mad mike

Formula Drift Seattle: Automotive Heaven

Walking passed a sea of beautifully and not-so-beautifully modified cars with owners that only wished they could be out on the track drifting right now, my excitement bubbled. This was my first live Formula Drift event. As I neared the gates, the sounds of the tires screaming and roaring engines rose out from the stadium like the muffled cheers of a Roman Coliseum. Crossing the dim stadium threshold and emerging trackside, I was instantly and aggressively greeted by two howling, turbo charged, AND nitrous boosted V8s sliding passed the stands transforming rubber into clouds. It was a maxium attack on my senses. My ears barraged by the sounds of the cars, the cheering fans, and the announcer on the loudspeaker. My nose infiltrated by the bittersweet aroma of shredded rubber, burnt gasoline, and that hot dog stand over there. My body pounding from the reverbating thunder of 1,800 horsepowers charging around the track. This was automotive heaven. 

The most memorable thing about the event was the atmosphere. I had watched drifting many times on TV or on Youtube videos, so I more or less knew what to expect from the actual drifting. But what you don't get watching it on a screen is the pungent smells, the saturation of sounds, the buzzing crowds, and the thunder thumping you in your chest. It's fantastically overwhelming. I remembering jokingly saying that "This is what a nature documentary would sound like if car guys made it instead of David Attenborough, just screeching tires and screaming engines."  

Despite the rave like setting, the drift community can be surprisingly intiment. You are free to walk around the paddock area, getting up close with the crews as they frantically hustle in controlled chaos to prepare (or repair) the car for the next run. More often than not, someone on the crew was happy to stop for a moment and chat with you about the car, the run, how the day was going overall -- or if you were lucky, give out a free piece of broken car or a spent bald tire. How many other motorsports allow you to get this close with the drivers and crews? Maybe just Rally Racing and that's about it. Being able to hear and smell the cars drifting around the track at ridiculous angles and proximities to the track walls while being in the paddock and vendor areas simply added to the entire atmosphere of the event. 

This dynamic is what made this event feel so special. This huge collective of people was brought together for one soul purpose: the love of cars. Yes, there were the bros, the racers, the engineers, the gamers, the rednecks, and yes even women (who probably dragged their boyfriend to this event). And yet there was no animosity, not judgment; just a tire shredding celebration of speed and style. It was automotive heaven.

(And let's face it, what's cooler than the racing world equivalent of sychronized figure skating?) 

((And yes, it's Seattle after all. But that wasn't until the very end, so good ol' mother nature was looking out for our sideway hoonery.))