Round two of the Australian Drift Grand Prix kicked off last weekend here in Melbourne. Arriving at 8am Saturday morning at Calder Park Raceway, the stage was already set for one of the biggest things in Australian drifting!
With a field of nearly 50 cars and some of the best drivers this country has to offer, it was the drifting event not to be missed!
Calder Park’s ‘Thunder Dome’ race circuit was the integral stage to this show! With it’s daunting sloping banks and unforgiving solid concrete walls, it puts even the best drivers to the test!!
The event is split into two days and two classes to allow for plenty of practice time and to keep things running smoothly. Day one is reserved for practice and qualifying sessions.
While this might not sound all that exciting, with 50 drivers coming to grips with the demanding track, tuning and perfecting their setups while they look out for other drivers as they practice, the sessions are basically a free for all!
Day one saw plenty of mishaps, like cars colliding with walls and even each other!
Once I had woken up and found my bearings in the icy morning wind in Melbourne’s west, I got to pointing my camera in the general direction of some cars. The first thing that you notice in the Thunder Dome is that every car is 10 times louder thanks to the grand stand seating and massive banks surrounding the track.
Top this off with the ridiculous speed drivers need to push off from the start line in order to hit the first corner with enough gusto to get sliding and get the perfect line and ride the wall into the second ‘horse shoe’ corner.
Now this wouldn’t be a problem if the designated media spots were not running the length of the entire start line only 1.5 meters from the actual live race track… I should have brought ear plugs!!
This year there was massive improvements to the spectators area, now only a few meters back from the track with a raised seating section which gave anyone wanting to spend an extra $10 the best seat in the house, literally the best spot to see any of the action!!
Now onto some of the action from day one…
After only 20 minutes of practice laps, drivers started to get nice and close and starting to find their ‘groove’ to prepare for the battles that would follow the next day.
This of course meant right from the start there was going to be a few ‘hairy’ moments…
Here Matt Russel screeched to a halt avoiding contact with a spun-out car only metres in front, narrowly avoiding bending in his very straight AE86!
As the morning went on there was spin after spin as drivers got used to the steep banks in the final section of the short course.
This Toyota Cressida had already made friends with a wall earlier in the morning. Chris Grinter was pulling out all the stops to keep his 1JZ powered sedan off the walls for the remainder of the day!
John Dreyer in the JDM-R S13 was the number one qualifier in the street class. The V8 powered Silvia had the finishing touches completed literally the night before in the carport at home, with a fresh coat of paint to top it off!
The car looked and performed so well and sounded even better!!
Hit and Run drifter Waz, was having a host of issues over the weekend in his 180SX. Defying all odds, he managed to actually change some damaged engine bearings in the pits before hitting the track again! True dedication and skills right there!!
Another car from the NSW drift crew, Hit and Run.
Brett’s “Reaper” S14 is an absolute crowd pleaser with it’s monstrous L98 V8 engine and menacing looks from the ridiculously wide wheels.
Here Brett chucks the 200SX into the first corner after a massive run up from the start line, with a scando-flick the massive S14 grips just before hitting the wall running a near perfect line.
Now I say ‘near’ as the rear corner of the car didn’t look all the same after this photo…
With a few scrapes from the wall, the back eventually ended up around 30cm shorter on one side!
Also check out the smoke coming of the front tyre!!
With the back of the car facing the outer wall of the track the sound of the massive V8 was beyond deafening, easily one of the most unique cars with tonnes of character.
I can’t wait to see Brett Reid’s ‘Reaper’ in action again!!
In between runs the Calder safety crew ventured out onto the track to collect the debris from the collisions and wall taps, the little safety buggy was literally overflowing with panels and bumpers at one stage!
Leigh Pidwell was finding the limits of his borrowed S13 early on, not only was it Leigh’s second time driving the car competitively, it was his second time driving the car ever!!
It didn’t take long to tame the beast, soon Leigh was enjoying some friendly tandem action with Hayden Buckham in his V8 VE Ute.
With Luke Fink’s Holford Motors S14 out of action with several gearbox failures, all eyes were on Queensland favorite, Rob Whyte!
He was drifting in one of the most professional looking cars on the track and running a supercharger too!!
The Monster 350Z is actually Rob’s second car! Everything the team did right on the first S/C 350Z they copied and bettered on the version you see here.
So how many of you can say you own two supercharged, professional drift 350Z’s??
Rob is surely the envy of many!
This is the second time we have managed to snap away at Rob Whyte drifting away at Calder Park in this very same car!
Last time was for the Ken Block/Monster Energy event held late last year.
Peter Vouyoukas is getting better each and every time I see him and his fluro wheels!
Peter managed to qualify in 14th just ahead of Nic Wilson in his white JZX100 Chaser.
As the temperature warmed up so did the driving, by lunch time you could be mistaken for thinking the battles had started!
Tasmania’s Andrew Considine here with Matt Russel hot on his S14’s tail!
Matt was really killing the angle out of the second corner, the little hatch looked right at home on the massive banks of the Thunder Dome!
There must be something in South Australia’s water because it really is the home of some of the best drifters in the country!
Simon Michelmore was another driver plagued by car troubles, at one point actually leaving for several hours to purchase a new turbo charger and installing it just in time to qualify 22nd!
Absolute top effort and driving from one of SA’s favorite drivers!!
Another driver making the long trip from South Australia was Anthony CeCe in the street registered Cefiro!
Yep that’s right, this car can be ‘somewhat’ legally driven on the road!
With a full interior and bolt in roll cage it can be driven home from the track! Now that is something to be proud of and qualifying in front of Simon Michelmore by just 3 points!!
A local favourite, with a fast growing fan base is Ender Esenyel. With one of the best attitudes going around it’s not hard to see why he is a favourite amongst other drivers too!
A big congratulations to Ender for taking 6th spot in the qualifying just ahead of Nigel Petrie!!!
One of my personal favorite cars is Jarrod Klinberg’s KE70 Corolla Wagon. The car is about as cool as they get and it cocks one of the front wheels through nearly every corner!!
No car was safe from loosing parts, here Nigel Petrie lost his rear bar after a ‘love’ tap from Denzo in his S15 from behind.
Nearly all the spots had been filled and the last few cars headed out to get every second of track time they had. Here we see Chris Fleckno getting rid of any last bit of that annoying rubber stuck to the round ‘rolly’ things under your car.
The sun was setting and temperature quickly dropped. After I got a few last images I packed up to get back home so I could get some sort of sensation back my hands again and get early night sleep in preparation for the absolutely massive day that ahead.
This was how the sky looked as I packed everything into the car, it looked like a sign that tomorrow was going to be intense… I was excited to say the least!!!
Stay tuned for the full coverage of the massive final day including action from both pro and street class battles…
Watch this space!
Thanks for reading,
Full qualifying results here ::