"Damp earth and wet air and grey, grey sky. Snaking around in ribbons of concrete and asphalt, Rockingham Motor Speedway sits in a squelching, biting mass of British springtime. Stand for a second and the cold set to work, up "
Matt Chiappa tells Emma Woodcock what 'Outlaws' is all about
Wah… wah wah… waaaaah!! In stabs and ricochets, a deep-lunged bellow thumps out of the gloom.
Far over to our right, beneath the ageing concrete flyover, a square-edged shape pivots through 90 degrees and launches into the sunlight. Squinting, you can make out a pair of kidney grilles and a Hofmeister kink: BMW motifs swimming into focus. But this is no middle-lane, middle-aged 320d. Eight angry cylinders shake in the open engine bay, beneath acres of ducting and a spinning, screaming supercharger. Frankenstein’s monster has got his slide on.
The BMW skids across the width of the arena, holding a constant angle and trailing clouds of bright white smoke. Squealing tyres and jabbering motor, alternating between deafening blasts and silence. Somewhere beyond the action, a crowd overflows through the spectator area, the walls, the pavement and shrubs of grass on the hill high above. There’s an amphitheatre spirit: too-cool-teens catching the action with a wall of iPhones; children gawping from their parents’ shoulders; a sea of fingers pointing and gasping at the action.
The driver slashes at the handbrake, locking the rear axle, and the car bounds back the other way. A second later, less than a blink or a breath from the concrete wall, the tyres are spinning again, in a single horseshoe drift that sprays sound and smoke over the crowds. Tiny pellets of vaporised rubber rain down in its wake, coating everything with a thin film of sickly-sweet black. Drift Outlaws is in town.
Outlaws is the brainchild of Matt Chiappa, a previous Drift Allstars professional drifter who slid his orange S13 Silvia all over Europe, coming up against some of the biggest names in world drifting. After stepping away from the driver’s seat, he looked to set up a drift series of his own. His first attempt – the Retro Drift Challenge – continues today under different ownership but Drift Outlaws, a series that held its first events in 2015, is his current passion.
“We created Outlaws to do Japanese-inspired events and demonstrations,” he explains, “We feel that drifting kind of got lost in translation as it came up through Europe, losing its roots of showmanship and freestyle driving. Our series started out with conventional competitions but now we’re looking for less constrictive events where drivers can cut loose, let go and show their personality through their driving style.”
Coventry MotoFest, where we caught up with the series, was a prime example of the Outlaw spirit. About a dozen drift cars, ranging from near-standard road cars to purpose-built, ex-Formula D bombshells with over 900bhp, took turns to wow the crowds on an open tarmac area. Behind the arena, the pit area offers an opportunity for curious car-nuts to meet the drivers and admire their machines at close quarters. There are no special passes or team buses here, it’s access all areas and everyone is smiling.
Beyond driver and spectator safety, which Matt very carefully enforces, there are no rules out on the track. Some slide alone, others drift in tandem. Some arc around barrels and bridge supports in delicate doughnuts and others light up burnouts until their tyres explode. Every car is balanced on a razor’s edge. The crowd responds with fiery whoops and cheers as the smoke begins to clear.
The Outlaws ethos is easy to understand, and one that appeals in an over-regulated world: buzz over bureaucracy; spectacle over sector times.
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