DriftSTL concluded its 2013 season last Saturday with the final event of the year at Gateway Motorsports Complex. Around 25 drivers from the Midwest turned out to attack Gateway’s beloved road course one last time before packing it up for the winter months and focusing on next year’s plans. More after the jump!
Head of DriftSTL, Adam Reed, said everything went smoothly despite attendance numbers lacking.
“Attendance was low which is unfortunate, but it’s the end of the year and a lot of people are down and they’re trying to make the necessary repairs,” he said. “Other than that, it was a great day and we had no problems.”
To help fill some of the spots, the track was opened to some grip drivers between run groups. Jeff Tabak was out hustling around the track in his Evo X.
And some drivers, like Henry H., who normally did grip, experimented with drifting. Here he’s taking along (and no doubt getting some pointers from) Midwest Drift Union driver Rolando Alfaro.
The biggest story of the day was Mike O’Mara rolling his “Coyote” after it spun off track and into a wall. The vehicle is so quiet I didn’t even know he was on track until the photographer standing next to me said that he flipped it. In O’Mara’s own words:
“I was carrying too much speed through a turn and I left the track, slid through some grass, and hit the wall. Since I was in the Coyote, and it is an open wheeled car, the front tire climbed the wall and sent me into a roll. The Coyote landed on its roof and then flipped back onto its wheels. I was able to hit the kill switch just before impact and get my hands away from the wheel as well. I had my fire suit with helmet, and my harness kept me planted in my seat the whole time. When the Coyote came to rest, I smelled fuel so I exited immediately in case of a fire. The emergency crew was right there doing their jobs and everything went as smooth as it could have. The ‘yote suffered minimal damage and was able to drive onto the trailer under its own power at the end of the day; we designed this vehicle to withstand much more violent scenarios than this.”
O’Mara went on to finish the event in his much more car-like S13.
Chris Hanley’s recently installed Big Country Labs wing helped him keep the shiny side up.
“A lot of people may say it’s just an aesthetic, and I put it on there as an aesthetic, but I put it on flat so it shouldn’t create a down or a lift,” Hanley said. “It has enough downforce on it in a level position to cause me to struggle on grip, to the point where had I taken it off, the car would have picked up another five miles per hour and stayed in the drift better. Next year I’m going to need it. I’m stepping up to 450 wheel horsepower and am going to run Midwest Drift Union.”
Wing hiccups aside, Hanley said the event overall was to his satisfaction, especially after smashing a curb at the MDU Detroit round and destroying the whole suspension.
“The car drove great, track was fun and the weather was awesome,” he said. “I went through a ton of tires. I gave out as many rides as I could. I took a couple novice drivers out to show them what it’s like to drive the course at full throttle, and showed them the difference between a small angle and a big angle car. The road course is a monster. You can’t be a hero on it, but if you take your time and learn it step by step, you’ll get it.”
Steve Topping also smashed a curb in Detroit and had his share of mechanical issues at the event, but he overcame them to lay down some solid runs in V8-motivated BMW.
“This time I ran without my 75 shot, and wow, how much I missed that,” Topping said. “I actually had to try, and I’m pretty sure it showed. The first run of the day, I threw in, clutch kicked, broke an axle and flew straight off track. We put a new axle in and went back out and shred. The rest of the day was great with no mechanical issues.”
Having been in Vegas at SEMA in the days leading up to the finale, Topping was happy to have an event so close to home.
“Gateway is my home track, after traveling all over the country this year it was really nice to be able to load up and head 45 minutes down the road to the track,” he said. “I love Gateway’s road course. It’s fast, it’s fun and it demands commitment. All in all it was a fantastic way to end the season. I Couldn’t have asked to drive with better friends at a better track. I look forward to 2014 and all it has in store.”
If you prefer your E36s without a V8, Tim Cowhey’s ride may be more to your liking.
“This was my first time drifting on the road course, or any road course, so it took a bit to warm up to it,” Cowhey said. “Once I got a few runs in and started to learn the track I quickly fell in love. The track really throws everything at you. I thought the car preformed great for having an alignment that was eyeballed after replacing the entire front suspension in my garage.”
Cowhey said his awesome moment of the day came when he gave his dad to jump in the passenger seat.
“I got my dad to do a ride along,” he said. “I watched Omar roll the Coyote, and once I saw him get out and throw his hands up signaling that he was fine, I turned to my dad and asked him if he wanted to go for a ride along. He turned and looked at me like I was crazy, flicked his cigarette out, and then nodded and grabbed a helmet.”
Coming to mingle with all of the locals were a couple of the ClubFR guys from further north like Simba Nyemba.
“It was an awesome day, perfect weather, very few drivers so lots of seat time at one of the best high speed tracks in the US,” Nyemba said. “After a long hiatus of building my car was finally together and working great. I got to burn through lots of tires and leave trails of smoke.”
Motivating the blue S13 is an SR20DET with a GTX2683 turbo with a Z32’s transmission, the latter of which ended up breaking.
“The day ended with me breaking my 3rd gear in my Z32 transmission, but still had a blast and got plenty of run time,” Nyemba said. “Everyone not from a coast has to make it out to this track at least one time in their life. Next year the plan is to surprise America.”
What was no surprise was Andrew Lewis’ performances. The recently licensed Formula D driver brought out his street car to his home track and destroyed a few tires in the process.
“I brought the street car out and had fun,” Lewis said. “Went through about ten tires. There was one time the engine sounded like it was misfiring, but I think I just overheated it.”
Lewis’ street car is running an RB25 with Neo R34 turbo with a Z32 tune running around 10 psi of boost and not much else. Putting down around 300 horsepower, he said it’s very different from driving his competition car.
“It’s harder in a way,” Lewis said. “In this one, you’ve got to hold your foot to the floor and just run it like in the KA-days. With the LS car, you can hold it to the floor, but you’re going like twice as fast. I’ve got around 450 horsepower in the race car. This car probably weights 2,800 or 2,900 pounds, and the race car weighs like 2,400. The other is caged, and it’s much more rigid. The only thing that really sucks is having stock seats and getting thrown around a lot.”
On the subject of getting thrown around, David Mesker was probably throwing down harder than anyone else in attendance with his freshly transplanted 2JZ.
“At first I was a little timid because it was the first time driving the track with the new motor,” Mesker said. “I was a little skeptical because it weighs a lot more than the SR. After the first run it was just awesome. It threw tons of smoke and I just powered my way through everything. The car would throw tons of angle everywhere. The only problem that I had was overheating. I had to take the hood off and it still overheated a ton because it’s a JZ.”
The move to change powerplants was due to the number of issues Mesker said he had with the Nissan engine.
“I was breaking so much stuff on the SR,” he said. “I went through like two or three transmissions, and would always just have little problems with it even though it was a built motor. I finally just said ‘I’m going to do it.’ I’ll be running MDU next year. It’s going to be a lot different. It’s going to have widebody, different wheels and more power. Just going to go back, tear it down and see what’s making the noise and then built up the valvetrain with new cams and stuff like that.”
Reed said next year’s plans aren’t in the works yet, but that DriftSTL events in 2014 will be better suited to drivers’ schedules.
“Nothing official for next year as of yet,” he said. “We’re going to work a lot more closely with the other promoters next year to make sure our schedules don’t overlap like they did this year. We had a lot of people pulling their hair out trying to make it to one event and pick back up the next or even the same day to head out to another one.”
The conclusion of DriftSTL’s events also mean the end of your author’s event coverage for 2013 as well. I’ll have other things to post in the meantime, but events have all but ceased within the perimeter of the area I’m willing to drive. Still, I couldn’t think of a better way to end my season than at my home track with all my DriftSTL bros. There are some big things in store for 2014 so the off-season can’t be over soon enough!