Terror in the back seat
Search Driven for vehicles for sale
Want to make any form of motorsport exponentially more terrifying?
Observe it from the back seat of a car, instead of the front.
This was the scenario a few Saturday mornings ago at the new Evergreen Drift Park in Waikato.
The team behind the track — led by drifter Sky Zhao — played host to a media morning, where a bunch of us eager contestants took turns experiencing the new circuit while riding shotgun with fellow drifter Takeshi Teruya in the hot seat.
A stone’s throw from Meremere Dragway, the venue is tiny. It covers barely a football field of space, but makes up for the lack of geographic heft with a tight, technical course.
Now, I’ve been on a hot lap with a drifter before. And next to being in a rally car, it’s the most foreign and extreme experience you can have on four wheels.
The best comparison to make is that drifting is like drumming. The driver’s hands and feet move in a mad, incoherent manner as gears are slammed, pedals are crushed, and the steering wheel twirls from lock to lock.
And the result, somehow, is buttery smoothness. Cars transfer on a dime and maintain angle with resilience. From the stands,it looks almost effortless.
It’s an art that Kiwis are rather good at, as evidenced by the global popularity of “Mad Mike” Whiddett and the success of our own series; the Link ECU D1NZ National Drifting Championship.
The presence of Evergreen Drift Park has two key benefits.
In an era of constant road toll statistics getting shoved in our faces, facilities like these help those seeking an adrenaline rush to get off the streets and into a safe environment. It also helps preserve our drifting scene, at a time when New Zealand motorsport sits in something of a golden age.
The team hopes to have the track humming, with a loose goal of 100 events a year. And although drifting is the jewel in the crown, Zhao wouldn’t rule out expanding to host gymkhana and autocross.
The weapon of choice for the media morning was an orange Toyota Chaser JZX100 converted into a four-seater drift taxi.
A car that was once plentiful on Kiwi roads, the Chaser has become a drifting legend thanks to its rear-wheel drive format and a 6-cylinder 2JZ engine.
It’s a big car, and on this little course with four humans crammed inside, it was up for a challenge.
Nonetheless, two laps into it Teruya was into the swing of things; wagging the Chaser’s tail at the sweeping opening left hander, before navigating the complicated infield with aplomb as myself and the rest of the passengers began to grin from ear to ear — already busy plotting our return to this wicked little circuit.