In my pursuit of getting a bit out of what the car owes me. I signed up for a drift school put on by a local track. This track is really cool since this is where they do Formula D Seattle.
Some things to prep:
Find some spare wheels
Ready a small tool kit
Prepare mechanical equipment
Prepare electrical equipment
Finding spare wheels:
I actually had some konig rewinds with tires I had always planned on using, but those were stolen along with my friend’s car when I lent them to him. Luckily I had another spare set of 280zx turbo wheels with some decent tread tires that were included I bought ages ago.
Readying a small tool kit:
I managed to convince a friend to enter the drift school as well. He said he would bring a jack and an impact, so I drastically reduced my tool kit to bare essentials, screw drivers, socket set, zip ties, tape, emergency wiring kit.
Prepare mechanical equipment:
The car had been behaving well, so I decided to just check the fluids. Oil was a bit low, so I bought some oil and topped it off. I decided I would just leave the oil behind because what are the chances I would need oil in about 50 miles of driving (foreshadow...)?
Prepare electrical equipment:
I took my dash tablet home and charged it. I messed around a bit with the acceleration enrichment on the tune. Given my troubles with controlling boost, I decided to buy a manual boost controller to bypass that whole EBC deal. Gopros were charged in anticipation of the awesomeness that would ensue.
Friend and I decided to meet a little bit earlier and head there together. On the way I found that even with the manual boost controller set off the car was still overboosting, making more than 20lbs around 4-5k rpm under load. Definitely a problem I’ll have to look into down the road, maybe a bigger wastegate or something will be in order.
After meeting up and filling up with gas, we pulled up near the race track. Not knowing where to go we pulled over to start looking up the back entrance when we saw a couple lowered cars and a truck and trailer with an S14 driving and quickly pulled in behind them.
At the track:
After signing in at the back gate and paying the fee ($80) we were let in. At the track some prep work began. Wheels were changed and cars went under tech. After pulling away to go to tech and returning to the spot I was just parked at I found there was a noticeable oil trail. DAMMIT. Frantically looking around I found it coming from the intake side of the engine. Following the trail led to the other side of the turbo feed line being loose. Oil lines will be the death of my some day. Luckily since my last adventure I had kept a wary eye on the oil pressure gauge that had continued to have pressure so I was hopefully good, but with only the most pathetic drip on the dip stick I was not about to go out drifting.
Asking around the pits, I found someone who had some 5W-30. I had some cash on hand and asked if I could top off my oil with his 5 quart jug for a couple bucks. After getting about 2 quarts in, I started to panic, until it finally showed up and climbed the dip stick. I offered to paypal him the money since I didn’t have cash on me, he said not to worry too much about it we’ll take care of it later.
Tires swapped, ready to go out on track.
The way the drift school works is for a small fee they set you up with an instructor. You go through some exercises. First a donut around a barrel, eventually transitioning into figure 8's around 2 barrels. Then comes the short course, then eventually the longer course when you are ready.
The instructors do this in exchange for a free open day drift pass. I don’t think I would ever consider that to be honest. My theory is they do it because they really want to get more people involved, because teaching drifting is a massive hardship.
Getting in they get the basics down, how to get started, how to initiate, what to expect, what to try to do. 4 people go out at a time line up next to their barrel and basically you go at it. Start by driving a circle then intiate by either power over or as my instructor wanted by clutch kicking, stabbing the clutch, bringing up the rev’s with the clutch in and breaking traction via the engine and roadspeed mismatch. Once the rear starts to rotate you in theory counter steer and grab the rotation preventing a complete spin while maintaining forward momentum.
It is a very odd feeling to initiate. You purposely take the car to the limit and break it. Once you break it though you have to maintain power letting off suddenly and you find yourself in a jarring transition. Staying on too much and you find yourself in a tight spin. A video game definitely won’t prepare you for how violent the g’s are when you transition or do a spin. After about a dozen or so attempts they signal people to get off and send in the next 4. I wish I could say this was easy, but man was I tossed around. I’m sure sitting so far back in the S30 chassis didn’t help. I apologized profusely the whole time as I couldn’t imagine how sick the instructor was getting. After about the 3rd run I couldn’t take it anymore. I pulled over and told the instructor that I was going to be sick if this continued. He was super good about it. Started asking me questions about the car to try and distract me, reassuring me it was the layout more than the violent spins that were occurring.
I dropped the instructor off with the other student and went back to the pits. The individual I borrowed oil from had just blown his tire in a spectacular fashion, ejecting the tread and shooting it up vertically past his quarter maybe 20 feet up in the air. A friend had actually been in the pits and offered to go get some oil so I exchanged his jug with the one I used more than half of. He was putting on a donut getting ready to go home after maybe 30 minutes. I told him that I was sick, and he could use my tires if he really wanted to. After talking about it though, his car had a open differential, mine at least had a shimmed VLSD. So I decided, why don’t we just share my car? He did me a real solid lending me his oil. His car wasn’t going to do much better with an open differential even with tires. This would also give me a chance to take a breather between runs, giving me a bit more recovery time.
By the time we got back in, they had changed the course to do the short course which was 3 tight corners. This was way easier for me as you weren’t subject to very tight turns repeatedly. A couple more runs trying to get it and failing, but this time not feeling anywhere as sick. Also watching my car go out on track was interesting as well. After several mediocre attempts I asked one of the instructors if he wouldn’t mind taking the car out to see if it could even do a run.
The result was, no not really at all. This was a different car with different balance than what he was used to, but the lack of steering angle meant you had to really run a fine line. With the power on hand you were also just blowing away traction on command essentially. The instructor did say with an angle kit that this could do quite well.
I came into this knowing this, people had long said that the slow steering, small amount of angle, short wheel base, etc the S30 chassis was really made to be more of a GT racer than a drift car, and now first hand I really agree.
With our little adventure out of the way we stayed and watched all the more experienced individuals show up.
Boy was it interesting to watch. All sorts of cars and even a truck went out on the course.
The instructors were also on course, most likely blowing off the frustration from being spun around all day by the more amateur of the group (me definitely included).
Some of the people from the school even attacked the course, it is amazing to watch some of these guys go from barely being able to do a donut to linking corners in just a matter of a day.
Drifting is really cool, the fact that there are these people who are trying to get others into the sport at physical distress to themselves is admirable. That people are willing to lend what they have on hand. That people are looking out for each other, letting each other know if they are leaking fluid or blown a bead off their tire. I went from being comfortable that this wasn’t going to be my thing that the G forces involved just were going to make me sick, to being curious that maybe with another chassis with better steering and balance might be something cool down the road.
Tires - 100? - came free on a set of rims I bought for $200 many years ago, retail price $100
Fire extinguisher -
40 - track requires a 5lb bottle, I bought it in the morning and returned it in the afternoon
Entry fee - 80 - this includes the open drift event which is $60 by itself, the school portion is just $20 pretty much.
Super special thanks to Andrew for the pictures!