Drift All Stars UAE
Yas Marina Circuit will host Drift All Stars, one of the biggest drift events to ever hit in the UAE as a brand new global motorsport championship comes to the Middle East for the first time.
Ten extremely talented and established drivers from Europe had shipped their cars to Abu Dhabi and will pitch themselves against 20 drivers from the GCC, including two-time Middle East Red Bull Car Park Drift champion Ahmad Daham, Drift UAE champion Ahmed Alamri, leading Saudi contender Abudhadi Alqatani and UAE debutants Sultan Al Qassimin and Khalifa Al Nahyan.
Drifting is one of the fastest growing motorsports on the planet, chiefly because it combines the drama of drag and circuit racing with unbelievable skills of rally driving, in a short punch of extremely percussive and explosive action.
In the heat of battle, cars race door-to-door, sliding from one corner to the next as their drivers skilfully push the limits of their 900-horsepower machines at speeds of over 130 km/h. Think that’s fast on the motorway? Inches away from another car while pitched sideways is an entirely different prospect.
Daham told Esquire Middle East, “It’s just going to be an amazing event. To have all the guys shipping their cars from Europe, there is no excuse for them! We’re going to give them a good run for their money.”
Daham, who drives a 950 horsepower(!) Nissan S13, says the sport has evolved incredibly over recent years. Where his car was tuned to develop 600 horsepower to win his 2015 titles, this year he’s had to extract more power to stay ahead of the competition.
Why more power? Well, much of the appeal of drifting comes down to three major components: speed, tyre smoke and the impact you have on the crowd during your run. Linking corners together, switching from one angle of drift to another, all while maintained a decent trail of smoke from your rear tyres takes a lot of power.
“The more power you have, you need more grip. Without grip, power is useless. When you have more power, you can use wider tyres, use less tyre pressure, different compounds to get more grip but also produce lots of smoke.”
“The crazy thing about drifting now is that the cars are becoming so powerful. There are cars with 1500 horsepower. My new car for next year is 1400 horsepower, so the level of power is really getting up there. Nine-second (quarter mile sprint) drag cars, drifting. It’s unbelievable when you think about it.”
Irishman Nigel Colfer, one international driver with his eyes on a podium spot for the weekend, told Esquire, “This weekend is just going to be the biggest drift show to ever come to this country. The location is incredible; you’re going to get an amazing atmosphere; the sounds are just going to be out of this world with 7-800 horsepower cars coming in here, tons of tyre smoke – it’s just an amazing show. It’s definitely not to be missed. If you can’t get here, you’re really going to kick yourself.”
“It’s going to be really fast, and really spectacular. The view you have, even for us up above at the startline with the lights on, you have the stadium area looking down in the action. It just makes your hair stand on end. It should be pretty sweet when the battles get going and the event starts pulling through and the adrenaline starts to flow.”
“It’s not like other forms of motorsport where you can make a mistake and make up for it. A run here, and this is a fairly long one, is about 40-45 seconds and you have to be on it right from the beginning. The competition is so tough that of you make any kind of mistake, that’s you out for the weekend,” Colfer said.
So just how difficult is it? Drift All Stars and Yas laid on a day for us to get a taste for what it’s like to slide a car about, and while they wouldn’t let us get our hands on one of the competition cars (they’re privately owned and reasonably precious – particularly just days out from race weekend), the Yas Drift School Toyota GT86 seemed a good place to start.
Somewhat shy of the 7-900 horsepower Daham has to wrangle with in his Nissan race car, the GT86’s 200 horsepower is enough to make the little two seater a handful when provoked. The car slides easily enough, but a lack of experience and seat time means spinning on a wet surface and mastering donuts is something that can’t be done in a five minute session.
Daham is a patient teacher and isn’t short of praise when you manage to get something right, but the skill required to initiate a drift, catch it with the steering and control it through the throttle needs a level of finesse that comes from more seat time.
“I don’t think people really appreciate just how skilled it is. You’re in control of being out of control the whole time. It’s really not as easy as it looks from the outside of the car.”
“Can you imagine what it would be like to have 900 horsepower?” he asked.
Lethal, we'd imagine.
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Drift All Stars takes place at Yas Marina Circuit April 8 and 9. Gates open at 4pm. Dhs 60. For more visit drift-allstars.com