Ryan Kado: Driver Blog
Prepare to have your life blasted with cross country drift road trip Waffle House down south goodness.
Our trip started about eight hours behind our scheduled 2am departure time which is quite normal for any sort of drifting activity. In traditional privateer fashion, we wedged four sweaty dudes and one week’s worth of luggage into one Ford utility truck and set out on our 42 hour journey across the country. I captained the rig, accompanied by first mate Ry Moore, lookout Geoff Pitts, and my Father. From the innocent bystander’s point of view, our rig is a simple ex-PG&E fleet truck and trailer with a bunch of hooligans inside. Few know of the little drift car that thinks it is some kind of beastly race car lurking inside of our inconspicuous white trailer full of E-85 and Nexen rubber.
I set sail out of Natomas, California, and headed south in hopes traveling at least 200 leagues before handing off the wheel and heading below deck to the infamous Slot. The Slot is the area in the stern of the ship below deck where our deckhands sleep until they are called upon to take the wheel. It is inexplicably comfortable and extremely convenient. I safely got the crew out of California and proceeded to hit the slot and pass out. I awoke in New Mexico and before I knew it we were rolling into Lawrenceville, Georgia, at 7am on the Wednesday before the event.
The first thing we did was go to the local Waffle House and enjoy an extremely satisfying and uncomfortably friendly breakfast of champions. We decided it would be a great team building and time killing exercise to head to the local gun store and fire automatic weapons. As it turns out, rapid-firing 9mm sub machine-guns burns through rounds rather quickly. In an effort to kill more time and quickly convert the our small faction of RKR to the Eastern timezone, we decided to go indoor rock climbing until we were too tired to lift our arms. We slept like little babies, and awoke to find that we most certainly could not lift our arms.
Thursday practice marked the first time that the landmark drift section of Road Atlanta would be run in the reverse direction of what had been run since the beginning of Formula Drift. The excitement of drifting a totally new layout combined with the arrival of the rest of the team made up for the fact that I could barely hold my steering wheel or pull my handbrake. Sitting in my car at the top of the huge drop-in overlooking the course I could feel that this year would be totally different from years past. Last year, I barely managed to make one sub-par qualifying run with everything on the car trying to break itself and didn’t even qualify for the event. I wasn’t about to let that happen again and neither was the rest of my team. Comprised of Crew Chief Matt Perkins, Eric Rhee and Ry on the guns, Geoff in the lookout stand and Brandon Kado behind the lens, it is safe to say that this year’s team has locked S-foils in attack position.
We would all perish of hunger, scurvey, and heat exhaustion if it wasn’t for my dad and step-mom holding down the fort and keeping the grill fired. I think they enjoy chilling with the crowd and grilling as much as I enjoy piloting my circa ’05 D1GP-style 350z around the track. After getting PoweredByMax style reverse entries down pat, I was disheartened to hear that the judges did not want to see drivers doing reverse entries in qualifying, so I forced myself to practice more traditional style runs during Friday morning’s practice session.
Morning practice was hella scary. On my first lap out, my steering wheel bent in half on the entry and sent the bow of my drift vessel careening towards the only set of concrete walls on the whole track. I managed to bring her down a bit and dropped the anchor inches away from death. I had to disconnect the remains of my knock-off steering wheel and limp back to the pits by steering the hub and spline. I was able to complete one more practice run during that session thanks to the help of fellow Nor-Cal drifter Gabe “The Rocket Scientist” Stone who lent me his steering wheel, which I returned moments after I finished practicing so Gabe could qualify.
Luckily, Matt “Mr. Cool Guy” Field, who also happens to be from Nor-Cal, brought a spare steering wheel and let me use it for the rest of the event. Matt, I love you. On my first qualifying run, I decided to play it safe, seeing as I had a completely foreign steering wheel in front of me. I put down a fairly conservative run to ensure a decent enough score to get into the Top 32. When I rounded the final corner, Geoff came over the radio and said, “If that was conservative, I don’t even want to know what going all out looks like.” It seems that anytime I am behind the wheel I end up going for it regardless of if I am meaning to run conservatively or not. I haven’t decided if that is a good or a bad thing yet. Either way, my first run was good enough to earn a 95.5, which tied us for first place qualifier with Nor-Cal’s own Conrad Grunewald. On my second run, as I was blasting down the drop in and slamming my stock transmission through the gears, something just went off in my body and I decided I had to do a reverse entry for the fans. It was not as clean as I had hoped, but whatever, I was keeping it fun and that’s all that matters anyway.
After some funktastic malfunctioning with Formula D’s speed guns, a bunch of scores got changed around and I was moved from 2nd place qualifier to 6th place qualifier. I’d like to say that it didn’t phase me at all, but I was a little bit bummed that I got bumped down in the qualifying after putting down one of the best runs of my life. I was set to do battle with Jeff “For Sale: Slightly Used S13″ Jones in Top 32 and felt anxious and excited going into Saturday. I led first against Mr. Jones and he was right there on my door, but with some slight corrections and shallow angle. When I chased, I grossly underestimated the power of his car and chucked it into the first turn with about five fathoms between us. Due to the large gap, we went one more time. The first run of the one more time battle was a carbon copy of the first, however I noticed that I had less grip in the rear of the car. I didn’t make the same mistake twice chasing and left the line before Jeff. We got to the first turn with good proximity and as we both got all nasty with the e-brake I immediately noticed a drastic lack of rear grip. I was able to manage a consistent gap throughout the battle granting me the win, however I was not pleased with my performance at all. I debriefed with my crew chief Matt and we decided that although we were getting enough life out of the Nexen N6000′s to run “Eight More Times,” it was best to swap them out for a One More Time battle to keep them from overheating and becoming slick.
Going One More Time with Jeff was the best thing that could have happened because it prepared us for whatever the Top 16 could throw at us, which apparently was Rhys “The Godfather” Millen. I led the first run against the Lion-esque Hyundai, and could see the blue and white of his fender in the corner of my eye the whole run. Before we switched positions and I would have to chase Rhys, Geoff came over the radio with some interesting information. Rhys straightened on the uphill before the horseshoe which gave me a slight advantage heading into the chase run. Even with a whole new level of confidence pumping through me, I knew I would have to give it everything I could on my chase run for a chance at victory.
I managed to stay in close proximity of Rhys until we hit the uphill and he made the jump to lightspeed. Apparently I had a malfunction with my hyperdrive and was unable to follow him into hyperspace. The advantage I started the run with quickly disappeared and we ended up going One More Time. We changed tires to avoid the slippery situation we had with Jeff Jones, but determined that the hyperdrive aboard my drift vessel was beyond repair and I would have to stay within a fathom of Rhys at all times to keep him from dipping out on me. Rhys chased me with epic precision and just about rubbed the vinyl off my rear bumper during the transitions. Again I chased him closely into the first turn, and again he blasted off on me.
With all that Pikes Peak training I would wager to say he is probably capable of making the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. We ended the weekend sitting 9th place overall in the series, which puts me in reach of my goal of finishing off the season in the top ten overall. For such an epic adventure I must extend a sincere thank you to my family, my team, and my sponsors: Forged Racing, Nexen Tire, Parts Shop MAX, SR Motorcars, NOS Energy Drink, Extreme Dimensions, Advanced Clutch Technology, EBC Brakes, MP Tuning, TNT Autobody, Ultra Racing, DNA Motoring, and Recovered Carriers. Without all of you none of this would be possible. Oh yeah, and all my blasterpals at Life Blasters!
Big thanks to Life Blasters for letting me do this driver blog. If you liked it, share it! Also, be sure to check back… I’ll be giving you an inside look at my voyage across the seven seas of Formula DRIFT throughout the rest of the season. Tally ho!