5am, time to wake up.
Well, 5:13... I'm not much of a morning person. Alarm screaming I got out of bed to get ready and begin the quick hop and skip over to Mid America Motorplex in Pacific Junction, IA. With the sun still not up Becca and I slowly found our way in the car and on the road. Then back to not moving right away. I needed to get fuel for the day and take an obligatory gas station picture to share on Facebook.
Then after a short little drive I had made it to the entry gates right at 8am. I was the first to arrive aside from the workers at the track who were there to greet me as I showed up. Signed a waiver, threw on a wrist band, and found myself a nice little spot to park and pull my car off the trailer.
I had a good nights rest, and arrived early. It sure was looking like it was going to be a good event for me. I quickly got to unloading the car off the trailer, talked to friends as they arrived, and helped a few dudes out with unloading their cars and going over some info with them that had been passed on to me by Zort and Ross. Before I knew it tech time rolled around and I had a number put on my windshield.
My good friend Travis of Shiomi Garage made it out before long. I made sure to help him get a spot in the pits by me. With this being his first event I thought it would be good to be close to him in the pits so if he needed help with anything we wouldn't have to be scrambling back and forth from far away. Instead our tools and everything else would be right there at the same spot making it a lot easier on both of us.
I was really excited for him, first events are always something special. Driving on a course is incredibly nice vs running the streets. Although he's never drifted the streets, and on top of that this was only his second time even driving the car as well as only being his second time driving on the right side! I'm sure it was rather nerve-racking for him. People there knew who he was, knew all about his shop, and followed along with his builds. I'm sure a lot of them had high expectations of him. Talk about pressure!
Then it was time to go out on the track to do a couple parade laps for everyone to get a feel of what the layout was like. Quickly I learned that this wasn't a 2nd gear track like every event I had ever been to. This was going to be some 3rd gear action, something I have never done as all the street corners and lots I've slid on aren't big enough to use third and every event I've ever gone to had been a big lot or skid pad. It was looking like I would be driving at a higher level than I had before and I was finally going to learn how the car drove in a higher gear.
After the parade lap they had us pull off so we were made aware of the entrance and exit of the course. Then it was back on the track to line up on the grid for some practice runs.
My first few runs were terrible... The Kenda Kaisers were a lot grippier of a tire than I had expected them to be, and with it being rather chilly out my fronts weren't gripping as much as I wished they would. This led to a lot of crap initiations, transitions, and even a horrible understeer moment...
However with some more time on the track, my fronts had warmed up, I began to get back in the groove of being behind the wheel again, and slowly but surely I had found myself starting to perform like I hadn't skipped a beat.
It really was making out to be a great event! The understeer issue I had early on had faded away with the Falkens having gone through a few heat cycles and now up to a good temp. I was also learning the line better and figuring out when and where I needed to initiate and at what speeds. From that point on I focused on trying to be as consistent as possible. I found the line, I found the speed I needed to be at, now I just needed to make sure I was hitting it every single time.
Of course, that whole idea didn't last long... Not long at all... I pulled up to the line for another run and as I looked over to my left Chance Crooks was staring back at me throwing up two fingers. It was time for some tandem runs!
This quickly caught on and soon enough after doing a few back to back runs with Chance more people were wanting to get in on the action. So I soon began running with some of the other drivers there. Zort Brown being one of my favorite to drive with.
The grid line was beginning to look a little slim and wait time between runs were nice and short. Of course as soon as I was thinking that, Gonzo happened to blow his motor in the middle of the course. So I ended up sitting for a little while as they cleaned up the track.
It was a real bummer to hear about Gonzo blowing. The last event I had gone to was Proving Grounds 2013.2 and I had a killer good time running tandem with him. Sadly I never got to do any with him at this event and with him blowing so early in the day Becca was only able to catch a few pictures of his car in action.
After some time sitting there the course went back to hot, and I somehow forgot all about my line. I made my only off course incident on that following run with Dustin Reeh chasing me.
I must say, for it being a mistake, I sure did somehow find a way to make it a cool one. Plus Mike Bowes of Ratchet Snaps also found a way to add to the cool factor by catching it at just the right moment. Just look at that dirt droppin' drift wheelie!!!
Around that time another good friend of mine Rodnie of Imports USA had arrived at the event with his family. They were there to check out all the action and cheer me on with my driving. As a favor to him I gave his son the ride of his life for a few runs with him sitting in the passenger seat.
You can just barely see his hand in the last shot. I don't think he ever let go of that handle the entire time. I also don't think I ever saw him without a big smile on his face.
After he had gone for a ride I got back to running some tandem runs with some more people. One of them being a fellow buddy from Des Moines, Matt Hines of Angle Junkies.
Several runs later and one super close call it became time to move on to another driver to run tandem with. This one being with the internet famous #DontMatta Austin Matta. For as much crap I hear people talk about this dude you would expect him to be a poor driver. Well that just wasn't the case, he was driving just as good if not better than the rest of the people there and was another person I had a great time driving with.
Lunch break came around a lot quicker than I wanted it to. I was having a ridiculous amount of fun out there and I really didn't want to stop. Although, this break was probably much needed, not necessarily for me, but for everyone else out there. Becca is a good example, she had been out there snapping pictures since the event started.
The break also gave me some time to catch up with Travis to see how his day had been going for him and talk about things he needed to do with his car and discuss some changes he could make to help him drive better.
Looking over the pics Becca had captured it sure did look like he was holding his own out there. Hell, for this being his first time drifting and only his 2nd time ever driving on the right side he sure was killing it in my book! Seriously, just look at these photos and see what I'm talking about.
He said his self steering wasn't as strong as he wished it to be and after looking the car over in several places he had found some loose bolts as well as his alignment needing some adjustments. So I made sure to grab a wrench and bust out the toe plates so I could help him get his car setup better.
Becca was also kind enough to run over to the concession stand to grab some food thanks to Bret lending us a few bucks since we forgot to stop at an ATM on our way to the event in the morning.
Once done eating the track was back to green and the competition was getting ready to start. There would only be a little bit of time left to get some practice runs in before this started so I made sure to use that time wisely and get back to focusing on my line and hitting all of my marks so I could put down a good solid run.
Feeling confident I headed back into the pits so we could have a quick drivers meeting where the judges would explain what they are looking for during our qualifying runs. They wanted us to come in with as much speed as possible on the entry. Then to follow what would be a fast race line. This meant going into the first corner with a late apex, hitting the second one dead center and then coming out of the last one with as much carried speed as possible while laying on the throttle and not lifting at all. This was great news to hear as that was the line I had been running the entire day, having some racing knowledge and understanding race lines sure did pay off in this situation!
I went into qualifying feeling even more confident than I had already been feeling, then it came time for my first run....and... I choked...
Seriously, it was awful, or at least for me it felt awful. Then my second run came around and again it wasn't what I wanted. A portion of the run went very nicely but the initiation on both runs were bad which threw me off for the rest of it.
I don't recall where exactly I ended up qualifying but I do know it wasn't good and I found myself near the bottom. The bracket was made and drivers were then paired up. My first battle was against Dustin Reeh who I hadn't driven with too much and the one run I had done with him was the one where I had found myself way off line and in the dirt.
My lead run was about as bad as my qualifying runs had been, then upon start of the chase run Dustin's car sputtered and stalled out after we had started down the straight. Being the person I am and being a big supporter and follower of D1 I did what any Japanese driver would do. I backed off the throttle as to not get ahead of him. I could have very well stayed on it and done a run without him which would have given me the victory, but that wouldn't be cool at all and definitely wouldn't be a way I would want to win. His car re gained power part way down the straight and we were back at it with him leading the way into the first corner. Unfortunately for me I needed pretty much the entire straight in order to get up to speed for being able to drift the first corner, down on speed and low on RPM I wasn't able to drift the first corner and was forced to start sliding at the second.
Coming back to the start I thought I had lost and would be going home after the first round. The judges saw it differently. I don't know if his follow run was bad or if they recognized what happened at the start of the chase run but they apparently saw something and decided to do a one more time.
On the lead run Dustin's car stalled out again, however since I was leading this time and didn't want to find myself unable to drift the first corner again I kept going and made a run without him. This meant all I needed to do is not crash for the chase run. With that in mind I let him have some distance and I just did my own thing when following him. This played out in me getting the win and moving on to the next round.
For the next run I was paired up against Sam Bennett, who I thought would have a fairly good chance against since he was only running a non turbo KA. Boy was I wrong!
My lead run went down absolutely amazing, it was a great run and to my surprise Sam kept right up with me.
With that in mind I knew I had to throw down a solid chase run by staying as close to him as possible. Down the straight I had no issues keeping up with him, he was the only person who I drove against that had less power than me so I had no issues of him running away right off the line. First corner went great but then after the transition into the second I quickly realized following this close to him from the start was a bad move. My car had more grip than his and I was picking up more speed than him. I was left with making a decision of either staying on throttle to keep it sideways and more than likely drive right into his door, or lift to slow down and pray when I get back on the power and my RPMs wouldn't have dropped to much for me to keep it going in third.
I went with the second option and lifted.
My car slowed and even with a very aggressive clutch kick from hell my car wasn't able to keep the wheels spinning. I straightened up for a moment, dropped to second gear so I could get sideways again and got back on it driving right up next to him for the final corner.
I did the best I could but unfortunately my best wasn't enough and I lost. Sam went on to battle Chance Crooks who also found himself in a similar predicament as I had been in and he too ended up losing the battle. For the finals it was Sam vs Austin Matta and Mr. Don't Matta ended up walking away with first place's trophy.
Along with the tandem competition they also held a solo comp for everyone who made their way out there and didn't have cages. Des Moines very own Luke Stilley of Angle Junkies managed to bring home the gold with his pretty much all stock GTO missile car!
I had a great time at the event and I learned a lot while I was at it. I experienced driving with all sorts of different drivers who were at all sorts of different skill levels as well as go up against all sorts of different powered and setup cars. I made sure to take in as much as I could from this event and one of the biggest things I think I will try to work on in the future is get my car setup to be able to handle dropping into lower RPM so I won't have the issues of not being able to drift due to lack of power and too much grip. Hopefully soon I'll be able to afford upgrading my turbo and I will install my AEM EMS, I'm also planning on utilizing an electronic boost controller. With those changes hopefully I'll be able to gain the much needed mid range power and want and a good amount of overall power on top of that. This whole stock SR thing is really starting to reach a point where it's holding me back from performing as good as I would like to.
I'm very thankful of O Drift Collective and all the guys who helped put this event together and make it possible. The day was done and it was time to pack up and head home. I got my car on the trailer really quickly thanks to some friends for lending me a hand and for Bret showing me a little trick which made it so I only had to use 2 boards to load my car up.
I said goodbye to everyone and hit the road, but first, I had to take another one of those obligatory gas station pics!
A quick little drive and I was home. Best part was that it was only Saturday which mean I was able to say screw unloading everything and go hit the sack.
The next morning it was time to unload and take in everything that had happened the day before and also look my car over to see how everything held up.
Off the trailer I got to looking over my tires which I hadn't changed at all throughout the entire day. To my dis belief there was still tread left on them, I was amazed! These tires held up far greater than anything I've ever ran before and for the amount of grip they put down it only made me that much more impressed. They had a beautiful wear pattern to them and absolutely no chunking at all. Looks like I'm going to be running Kenda Kaisers from here on out!
Backed the car in the garage and unloaded everything from the car. Also did a little bit of tidying up around the place while I was at it....which meant pile things on the 510... Becca wasn't too excited about that idea...Oh well, it was nice to be home and I was feeling great after having a kick ass time drifting with a bunch of super cool dudes! Can't wait to see everyone next event!!!