One thing I have always loved about motorsports is the paradigm of the sacrifices involved to conquer personal achievements along the way. One achievement that has eluded me for 6 years has been to successfully navigate the drift-course at Road Atlanta… specifically the entry into 10a, and linking the downhill section tracking out of the horseshoe back down to 10b (sans-manji).
Perched at the top of the hill talking to my buddy Joshua Herron and my girlfriend Lieze Truter… I couldn\’t help but ponder all the years of bad luck, broken parts, STUPID limp-mode, ecu problems. I\’ve basically been cursed. Seriously.
The duration of practice would unfold in much the same manner as the past… cursed. Even with a fully-functioning hydraulic e-brake – I still wasn\’t acclimated to the point of total comfort. I even had another close call with a flat-spin in the narrow patch of grass between the track and the wall. My Yokohamas had SO much grip that they rocketed me right towards the wall. It scared me so bad I threw up in my mouth.
When qualifying came around… we cranked the tyre pressures up around 60-65, and with some advice from Eugene, I came flying into 10a without my normal flick to set the car up. To my surprise… IT WORKED.
With the entry checked off my list, all I had to do was get the car back down the hill out of the horseshoe. My buddy Mike Peters had called me a week prior and given me some advice on my line to help me do this. To my surprise… IT ALSO WORKED.
Back down the hill I went, with just enough wheelspeed, momentum, and RPMs to get within reach of 10b. It would take a massive handful of that e-brake… but it would work.
To say that I was excited would be a MASSIVE understatement. Hell… Cloud-9 still doesn\’t quite describe it. I had been fighting this track for 6 years… and with the help of all my friends, Matt Foerst, Kieran O\’Brien, Eugene Chou and Mike Peters… I was able to finally break my Road Atlanta curse.
I ended up qualifying 8th, and was paired up with Jason Giovanni from Florida for top 16. On my lead-run… Jason straighted out, and on Jason\’s lead-run… I straightened out. I think it should have gone OMT, but it didn\’t – and Jason moved on. I was still so excited about my qualifying runs… that I didn\’t even care that I got knocked out.
I don\’t expect everyone to understand what a special moment this was for me. Tons of dudes rip this track every year with little trouble. I never thought this 3300lb car could get it\’s 180 horses to push it through the track like this. I had it drilled into my own head that I couldn\’t… and with the help of my friends… I did it.
It is a moment I will NEVER forget.
Newly poured asphalt adorns the raceway, as Gresham itself is a freshly renovated facility. I don\’t know if they have some sort of compound additive in the pavement, but the track has an immense amount of grip… making is VERY difficult for a 180hp tank to break loose. I was attempting to initiate faster than I have ever initiated… only to have the car set and hug the bank like I was going for a better lap time. The few occasions I could snap the car loose on the bank, it sucked the power dry from my rear wheels, pulling me right down toward the inner-wall. Fast.
I (somehow) managed to qualify seventh, and was paired up with my buddy Dennis Mertzanis for the tandem comp. I didn\’t feel comfortable running solo – let alone tandem, so I told Dennis to steer clear of me… that I was basically going to forfeit the run to him. Dennis went on to take home 2nd place.
A fairly big-name in Atlanta\’s drift scene approached me at the end of the day, and told me \’this is the next level for drifting here\’, and \’that drivers are going to have to step it up if they want to participate\’. This bothered me for several reasons… the biggest being FOR WHAT? This is grassroots drifting… it is supposed to be about having fun. What fun is wadding your car up into a wall, and having to sit the next season out because you \’stepped it up\’? For the majority of us who actually have an emotional stake in our cars – totaling it out trying to be a g-roots hero would be devastating. DEVASTATING.
I probably will not be back to drive at Gresham. The risk just isn\’t worth it to me… especially when I (and the rest of Atlanta, really) have nothing to prove. Drifting already has it\’s superstars. I just want to have fun with my friends.
We\’re so underground… we\’re underground.
SEDC Round 1.