and he helps me,” says Ben.
Ben, formerly of Giltrap Audi, expects to make the jump from the D1NZ's feeder Pro Sport category into the Pro class next year, but remains realistic about the jump despite having spent time in Australia competing for Michael Prosenik.
“I don't want to be one of those people that jumps into pro when they don't deserve it. I know I can drive, I just need to focus,” he adds.
The duo's connections to Australia help define their campaign, and the grounded and oddly old-school nature that drifting is fast becoming known for.
Look no further than the big name slapped across the side of Troy's car for a prime example of this. Their discussions with new sponsors 4.Mance Automotive kicked off towards the end of last season, after the pair opened the doors to their shed to the host of Australian competitors (and their cars) who visited the D1NZ last year for the inaugural Trans-Tasman Championship.
“Everyone's always keen to help each other. You go to a race weekend at say the V8s, everyone is working against each other and everything's hush hush. Whereas if you go to any D1 event, people are often willing to help with anything if you're in need,” says Troy.
“There's a good family attitude in the whole thing.”
Drifting may once have been considered the realm of ‘hoons,’ but change is well on its way.