Being only a few weeks away from the finale of Formula Drift at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale, it seems like certain people have a view on how Formula Drift is getting away from it's core, grassroots drifters.
Some of the guys who have been in it since the beginning say that the influx of V8s is "the cancer that is killing the sport." Or it's difficult to enter the pro-level because the budgets for the good teams is too high, nearly unlimited in the view of some of them. The reality is that is the cost of motorsports, but the grassroots up and comer has a lot look forward to.
Today, if you look at the points ladder of Formula Drift, the top 10 is dominated by near tube chassis, V8 powered purpose built cars with budgets that skyrocket. Turek and Millen being the lone cars under 8 cylinders (Turek in a 4 and Millen in a 6). It's because of this that many original, die-hard fans view feel that Formula Drift has lost it's way and become a shill for Corporations, money, Drift Alliance, or whatever flavor of the week they decide to sip from. Drift Alliance? Well, that would help if more than 3 of the top 10 were DA members (JR 1st, Turek 4th, and Forsberg 6th). Corporations and money? Well, of the top 10, 4 are on Falken, two are on BFGoodrich, two are on Maxxis, and then Hankook, and Toyo, that's pretty close, but Falken does sponsor MANY cars that are not in the top 10 and they are 1st, 2nd, 5th, and 8th. Monster Energy only sponsors one car and JR is the current points leader, but the advertising is dominated by NOS Energy, yet Forsberg is 6th. Kills that idea, too.
The reality is that the cream has risen to the top this year. Really, to say that Formula Drift is buying into the things that conspiracy theorists say it is, is to take away from the teams and driver's who have performed better, stayed more consistent, or have developed their cars prior to this year and reality has shown otherwise.
The development of Formula Drift has also created a new avenue for smaller budget, grassroots drivers. Working in conjunction with Xtreme Drift Circuit, grassroots drivers no longer have to jump into the shark pool that is professional drifting. Can't afford to go FD? Run XDC! Also, it also gives larger budget teams the opportunity to develop drivers before stepping them up into the professional level, as we have seen with Steve Angerman and Gardella Racing, and I believe that this will be the future of many future top level drivers.
What‘s more is, there are the many legal, grassroots events that take place at tracks, parking lots, bases, and anywhere else they can be held. Opportunities to drift legally haven't been this good since drifting got it's hold on America and I can only expect it to get better. As more guys look for ways to do so legally and tracks and other facilities look to get more money in, the grassroots is only going to get better, but it will take the grassroots drivers to organize and encourage not only their fellow drifters, but encourage tracks and facilities to allow them to drift.
The future of professional drifting is a very similar path that NASCAR and WRC have followed, but must try to overcome their short falls. I foresee the tube-chassis drift car, because as the speeds and angles of Formula Drift have increased, there will be a need for more safety. A tube chassis car will provide better safety. Also, with more manufactures looking to increase brand awareness through drifting, FWD cars are being converted to RWD through an open interpretation of the drivetrain rules. This still does not take away from the skill of the drivers. It doesn't matter how a car is built (as far as tube chassis vs. uni-body), what it's drivetrain once was, it still takes skill, setup, and balls to take a car past 90* at over 100 MPH. This will not change, no matter what kind of car is used.
The secret is containing the look of the car. The bodies must stay in the same dimensions as the road going versions. No COT type "stock cars," no silhouette cars, the wheelbase, width, height, and dimensions of the drift cars must be the same as measured on the road going car. The floor pan can be in any shape required to fit the drivetrain, the firewall can be any shape in order to fit the engine/transmission selection, seating can be as needed to be the safest and best fit for the vehicle and drive, so long as all of this will fit under the body of the road car. This is where NASCAR lost it's way and how FD can allow a larger mix of cars. Manufactures will like it better because now their vehicle, despite being FWD, can enter and increase their brand awareness with the fans of FD. While this will increase costs, again this is the professional level of Drifting.
XDC could still continue it's current level and allow the Pro-Am driver to develop for the future level and retain the current model rules. The grassroots will be the entry for the fan that wants to step up and try with cars that are above street-legal cars. This is the stepping stone that I have championed since I spoke up about how drifting should progress and be better for everyone involved. We do have a great model going right now with FD/XDC/Grassroots and its only going to get better.
So, I see Formula Drift getting better and more fan oriented. Cars will become wilder, safer, and more advanced in their builds. FD will grow and advance, just as it is doing now. The disgruntled fan of today, however, will still be disgruntled.
This piece was written and submitted by a Jalopnik reader and may not express views held by Jalopnik or its staff. But maybe they will become our views. It all depends on whether or not this person wins by whit of your eyeballs in our reality show, "Who Wants to be America's Next Top Car Blogger?"