Boost Fest: Drifting & Racing Worlds Unite
The last several years’ shift in popularity from structured event series to enthusiast-organized bashes has pretty drastically re-shaped the automotive events landscape. Sure, Formula Drift's competition rounds are still a huge draw for spectators, but increasingly so are the All-Star Bash, World Cup Finals of Drag Racing, various club track days and plenty of others that invite enthusiasts to not only spectate, but also participate in the things they love. And brands connected with their customer bases are taking notice.
Enter Boost Fest, which for the past several years has united enthusiasts, amateurs and professionals of drifting, drag racing, time-attack and more at annual events that fit the trends.
Boost Fest Moves West
Boost Fest has traditionally been an Arizona event, which has been great for Arizona and Southwest enthusiasts, but has left us Cali boys hanging. This year that changed as Garrett occupied Willow Springs’ Streets of Willow, Balcony and Horse Thief Mile courses to host JustDrift, Drift 101 and Global Time Attack (GTA) antics, respectively. Absent from festivities (and from Willow Springs altogether) was drag racing, but for the diehard fans, Import Faceoff was throwing down at Bakersfield's Famoso Raceway, just 100 miles northwest.
It was fun! Cold and windy, and not as big as we’ve seen from past year’s events, but Boost Fest provided those in attendance with the winter break they were yearning for, with plenty of beginner-to-professional drifting, amateur-to-professional time-attacking and tons of fun and camaraderie in the pits and paddocks to boot.
Where to Start: Drift 101
If you have literally zero experience with drifting and want to get started (or if you just want to hang out at Willow Springs for a few hours and beat on someone else’s cars), Drift 101 has you covered. When it comes to OGs in California’s drifting scene, they don’t come much more thoroughbred than Naoki Kobayashi, founder of Drift Day, California’s very first organized drifting events. As the headman of Drift 101 today, he will likely be your first contact should you choose one of the best paths to start your drifting obsession. He’s seen the rise of too many talented slide drivers to count, and his advice can be golden if you heed it.
After an online registration at drift101.com, Naoki-san will invite you out to Willow Springs’ Balcony track one sunny Southern California weekend, get you behind the wheel of either of his drift-prepped S13 240SXs or Nissan 350Zs, pair you with an instructor with years of professional drifting or stunt driving experience, and basically cut you loose to learn the finer points of car control in smokey, full-throttle glory.
For Boost Fest-ivities, instructors Jeff Jones (Formula D pro) and Susan Purkhiser (stunt driver and defensive driving instructor) joined Naoki-san and his staff in teaching students drifting fundamentals; for some, that can sometimes begin with how to drive a manual transmission car.
Once they get past that, the rest is all "clutch-kicks and donuts," as they say in drifting. For anyone who’s mastered the techniques, they’re a piece of cake; but for beginners, they can take some time. Since holding a perfect donut involves clutch-kicking, throttle modulation and counter-steering, Drift 101 believes they’re the best place to start.
Lesson begins by watching from the passenger seat while an instructor demonstrates the technique...
...then hopping in the driver’s seat and going at it for the better part of an hour.
After that it’s onto figure-eights, which add the skill of transitioning to the training.
And if you make it this far (don’t feel bad if you don’t, most students come back another day for this part), it’s onto higher-speed hand-brake initiations and long, sweeping drifts.
All in all, Drift 101 is possibly the best way to get involved with drifting. For less than the cost of renting the track for half a day, you get about as much usable time on-track, professional instruction and guidance, and even a rental drift car.
And when you’re ready to move on and have built your own car, Drift 101 can help you with that, too.
The Next Step: JustDrift
Leading up to the founding of Drift Day, two Japanese drift aficionados were regularly getting kicked out of Speed Ventures' track days for getting too sideways, too often. After they teamed up with Naoki-san to form Drift Day, retired Formula D pros Hiro Sumida and Taka Aono launched JustDrift, the organization responsible for Top Drift, today’s SoCal Formula D pro-am series and the infamous All Star Bash. Attendees of this year’s Boost Fest got a taste of their efforts, along with a preview of what’s to come from Top Drift and Formula D competition this year.
The first and craziest car we saw upon entering Horse Thief Mile, JustDrift’s turf of the 2017 Boost Fest, wasn’t a car at all. It was Australian drifter Josh Robinson’s 1,000 hp Holden VF “Carbon Drift Ute" — a ridiculously overbuilt professional drift machine based on the Australian-market Holden Commodore, but cut to look like an awesome modern-day El Camino. The buzz this thing caused was insane, but in a cruel twist of offseason testing strategy, it wasn’t driven during the official Boost Fest event. Josh and team scurried over to Willow’s nearby Speedway for some testing and shakedowns, and promised to treat spectators at a later date, hopefully in Formula D Pro competition.
Of those in attendance who did drift, Alex Heilbrunn of Nitto Tire and his buff E46 BMW M3 put on some of the meanest, most consistent, smokiest shows, especially against FD rival Dijiro Yoshihara in his still-in-redevelopment flared Toyota 86. We’re hoping to see more of these close battles in FD competition this year!
Equally impressive and possibly more interesting was seeing off-road racing vet and soon-to-be-Formula-D rookie Brad DeBerti’s quick acclimation to drifting Vaughn Gittin Jr.'s demo Ford Mustang on the tight and topographically diverse course. He began the day looking just like a drifting rookie in a very powerful car, but ended it with the same angle, line and smoke as we’d expect from VGJ or JTP on any given Saturday. Consider us very interested in seeing what lies ahead from this accomplished newcomer.
On the pro-am front, the battles were even closer, thanks to George Kiriakopoulos, Rome Charpentier, Sean Adriano, Austin Sager and plenty more. As much as we’re looking forward to FD, this year’s Top Drift competition looks to be every bit as close in its own regard.
Get a Grip: Global Time Attack
And finally, for those of us with an appreciation for the rules, the laws of physics, and for stretching them as absolutely far as they’ll go, there was the time-attack portion of Boost Fest, handled handily by Global Time Attack in their first regional pro-am competition of the season.
In classic time-attack fashion, a competitor in the Unlimited AWD class clocked the fastest time of the day: David Haagsma in an SP Engineering-tuned R35 Nissan GT-R, laying down a blisteringly fast 1:18.717 — so fast, that our cameras could only catch a glimpse of it in the pits.
But in keeping with recent years’ trend of competitors in Limited and Street classes posting faster times than Unlimited-class machines, less than a second behind Haagsma was Steven Chan and Limited-class his R35 GT-R, with a 1:19.445.
Claiming third overall was the lone Pro/Comp class competitor, Richard Buckingham, with a 1:19.600 from his Ariel Atom SRA.
But just as impressive was the fourth-place-overall finisher: Markos Mylonas in his — wait for it —Street Class(!) Subaru Impreza WRX, with a 1:20.637.
Competition in all classes was impressive, with the vast majority of drivers posting best times solidly in the 1:20s, with just a few outliers in the low-to-mid 1:30s. Absent from competition was Super Lap Battle champ and Willow Springs local Mark Jager and his Yimi Sport Subaru WRX, but if the GT-R threat means to Mark what we think it does, we’re betting he’ll be out next round to set the record straight.
Top Drift Rd. 1 goes down at Willow Springs’ Balcony track in just over two weeks, followed by Formula D Long Beach the week after, with GTA’s second Pro-Am event and first Pro round hot on their heels.