Chariots of Fire – April Drifting at Meremere
Two weekends ago I dragged myself out of bed with every intention of setting fire to my mobile phone.
Yes, it was early in the morning.
In fact, far too early. I was up before that glowing ball in the sky was above the horizon and I’ll make no excuses for my demeanor, I am not a morning person nor do I have any intention of ever being one. I openly despise those cheery, wide-eyed morningers we all know and there is definitely nothing pleasant about the screams from my cellphone alarm clock.
For all I care the early bird can keep the damn worm!
Reluctantly though I silenced my alarm, found my camera, and crawled out the door into the crisp morning air. I had planned to shoot a relaxed day of drifting at the Fram Autolite Dragway ( better known minus the sponsorship prefixes as the Meremere Dragway) and had to leave very early to pick-up some friends and make the gate opening on time.
Read on because what I shot had more action than lesbian porn.
Located an hour’s drive from Auckland’s lively city centre, the Dragway is not unlike most others. It has a straight piece of tarmac for cars to race, staging lights to let cars know when to go and even a place for people to sit and eat. However that Friday it was used to cater for a different crowd in a slightly unusual manner.
Down the end of the track, well past the finish line is the dragway run off. A place where drivers lovingly apply their brakes with hopes of slowing their fast-moving cars down. On the right hand side of the runoff sits the pit return lane, an elevated back-road which drivers use to return to the staging area.
The pit return lane when run in reverse acts as the perfect downhill hand-brake entry. Add a bunch of cones and a flag marshal and you’ve got yourself the perfect section of tarmac to safely learn handbrake entry’s and manji drifting.
Everything seemed normal at the drivers briefing. Wide eyed guys and girls got suited up and buckled in. Eager for action they started with some basic cone work and it wasn’t long before they started to line up in the pit return lane for the full manji sessions.
Then all hell broke loose, within minutes cars were in ditches and even on fire.
It was awesome.
It was madness.
It was Sparta!
James gracefully backed his Army Green Nissan 180sx into the infamous Dragway ditch but fortunately for the 180sx the damage was easily repairable and he was right back out there with his runs really starting to come together by the afternoon sessions.
Note the flames coming from the 180sx in the background of the top picture. Double the action and twice the drama!
The driver of the silver 180sx wasn’t quite as lucky and had his car towed home around mid-day. It looked as if the top of the fuel filler was on fire Bunsen-burner style and took a crowd of people and about 5 extinguishers to finally smother the happily persistent flames. Fortunately no one was harmed and the damage was limited. The car should be back out at the next manji day.
After the morning madness the day settled down, the sun came out from behind clouds and the drivers really started to get into it. Occasional mechanical issues grounded a few but for the majority of drivers the day was problem free.
By the time the afternoon arrived everybody’s lines were looking pretty clean and with no cars stuck in ditches or on fire people really started to step it up. Jack who was driving the red S14 Silvia was really starting to string together his drifting and was showing some very notable improvements from the morning sessions. Twin car battles and 3 car tandem manjis quickly became the order of the afternoon with drivers getting stuck in and loving every moment of it.
One of my favorite cars would have had to been this SR20DE S13 on mismatched panels sporting some very tidy R33 GTR rims. For me this car personified my favourite type of drifting; the fun and fairly inexpensive grassroots style sliding, which is what these days are all about.
Personally I still have lots to learn about photography, especially around shooting people. It’s not quite where I want it to be and I was struggling shooting the day for some reason. But for the drivers I think the day was a pretty good success with lots of experience gained for everybody.
I guess the symphony of violent wakeup screams from my mobile phone were worth it in the end. If not only for watching the drama unfold, but for hanging out with the great guys and girls who make the grassroots drifting community what it is.