Car lovers, revheads and adrenaline junkies alike, allow me to introduce you to a sport guaranteed to rev your engine.
I’m talking about the tyre-smoking heart-racing pleasure that is drifting.
It’s crazy fun using high-powered machines built over endless hours of mechanical mix ‘n’ match in some of the world’s greasiest science labs. Drivers, teams and spectators all take the drifting scene very seriously.
You must have seen, or at least heard of, The Fast and The Furious or, more specifically, the third in the series, Tokyo Drift. If your reaction was anything like mine, your wide eyes were glued to the screen as you sat on the edge of your seat watching the screen fill with smoke. You may have even wanted to be there, in that car, feeling the adrenaline pumping through your body while you experience the thrill of skidding sideways at unnatural speeds door-to-door with another equally impressive car.
Drifting is its own community, bringing mates together to have a hella good time. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Take my word for it when I say you need much more than a fast car, a heavy heel and nerves of steel to play this game. It’s a real sport that requires a great deal of death-defying skill and precision.
So what is drifting?
Drifting is essentially a controlled oversteer. You know you’ve reached the point of oversteer when your rear tyres lose traction and “step out”. Once in this state of oversteer the driver then controls the drift using the throttle and counter steering.
There are a number of ways you can initiate the oversteer – but I don’t want you all going out into the streets and getting yourselves into trouble! And there’s actually no one-size-fits-all approach anyway. Your method of initiating an oversteer is ultimately influenced by the dynamics of your particular drift car, including the weight distribution, tyre types, engine and drive set up, and suspension and chassis set up.
But enough theory. If you think you’re getting my drift you may be interested to know that there’s actually a large drifting scene right here in Australia. Most people assume it is a sport only seen overseas and in movies. Wrong. We actually have a tonne of revheads down under who are helping make drifting a popular-yet-cool spectator sport.
It is gaining most popularity among car lovers in Queensland and Melbourne but we also have a pretty good drift scene right here in our hoon hot-land of Sydney’s West.
Saturday, June 18 brought round one of the HI-TEC Drift All-Stars to Sydney Motorsport Park. Drivers got sideways for the initial qualifying rounds before going head-to-head in the battle rounds consisting of two lead and follow laps. Judged on how well they control the car, hit clip point targets and put on a great show for the fans, the best of the bunch are selected by a panel of judges to go through to the podium battles.
Matt Hill placed fourth on the podium in round one. He will now head into round two this Saturday, July 23, with another of Sydney’s best drift racers, Scott Porter.
Matty Hill believes it was his destiny to fall into a car-related sport. His love of all things motorsports started at a very young age, growing up around some of the biggest names in the business, including Peter Brock, Dick Johnson and Peter Fitzgerald. His father Roland raced alongside them in various categories. His mother, also heavily into the motorsport industry, raced rotaries in a street sedan class.
So it’s no surprise that at 26, Hill has taken his four wheels all over the world and is now competing at the highest level of drifting in Australia and New Zealand.
At age 12, while most of us were still dreaming of turning sweet 16 and getting our learner’s licence in our parents’ sedans, Hill was given the keys to an old V8 Commodore race car with a hearty 5 litre motor, decked out with a roll cage, racing seats and harness.
“It was unreal,” Hill recalls. “I was raised on a large property so I had heaps of room to race the car around. I would drive the car as fast as I could and get it sideways as much as possible. Driving in a straight line never interested me and when I was at home, my weekends consisted of racing the car around my property, riding my dirt bike or playing drift and car games on Xbox and PlayStation.”
He had some good old-fashioned teenage fun in that old V8. But at age 17, Hill got a rear-wheel manual Toyota Supra to kick things off properly. Then just two years later, he lashed out and purchased his first drift car, although it would be some time before he could drive it. It took him one-and-half-years to build it to spec. It was during that time that he became good mates with Fernando Wiehrl, the owner of Drift School Australia, who encouraged him to come along to a class at the school. His talent was immediately recognised and it would prove to be the catalyst that turned his hobby into a career. He spent the next 18 months instructing others how to drift.
“That day (when his talent was recognised) I proved not only to my friends and family, but to myself, that I was a natural behind the wheel of a drift car,” Hill said.
From that day and right through his early 20s, Hill was focused on not just becoming a professional drift racer but being number one. While studying for an engineering degree and working part-time, Hill devoted all his spare time and money to drifting. “I spent every last cent I had on my first drift car,” he said. “Four to five days a week I attended uni and the rest of my time I was either working or improving my car in the garage. Of course on the occasion I was out partying but what young kid doesn’t, right?”
In 2013 Hill entered the competition world with a bang, knocking out Wiehrl in the Top 16 battle. It was onwards and upwards for Matty from here. He worked three jobs over a period of eight months to build his dream drift car, a 2002 Nissan S15 (200SX) with a Toyota 2JZ Engine, and he began his climb up the ranks of Australia’s drifting elite.
August 23 2015 is a date Hill will never forget. It was the day he stood on his first podium, placing second at Drift Challenge Australia, running alongside V8 Supercars at Sydney Motorsport Park.
“Standing on the podium was the best feeling, something that I had worked so hard for,” he said.
“It was actually at that moment when I started to change my life because I knew I had to keep working hard and I couldn’t give up.”
Since that day Hill has competed overseas, most recently against some of the best drivers in the world at D1 New Zealand, and drifted at various international locations, including the Ebisu track in the mountains north of Tokyo in Japan, which is known to score a bit of snow, taking drifting to a whole new level of thrill seeking.
“Drifting and competing in another country was a dream that I’ve had for so many years and to finally get there was overwhelming… drifting in Japan was one of the best experiences in my life.”
But none of this would be possible without his behind-the-scenes team of “amazing friends, family and sponsors” pushing him and backing him every step of the way, including his teammate Scott Porter who also shares the sponsor 4.Mance Automotive.
Both Matt and Scott both agree that most people looking in from the outside or other backgrounds don’t realise how much actually goes into this intense sport behind the scenes. The many hours, the many people and the many cuts to one’s hands getting everything ready and setup before each and every race.
“The pain and sweat that goes into the building and preparation of cars before, during and after an event is definitely an aspect that many won’t know or understand,” Hill said.
“Competing at a professional level is almost a full time job within itself. Swearing, throwing tools, things breaking or blowing up. It can become a very stressful hobby but worth it in the end.”
We all like a cheeky little adrenaline junky and that’s kinda who Scotty P is. He’s young, passionate and loves pushing the boundaries doing things that aren’t meant to be done in a car.
He came across drifting at age 14 and loved everything about it – the cool styled Japanese cars, the high revs and a hell of a lot of smoke.
“It was something that caught my eye at first sight and I knew I had to try it,” he said.
“The thing I love most about the sport is of course the adrenaline rush you get running sideways at over 100-plus-kilometres door-to-door with someone, but also the strong community feeling in the scene. There’s always someone willing to lend parts, a hand or even lend a car out if yours was to break. To me I don’t think it gets much better then that.”
Porter’s drift journey officially started when he was 18 and bought his first drift car. It took him over a year to build as he balanced his mechanics apprenticeship, the car’s needs and a life. He worked long hours to get all the parts he could and whatever he couldn’t afford he learnt how to make.
“I continued to work extremely hard with everything I did. I built the car myself, everything on it, and did as many events as I could with the money I tried to save, and now I think it has paid off being able to now do what I love at a level that is extremely competitive and always pushing me to strive better each and every event.”
He made the decision to take his drifting hobby to the next level after his sponsor 4.Mance Automotive offered him a full-time job in the workshop.
“And why did I decide to do it? That’s easy. As the old saying goes, if you do what you love you will never have to work another day in your life.”
Now 22 he is one of the youngest professional drifters in the world and has travelled across the globe with 4.Mance and drifted in a range of locations.
Like Matty, he won’t stop going for that first-place finish. But he intends to enjoy every minute of the ride to the top – and reckons the spectators will too.
“We always love putting on a good show for the crowd,” he told The Newsroom.
And we love to see it! – Story by Kezia Dawn, video presented and produced by Wade Timmings