Round 5 – The verdict on an experimental event

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So last week I finally announced what Round 5 of the Lone Star Drift Series was all about with a youtube video.  I am always looking for new ways to make drifting more entertaining and fun for both the drivers and the spectators.  More accessible and more sustainable.  So far in the past couple years on this front we have:

  1.  Brought world class drifters out to our events from around the globe to drive with us.  The list includes Yokoi from MCR Factory, Tezuka from Kids Heart, Chelsea Denofa, Matt Powers, Ryan Tuerck, JR, and many others.
  2. We deleted qualifying from our format to make the events have more practice tandem time, less boring single runs.  This is great for the crowd because it is more entertaining, it is great for the drivers because they get to practice more, or potentially save tires if they are running low, and great for the judges as it requires less of them.  It is also amazing for the newer drivers because the bracketing format lets ALL competitors tandem at the events and improve, not just to the best drivers.  So the best drivers potentially compete LESS than the newest drivers, saving the best guys cars and tires for the rest of the season, but getting the new guys more seat time.
  3. Promoting our events and drivers through our own youtube channel with a lot of attention and content.  This creates a great relationship between the crowd and the drivers, and makes the crowd feel more connected and aware of the drivers, like they already know them when they come to their first event.
  4. We created TXSL ( Texas Street Legal ) which is a new series based on a rule book to make cars more reliable and simplistic so they don’t break, and drivers can focus on actually drifting instead of working on their cars.  Many other events around the nation kind of copied the idea, but missed the point of the rule book, which is to keep the cars from blowing up, and to keep the drivers from going broke.

So, anyways, Round 5 was something else entirely.  I wanted to push the envelope on a few things.  I wanted the crowd as close to the action as humanly possible to give them the feeling they are PART of the event, and not just passive spectators.  This was achieved by making the smallest track possible and keeping speeds low, and then placing barriers between the crowd and drivers and getting the crowd within feet of the action.  To keep things safe we kept speeds extremely low next to the crowd, to feel out the format and make sure everything was safe safe safe.  Next, we deleted the track layout.  We simply built a track which was a box with obstacles within it, and let the drivers take any path they wanted through the track.  This worked way better than I could have imagined.  The slow speeds kept the drivers close, but also allowed them to anticipate the other drivers actions with enough time to follow them where ever they went.  And finally we changed the way the judging worked a bit to compensate for the differences in the track layout.  A brief explanation of the judging differences:  The lead driver must complete his lap well in order to “activate” the overall judging of the lap.  If the lead driver does not provide a good lead lap so the following driver can have a chance at a good follow lap, the lead driver is zeroed for that lap regardless of the following driver’s performance.  Think that through for a second and that explanation should explain all your questions I think.

Ok, so that is a good beginning to this who write up.  I spent a lot of  time transporting barriers, planning out a track, discussing things with people important to the event, and stuff like that.  On the first morning of the two day event it was raining so hard the venue was flooded under a couple inches of water, and I was a bit nervous to run an experimental event which could go so wrong under the best of conditions.  But I am stubborn as hell and plowed on, and we setup everything over the course of 4 hours or so before everyone arrived at the venue.  The rain quit, leaving a wet mess of everything as driving began on our silly course layout.  Some of the drivers told me they flat out hated the idea, some were excited, but again, I am stubborn and we plowed on regardless of what everyone thought.  As the track dried out over the next few hours I got to drive my Mustang a bit on track with everyone in tandem, and magic happened.  The track was extremely fun even though it was crazy small.  The tandem was pretty close even though we all had no idea where anyone was going.  The track was extremely fun, the format was fun, I would even dare say it bordered on comically fun.  The crowd LOVED it.  Some of the drivers that disliked it came around by the end of the second day, a few still disliked it, but I would say the majority enjoyed it a lot.  TXSL comp went pretty smoothly, as smoothly as ever I would say, and as the sun went down the drinks came out and everyone had fun.  The weather was beautiful and was great for camping with your friends under the star light of the small town sky.

Fast forward to day two and the driving got even better on the tiny track.  We successfully fit 20 cars on track at once, on a track the runs back over itself, and with no layout.  It was a blast and hilarious, and we have the video to prove it.  Everything went smoothly, we played bumper cars over and over again, with so much car on car and car on barrier contact it was crazy.  No cars were serious hurt to my knowledge, but some of the slower sections were a bit hard on axles.  Proam comp went off very smoothly, and at the beginning of the day I think ALL the drivers had a blast, and the only remaining complaints from the format were that a few drivers thought Proam should only be high speed tracks.  I can see their point of view, and I think that this track layout would be best suited to a fun event and not a comp, although comps bring all the drivers out and fun days do not, so in order to do something like this again the event should probably be a comp.

The verdict?  The small track layout with no track layout was a great success in my opinion.  I could easily include a higher speed entry into the track layout to hit the check marks of speed for some of the drivers, as well as improving on other little ideas surrounding the event.  Pretty much everyone loved the event from the spectators to the drivers, and that is what really matters.  I also had another point hammered home to me, which is drifting for me is all about having fun with your friends.  It isn’t about pretty cars, fancy tracks, famous people, big money, 1000 hp or anything else.  None of those things makes a person have fun.  Drifting on a beautiful track all by yourself gets boring really fast.  Tandem with rad cool people and playing bumper cars is hilarious fun, the tandem and the people are what make the events amazing, and that is what I should focus on, since Lone Star Drift events are built around the concept of fun above all else.  I know some people want serious race cars, strict rule books, stanced out show cars, etc, but focusing on fun is far more important to me, and in my opinion, the health and sustainability of drifting long term.

P.S. I didn’t proof read this.

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