The 2013 Hyundai Lateral Drift Pro-Am Championship Series might just be considered a milestone in local motorsports history. For the first time ever, two professional Japanese drifters are on hand to not only judge the competition but to also help give tips to amateur and professional drifters alike on how to improve their craft.
Already, significant changes in the way the races will be judged are being introduced. From being judged as soon as the cars get off the starting line instead of the initial drift, to expectations of higher speed and more commitment in every maneuver, and all the way to not allowing the cars to bounce their revs on the limiter during a drift. All these are just some of the adjustments our local drifters will have to get used to this year.
And the reason for the changes is simple: The judges and the organizers want to help improve the competitiveness of the field. And with Hyundai Asia Resources helping out this season to give this opportunity for our local drivers to pick the minds of two of the more prominent drifting professionals in the world, we can expect a more exciting season ahead.
Let\'s get to meet our Drift Couple: D1 Grand Prix drifter Kimihiro Obata and his wife, Formula Drift stalwart Hiromi Kajikuma.
How did you both get into drifting?
Hiromi Kajikuma: I got into drifting because of my husband. He was the real drifter and race car driver, and I was just into dressing up cars. But since my husband was into racing, it was natural for me to follow suit.
Who\'s the better drifter between the two of you?
Kimihiro Obata: She is (both laugh and point at each other). This is how we compete. When I run in the D1 Grand Prix, my wife is the spotter. And when she races in Formula Drift in the US, I am her spotter. That\'s why we both think the other is faster.
Kajikuma: My husband, yeah… (smiles)
Drifting as a motorsport has grown by leaps and bounds. What do you think makes it exciting?
Obata: First of all, I get excited with drifting when I get to actually match the style of drifting I had in my mind with my actual run. When I make a perfect run, from the way I envisioned it through practice and all the way to the actual race, that gives me the satisfaction I crave for. The other thing that gets me excited with drifting is when I see the crowd happy with our runs. The feeling is just exhilarating when I see the people all pumped up by our performance.
Kajikuma: When I am behind the wheel, I already feel excited. I sometimes feel that if I am already thrilled, then maybe the crowd is as well. But seeing that the audience actually gets animated with what I just did on the track excites me even more. And since I race outside Japan as well, I want to make all the people who watch us in every country we go to, happy as well.
Is drifting something you see yourselves doing for a long time?
Kajikuma: It is not only in drifting we would like to see ourselves in. We actually love--and have been a part of--many forms of motorsports. Right now, with the popularity of drifting, this is where we are devoting our time. Drifting is currently our favorite motorsport. But whether it is circuit, time attack or another form of motorsports, all these we want to continue being a part of as well.
What advice can you give to Filipinos who want to get into drifting?
Kajikuma: Everyone who got into this sport did so because of the excitement and the exhilaration that successfully driving a car sideways gives. No one should forget that. Always remember why you got into drifting, or whatever motorsport for that matter. There will always be problems along the way of your career--like the lack of funding, accidents and so on. But if you always keep in your heart the real reason you got into racing--the pureness and the passion you had when you started--then you can come back to it again and again in order to sustain your career.
Obata: For me, if you want to make a career out of drifting, first thing you need to do is to look for true friends in the business. Friends who will help you strengthen your weak points as much as you would help them fix theirs. You can\'t excel in drifting all by yourself. You have to have friends who will help you out. It shouldn\'t be just one person who is happy; everyone should be happy. Even with the ease of modern technology allowing you to go online to search for answers, nothing beats having real friends around you whom you can go to and ask advice from. And now that Lateral D has invited us here to judge in their events, we welcome drifters to approach us and ask us any question. Whether it is about their driving style or their car\'s setup, we want to help. This year, we are here to share with the Philippine drifting community what we know, and impart our experiences so that we will see a leveling-up of local Filipino drifting talent.
What are your expectations for this weekend\'s drifting races?
Kajikuma: While we want to see more speed in this weekend\'s runs, what\'s more important is to see the drivers push themselves up to what their skills can deliver. They need not be flashy, but we want to see them do their best. It would be much better if they could all improve in every succeeding round with our help.
Obata: Filipino drifters are quick, but what I really want to see this weekend is for them to give it their all. I want to see their passion every time they take to the track.
Photos by Mikko David