Earlier this spring I was encouraged by a few friends to make the trek from Connecticut down to New Jersey for this year’s East Coast Bash at Old Bridge Township Raceway in New Jersey. For the uninitiated, East Coast Bash, on Memorial Day weekend, gathers up a bunch of grassroots (and no longer-so-grassroots, but I’ll get to that) motorsports enthusiasts for a variety activities. The show-stealer, however, are the drifting days put on by Club Loose.
I didn’t have a car to run, but one of my friends was planning to run his AE86 Corolla GTS hatch—a car I knew already. Featuring an understated setup of painted carbon hood, hatch with ducktail spoiler, a set of dampening-adjustable coil-overs from Techno Toy Tuning, a Tomei T-TRAX 2-way limited slip differential, and most-importantly, a blacktop 20-valve 4AG swap with a lovely ITB setup, finished with a set of Recaro buckets, the car was properly kitted for the drift circuit. He suggested that I be his guest for the weekend, and with that settled, I got myself sorted with media access for the event. My excitement level was fairly real; normally I go northward to New Hampshire Motor Speedway this time of year for Clubloose North’s activities, but I knew many faces who would be at ECB, so this was a welcome adventure. Originally, I’d thought to follow a couple friends north to lend them a hand at a SCCA Spec Miata enduro the same weekend, but ultimately, I couldn’t resist.
I woke up fairly early for Saturday; three in the morning to be exact. I crammed our Fiesta ST full of gear for two days at a racetrack (cooler, lots of ice, water, food, grill, lawn chairs, camera gear, my laptop, etc—trust me, those little hatchbacks will gladly accept a bunch of your crap if you get creative). Setting off at dawn, we made good time, and by quarter of seven, were crossing the GW into New Jersey to meet with Hosen, my buddy in the little white hachiroku. Let me state now that Hosen isn’t the sort of guy you would immediately associate to be into drifting—aside from the Hachiroku Nights ballcap—he looks more like your typical liberal arts college student than a Hoonigan addict.
Breakfast in our bellies, we set off, the Fiesta ST leading the way, the song of the 5-valves per cylinder of the little 1.6 blacktop singing along behind me in traffic. Within an hour, we were surrounded by Nissan S-chassis cars, nineties BMWs, LS-swapped FC RX7s, and all other manner of drift cars in the paddock at Englishtown. We got our things sorted out in a little space, made ourselves comfortable, and swapped over the eight-six’s rear wheels to the wheels and tires which would be used for drifting, two sets of spares on hand. All around us, drift cars, trailers, and tow vehicles bustled about, everyone getting themselves prepared.
I took a couple minutes to look around, and found some interesting cars to gawk at, like this Rail Wars-themed ‘itasha’ Nissan S14 silvia with a monster swap:
Or the more tame but still nice to see FC3S in stately black, an A-group car which I would see sliding around corners throughout the next two days:
But for me, out of the parked cars, this FD3S in full RE-Amemiya exterior loadout was the jaw-dropper. I really love RX-7s, and while the RE kit isn’t my favorite (that honor goes to the FEED body), there is an undeniable menace to the RE-Amemiya kit.
The exposed carbon vents are a nice, subtle touch, and just add the extra level of aggression that something like this kit demands.
I have a thing for fender mirrors; I’m sorry, they just look cool. I understand they were a ‘thing’ because of width restrictions and tax regulations in Japan, but they are undeniably a very JDM-idiosyncratic kind of detail to have on a car.
Honda owners shouldn’t feel left out either, as this was parked up near the track entrance by the driver’s meeting:
Hosen set off for tech inspection, which took less than ten minutes. We killed time until it was the designated hour for Hosen and I to turn up at the 10 AM driver’s meeting. As this was my first time at this event, I took care to pay special note to the organizers’ instructions. I didn’t want to be “That Guy” who fails to follow directions, gets kicked off track, or causes a delay and ruins everyone’s fun. If you ever have the privilege of shooting as credentialed media at a motorsport event—remember: the organizers and marshals words are law.
We were left to our own recognizance when that was over, and Hosen’s group was up first. Like a lot of events, Club Loose and ECB divide the runners into three groups based on both experience and skill. C group, the most entry-level group, is for the cars that clear tech but are not necessarily caged or fully prepped for tandem. B group is more experienced, and the cars are released in shorter intervals, as opposed to lone runs in C group. A group is the highlight, and most curious mix of participants. Some are there just as people from C and B who’ve earned the right to move up, and enjoy tandem drifting. But others are recognized names in the sport, like Chris Forsberg and Ryan Tuerck, both of whom were in attendance, the former sliding around his black “Onevia” and the latter in a white, Drift Alliance liveried 240SX. Today and tomorrow, recognized Formula Drift names would be running alongside regular joes, and that is part of the magic of East Coast Bash. I camped out on the inside of the hairpin with some other photographers and waited for cars to start coming by. The sun was shining, it was in the mid seventies, and a light breeze caressed my face. This was already bliss.
I would spend the whole weekend grinning at the Irish theme going on with that S14’s bash bar.
The above Nissan Silvia wasted no time terrorizing the track and vaporizing tires, the unmistakable high-pitched howl of an RB25det bouncing off the trees and grandstands, letting spectators and other entrants know they meant business. That Big Country Labs wing was merely the icing, writing checks the driver was definitely cashing. Soon enough, I heard the unique roar of a blacktop Toyota 4A, and without further ado, my friend burst around the corner, after several laps in the back track getting a feel for the car—this was his first time drifting it after the swap.
At one point he caught some dirt in the back track, and there’s some onboard of that incident, but for all intents and purposes, it only stated, “I’m ready to go for broke.”
Before long, I was sucking down lungfuls of vaporized rubber, the perfect therapy to retreat from the workweek blues. I’ve been seeing more and more 350Z drift cars at the grassroots level; to my amazement they’ve gotten cheap enough, and with most of them available with a factory viscous LSD, they make almost turn-key drift missiles. There was no shortage of Z-cars on display, and it wasn’t long before this guy came by.
Of course, there was no shortage of 240SXs too, in various configuration, from straight 240/180 style hatchbacks s13s, to Sileighty/Silforties, Onevias, and other bastardizations of the S-chassis.
Much later in the day—this C group car turned up. It was cool to see an S12 brought to have fun and get sideways by VegasDrift Pro-AM competitors Silhouette Autosports.
This pignosed Onevia pizza delivery special got a lot of grins. It almost demanded a “P. John” driver decal somewhere. Whoever said drifting was serious business neglected to inform most of the Club Loose people, who brimmed over with an easy sense of humor.
C group eventually came to a close, and I got off track long enough to touch bases with Hosen and my fiancee, who spectated from the grandstands, and we grilled up some burgers and dogs, sat around, reflected on car setup and the other people there, and once my stomach was settled, I headed back on track to shoot A-group, deciding that I would skip most of B-group on Saturday so that I had time to eat, relax, and talk to people. A-group got to work in earnest putting on a show.
Ryan Tuerck was the meat in a S-chassis sandwich as tandem drifting began with enormous palls of tire smoke.
Jalopnik and Opponauts should be well familiar by now with Broken Motorsports, whose emblem was featured on many cars this weekend, but most notably on this crazy, triangle-pattern BM livery that gave me strong shades of Team O’Neill Motorsports’ “Puzzlepiece” livery on ACP’s Rally America 2WD champion Fiesta ST rally car.
Later, I retreated back to the paddock to help Hosen get ready for his next on track session. This is when an anecdote I can hardly believe took place. We were in line for the tire machines —which neither of us were incredibly proficient with—when a man asked us if we’d like some help, as he was ‘pretty good with them’. That gent turned out to be none other than Chris Forsberg, who kindly mounted the rears for us, and when the tire machine refused to cooperate and kept popping the line off the valve stem, took us over to use his compressor at the NOS Energy/Chris Forberg Racing trailer. Class act. Both Hosen and I were floored when we got back into the 86 to head to our pit area. Did that really just happen? Was it just a dream? Our tires mounted to our wheels, we made ready.
The real action got started later in the afternoon, with the sun sinking towards the far end of the track, when the big runners started getting their drift on.
One of my favorite moments of the day came in the form of Chris Forsberg and Ryan Tuerck pulling off some side-by-side drifting nonsense a few feet from my nose. Petrolhead paradise if you’re a U.S. drifting aficionado.
Forsberg’s Onevia with those low-profile lights just looks the business, all tire-crunching nastiness and wide angle wherever he wants it.
An S15 Aero driftcar was an unexpected treat.
With the sun sinking lower an A-group drawing to a close, I reflected on the sometimes beautiful nature of drift on-track, the smoke backlit by the setting sun, cars sliding around with tires agonized screams making their protest, and the nature of rural northern New Jersey as a backdrop. I was glad I came.
Soon, my friend was back on track. This would be his last session of the day, and he was on his game to be sure.
The day wrapped up for me after C-group; I was wrecked from shooting, and though I wanted to shoot A group at night, I was out of both memory, and batteries. Once C group had run, I made my way off track, wished the outgoing media people luck, and settled down to barbeque some food, shake hands, and relax. Later, without any charge in our phones, my fiancee and I got lost searching for our hotel in nearby East Brunswick (which I avow, as a Bostonian, is the most confusing place I’ve ever been). I turned in late, and made ready for another day.
(I’m Kay Inoue, a freelance photographer from the New England area focusing on the import car tuning, drifting, and motorsports scene. Follow me on Instagram @inoue.kay and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kayinouephoto).