I made my goal for this year to progress as a driver, so when I came across the 2013 Okinawa Super Drift schedule and saw they had a beginner class, I got down to Garage Cartis and signed up. But some background first as a month before the event, Yukari Bokujo closed. This put the event and the future of competitive and open track day drifting in Okinawa in jeopardy. I sat tight and the event organizers, Garage Cartis and First Body Miyazato, came up with an alternate location, Kukuru Circuit. This came with a couple complications since it is a go-kart track every other day of the week and is situated next door to a nursing home and hotel. Space and track layout were definitely going to be tight. The bigger concern was noise. Fencepipe exhausts and open wastegates are popular among drifters. Things that didn’t really bother anyone at Yukari Bokujo now were under strict rules. Sound had to be kept to a minimum.
Wanting to play it safe, I went to Garage Cartis a week prior to the event to check my exhaust’s noise level. They got out the decibel meter and a few minutes later told me I was sitting at like 99.2dB. 98dB was the cut off but the quieter the better. That night I scoured Yahoo Auctions and found what looked like a good candidate in a style I liked with only two hours remaining on the auction. Two hours and 2,500 yen ($25) later, I owned it. I just needed the seller to get it to me so I could get it on the car in the next week.
I was beginning to worry as Monday passed without word. I woke Tuesday to a reply and a message saying he would ship the exhaust prior to receiving money since I needed it before the weekend. Oh, those trusting Japanese! I got a call later that morning from him asking about shipping – by boat would likely show up the day before or after the event and cost 4,000ish; by air it would be a couple days early but cost 15,000ish. Figuring it’s useless if it shows up late, I bit the bullet and okayed the extra money. It showed up on Thursday and I installed it on Friday. I used the decibel meter apps on my phone to do some before and after comparisons at idle. It went from 90dB to 74db and was noticeably quieter by ear, however, I still needed to pass the real noise test the day of the event. Luckily, I was otherwise done with preparations. I spent Saturday helping my neighbor move and got the car washed and wheel lips polished. Haha. Got to look good!
The other downside to the event moving to the new location in Yomitan is that it is about two hour drive from my house instead of 45 minutes and check in time was 6:30am. Sigh. My alarm went off at 3:40am, I loaded up, got gas, a snack and water, and made it the there at 6:31am. Right on time.
Cars filed in and we had the drivers meeting, during which it started raining. I was also surprised to see Kumakubo and Suenaga from Team Orange standing off to the side. I did a double take, “Oh shit, that’s Suenaga and Kumakubo! They must be judging!.” Of course, I played it cool and acted unphazed but I still snapped some pics. Haha.
They were aware of Yukari Bokujo closing and Kumakubo made a point to address the current situation basically saying there is nothing wrong with quieter drift cars. The high horsepower pro D1GP cars (his car makes like 1000hp) run at Odaiba in Tokyo and other tracks in the series that have the same strict sound restrictions. It’s just the evolution of drifting. Showing manners and etiquette on and off the track are important.
The time schedule had the beginner class (my class) out there right away for practice. There were 40 drivers divided into four groups. Each group went out and got two laps a piece. Only two! With the course being wet and having never driven there before, it was hard to tell how much grip there was and what pressure to run in your tires. I took a guess and dropped my rears to 2.8bar from 3.1bar and my fronts to 3bar from 3.1bar. It was basically set it and forget it. Hope you get it right the first time. I kept thinking about the rainy day “ice patch” at Yukari Bokujo; there was one section that would make the car like automatically spin if you hit it with a little too much speed. I had no idea what this surface was going to do. On my first run, I tried clutch kicking and about stuffed it into the wall. It had a surprising amount of grip. On the second lap, I clutch kicked again. Not good results and not really reassuring.
Once all four heats did their warm-up laps it moved right into the first round of competition. Staged in line waiting for our heat, I had no idea how the other drivers were doing or what skill level they were. I just had to worry about me. And that meant switching to a less flashy ebrake entry. My first run was good. Smooth and on a decent line. Kind of slow but playing it safe. My second run started the same way – felt good, controlled – and then it looped. Technically I spun but in reality it was so smooth and slow it was like it just looped around for no reason. Bummer!
My first and second judged run are at 1:11 and 3:16.
I parked not liking my odds, but, as I was getting out, I saw the wonderful Shio smiling and waving me over. She said it sounded like I would move on and based on what she saw of the other drivers I did alright. She relayed the judges comments about my first run (and you can hear it in the video) saying, “Kirai ja nai.” which is basically “I don’t hate it.” Haha. I’ll take it. That made me feel better. Just had to wait for the official word.
My second run is at 1:20. It looks like he didn’t catch my first run.
The word came and as you can see on the very official cardboard scrap above number 29 (me) was in the Best 18! Made the cut; better than half the drivers in my class! In the Best 18, my first run was again smooth and pretty controlled. And just like the first round my second run was shakey. I’m not sure what happened it just seemed like I needed a bit more speed as I tried to enter a bit earlier. Being off speed, put me off line so I had a correction. That sealed my fate. I needed two clean runs. I was out.
Watching the Best 8, there was a clear difference in skill level between the winners of the class and even a couple of the other Best 8 drivers. Consistency and going a bit harder are key to winning.
It was a great experience overall and definitely left me wanting to do better and try again. The excitement of it being a pressure situation also added another level fun to it. Control your nerves; control your car. Save the cheerleader; save the world. I’m already looking forward to Round 2 in June!
More pictures and video (the source of the above videos) can be found HERE on Katsu-san’s blog. かーつーさん、本当にありがとうございました！！