"In case you hadn't noticed, there's a lot to be said for the simple joy of racing a motorbike around an oval dirt track. While the noble sport of speedway may be the root of these things, the shale is "
Welcome to Spring Matsuri
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 through your nose and hard against the back of your eyes. There can’t be a single good reason to be here.
Trudge on and ever on, putting one drenched foot ahead of the other until you reach the edge of a massive, earth bowl. Below your feet stands the track, its huge expanse yawing into two long, banked curves at either extent of your peripheries. With your back against the grandstands, you can see everything encircled by the oval’s 1.5 mile sweep. Right now, there’s little more than birdsong and anticipation.
Seconds later, something stirs. On the far side of the track, a mess of blunt shapes yaws forwards, leaving a solitary finger of bright white smoke in their wake. The noise comes next, high-pitched razor scrapes yelping against an air-thumping rumble. Speeding ever closer, the shapes ricochet from one extreme to the other, sliding under you in one long train. Celica, Corolla, Cressida, MR2, S13, Ford Pop and Toyota Chaser, all in quick succession. Welcome to Spring Matsuri.
Held each March, the drift festival guarantees a whole weekend of open pitlane action for any drifter who can grab a ticket. Despite the torrid weather, this year’s event saw everything from battered, barely-modded E36s to lurid British Drift Championship monsters take to three different courses: the serpentine paddock course; the technical infield; and the terrifying oval, which saw drifters slide off the banking and into the pit lane.
The action didn’t stop there. Though Matsuri is intended primarily as a friendly, just-for-fun weekend, there were a couple of events for more competitive skidders. Driftcup, the feeder series for the British Drift Championship, ran its first event of the season on Sunday, while crowds were treated to a team event on Saturday evening.
With brakes glowing, flames licking from screamer pipes and floodlights illuminating tyre smoke against the night, Matsuri might be the perfect way to blow away the bad weather blues.
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