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Sundown in the Desert: An Evening at the Summer Corolla Matsuri [Gallery]

Tucked back in the sparse desert landscape of Apple Valley lies Grange Motor Circuit. The track, and it’s rough dirt road passageway from the neighboring I-15, are well known in the drifting community. On any given weekend, drift builds of all makes and models bump on down the dusty trail and end up sheltering under the shaded row of pits along Grange’s front straightaway. However, when the Corolla Matsuri comes to town, as it has for the past six years, things take a turn towards Toyota.

Corolla Matsuri Red

What began as a simple observance of 8/6 Day, also Corolla Matsuri’s lead organizer Andrew Goodluck’s birthday, has quickly outgrown it’s initial ten person invite list. Since 2012, the number of drivers at each event has steadily ticked upward, with 74 drivers overflowing the initial 50-driver estimate for this year’s 13 hours of drifting.

Corolla Matsuri Lineup

Once the weird feeling of beginning a "day" at the track at 5 p.m. wears off, the oddity is quickly replaced with piqued interest as drivers roll in. The long pit lane fills with trailers unloading track builds, Corolla owners selling off interior bits in an impromptu swap meet and stacks of tires seemingly materializing out of the numerous hatchbacks in attendance.

Corolla Matsuri Silver

Walking through the cars, sheltering stacks of snacks and gear from the sun and wind like circled wagons, it was easy to see that the once AE86-only event has grown to bring in more of the Toyota family. Alongside the Levins and Truenos, in all states of stripped and modified glory, examples of the TE72, Cressida, MR2 and Celica Supra were also making their way around the track.

Corolla Matsuri Stance

While the drivers got warmed up, the sun fell to the top of the nearby mountain range, the air cooling and the sky turning from a cloudless blue to a blazing orange and finally a deep peachy hue. The dust kicked up from overzealous entries off the front straight transformed the track into something resembling a martian landscape. The high speed racing drone used to capture chase footage surely didn’t hurt either.

Corolla Matsuri Drifting

The laps came and went, tires were smoked and discarded, and as the evening light began to die out everything became awash in shades of blue. Barbecue grills added their own smoke to the atmosphere, quickly mixing with the track’s tire smoke and blowing away on the constant summer winds.

Corolla Matsuri Yellow Orange Red

More and more attendees made their way over the hills behind the circuit as the night wore on, the on-track traffic almost never letting up completely. The event lasted through sunrise at about 6 a.m., at which point everyone said farewell and packed up until next time.

Corolla Matsuri Black and White

Andrew’s future goals include bringing an overseas guest driver to run the event with the locals and out-of-state commuters, which doesn’t seem as far flung a goal as it first sounds. With drivers from around the world complimenting the Corolla Matsuri staff on their work, the turnout is bound to continually increase as the event's reputation grows. In Andrew’s own words, “This is something I never saw in my future. Crazy to think what a little idea can become when you act on it.”

Make sure to check out the gallery full of 86s and sunsets above and keep an eye on the calendar for Corolla Matsuri’s next event. It’s definitely worth checking out in person!

Want to see an AE86 battle a Ferrari 348? Watch Driver Battles episode 2!

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