Front Street Media started earlier this year, covering events, going to manufacturers, and photographing part installs. I wanted to personally recap some of my favorite moments throughout the year and what made them so special. Enjoy!
The beginnings of the 2015 Formula Drift season saw tire smoke escalate through the tall buildings adjacent to the Long Beach Grand Prix track in Long Beach, California. Previously I had only watched drifting at Wall Speedway in Wall, NJ, so it was a great experience to witness such a fierce motorsport careening through the city streets.
After taking a brief hiatus, Tanner Foust returned to Formula Drift competition in 2015. Scheduled for 3 of the 7 rounds, the busy professional driver was sporting a new 900HP RWD-converted Rockstar Energy Volkswagen Passat. His highly awaited return culminated with a heavy collision into the unforgiving Long Beach Grand Prix barriers during practice. It was his shrug and expression immediately following the incident that made the crash so meaningful. Regardless of the anticipated return of a successful professional driver, or a gleaming new powerful chassis, collisions are an accepted and common risk in the sport of drifting.
The Offset Kings car shows by Fatlace follow the FD tour showcasing some of the nicest examples in the areas surrounding the racetracks. In this case it was Long Beach, California so the examples were of a higher echelon. Before this event, I had never seen a Liberty Walk Ferrari 458 or a Rauh-Welt Porsche. Although I would see numerous other examples throughout the year, it was overwhelming for me to see both of them in the same first event.
Our facility tour of Eibach Suspension in Corona, CA was my first glimpse into the manufacturing processes of aftermarket performance parts. I was able to see the entire process including this large machine winding a new spring every 2-3 seconds from a spool of raw material.
I was also granted access to these springs officially designated for NASCAR use. These springs are heavily regulated, and must be made completely identical to one another so no team has an advantage. They are shipped to NASCAR and distributed to each team at random. With such an elaborate routine for one small piece of the suspension, these springs revealed to me how strict the rulebook of professional stock car racing really is.
The second stop of the Formula Drift schedule took place in the southern state of Georgia at the famous Road Atlanta racetrack. Nothing, including Forza Motorsport games, could prepare me for the massive size and drastic elevation changes of this track. For anyone who has never been, if you’re planning on hiking the massive paved hills from the track section back to the paddock area I have two crucial words of advice: golf kart.
The mixture of PRO 1 and PRO 2 Championship drifting occurring during the same event meant that the headline FD PRO 1 final battles would take place under the lights. This was another first for me because back in NJ the competition ended during sunset. Shooting photos of drifting at night quickly became a new favorite of mine. The darkness added so many new elements to the event that are normally lost in the bright sun. The vehicle’s vivid headlights, the bursts of flame in the exhaust, the clouds of tire smoke being backlit by overhead lighting, and the occasional perfect timing of catching a fan’s camera flash in the background made each image much more interesting.
Wicked Big Meet is the “Largest Subaru Enthusiast Festival in America”, that takes place at Stafford Motor Speedway in CT. With over 6300+ attendees, I was not expecting a single-day event to produce a turnout of this size. So when I climbed up the large grass hill to take this photo of the parking lot, I was struggling to grasp how far all of these enthusiasts traveled to attend.
The same weekend as WBM, some 5.5 hours away the Subaru Rally Team was busy winning the Susquehannock Trail stage of the Rally America series. In a display of reciprocation for the manufacturer’s constant fans, the team transported the car directly from the race over to Wicked Big Meet. They made a fashionably late entrance, and parted the sea of spectators to park the filthy car next to their 24hr of Nurburgring Impreza racecar.
The New Jersey stop of Formula Drift always has questionable weather. It rains before or during the event almost every year (occasionally accompanied by destructive wind). This year’s event was shrouded in cloud cover, with the rain eventually making its appearance just before the final battles of the afternoon. This brought out an inspiring sight of the stands bearing the weather to watch the rest of the competition.
Without the dry tarmac to provide grip, the average speed of the drift runs drastically dropped. The endless trails of puffy white tire smoke were swapped with rooster tails of displaced water. Although the usual high speed, rev happy, dry final runs are intense to watch, there was something fascinating about the wet final runs. The cars matching each other’s angle with scarce throttle use, they appeared to almost skate across the surface like ice. Competitors were forced to either hold their run together, or spin out attempting to find grip that wasn’t there.
The road course at Englishtown’s Raceway Park may not be on par with some of the more refined motorsports establishments, but it offers affordable and frequent open track days. These track days give aspiring enthusiasts (such as my friends and I) a chance to experiment with the limits of their cars in a safe environment. These sessions out on the track were the highlight of years of building to prepare our cars for the rigors of a full day of abuse. Throughout the rest of the year we each had our share of broken parts and mishaps yet all managed to improve our lap times every event.
Our feature of this Scion FR-S was different than any other car I’ve ever shot. Because he had an infant child, the owner elected to bring him along for the shoot. Amidst the constant deep exhaust tone of the car; the quaint lakeside setting was calming enough for the little guy to fall asleep during the shoot. So as we were packing up, I was able to take a photo through two Recaro SPG XL racing seats, of his son sleeping in the back of the FR-S.
In preparation for the Mustang Week event, I elected to search YouTube for coverage of previous years. The results displayed countless videos of Mustang owners trying to do burnouts and crashing. I flew down to Myrtle Beach with the mindset that this would be a questionable event, but I was so wrong. The extent these Mustangs were modified to was astonishing. None surprised me as much as these two Fox body chassis. Both had spotless twin turbo setups on their large late model 4V engine swaps.
The opportunity arose to photograph the Mecum Collector Car Auction making its stop in Harrisburg, PA. I had spent many hours gazing at the extravagant auction block of Mecum events on TV, but hadn’t expected that I would be attending it.
This hopeful seller’s Bel Air was the first car to cross the auction block that day, and he was applying a last minute layer of polish moments before the car would be shown. I remember how accomplished he looked as he finished with seconds to spare, and the Mecum assigned driver took the flawless black car to its designated bidding location.
When the Formula Drift competition stopped at Texas Motor Speedway, I was excited to see the high-speed course layout on the infield of the famed NASCAR track. Unfortunately, the track officials had other plans, and left media with no areas cleared for photography. By the second day of competition, they had allotted two media pits for our use that were extremely far away from the action on track. The stands reserved for spectators had a better view and closer proximity to the track so that became one of my shooting locations throughout the weekend. In the heat of competition, Vaughn Gittin Jr. briefly lost control of his car right in front of me (one of the fastest sections of the course). I swore I could feel him hit the wall I was so close. Although it resulted in an unsalvageable chassis, he walked away unscathed.
This quickly became one of my favorite moments of the year. Formula Drift was replaying each run on the speedway’s record-breaking jumbo TV screen. With the tire smoke still looming from their run, each driver would stop here, awaiting the judges’ ruling while watching the replay of their run. It was an inspiring moment to see these professional drivers seconds before their championship fate was decided, trying to analyze their own run for following rounds.
The Wekfest car show tour makes an annual stop on the East Coast in Edison, NJ. This year was my third consecutive year showing my Civic, and I was remiss about seeing many unchanged cars from previous years (including my own). However this gem caught my eye as I scoured the show floor. An imported Japanese-market FC Mazda RX-7 built by the famed Japanese tuner RE Amemiya as a demo car for Tokyo Auto Salon in 2003. This was a piece of Japanese tuning history, on display 12 years later with a sale price fixed across the windshield at a car show in New Jersey. It sold shortly after the show. I just hope the new owner recognizes what they own.
86Fest in Southern California is always a fascinating event, showing how varying an identical chassis can be modified. The presenter of the show (and this blog), Turn 14 Distribution, had a visual representation of the differing tuning styles at their booth. Dai Yoshihara’s competition Formula Drift Subaru BRZ, and Mackin Industries’ Pikes Peak Hillclimb Scion FR-S occupied the same booth space. These two examples are built on the same chassis and started life with the same suspension components, engines, body style, etc. While Dai’s motor had been replaced with a turbo-LS variant for maximum horsepower, the Mackin car retained a modified FA20 engine for balance. The differences go on, but it was interesting to see how the same chassis could end up being used for completely opposite forms of motorsport.
During the Formula Drift weekend at Irwindale, I propped myself right against the fence of the infield wall. With hopes of catching some rear bumpers clipping the wall, I got more than I bargained for. Mats Baribeau and Nate Hamilton over committed to the turn, and stuffed their whole chassis into the wall. Sliding the turn’s entire length inches away from me. Other than their spirits, both drivers were unharmed in the crash. In all of the years I have been photographing motorsports, I have had countless close calls etched in my mind. My newest addition: I’ll never forget the eerie sights and sounds of their cars screeching against the wall past my head.
Irwindale Speedway is the unofficial birthplace of drifting in America. It featured a D1GP event from Japan in 2003, and has since served as the final stop in the Formula Drift calendar. It is rumored that the track will be demolished to make way for a shopping mall, potentially making the 2015 FD stop its swan song. The descending sun cast rays of light through the banners surrounding the track. I couldn’t help but feel that the slivers of light on the dark track were a symbol for the life still left in the dying establishment.
A friend of mine creates and organizes Canibeat’s First Class Fitment show every year. This is always a unique event for me because I get to witness and help with every step of the process. Everything from signing the permits, mapping out the parking days before, acceptance/denial emails, and the final prep and work during the event. Perhaps I’m biased because of my involvement, but I enjoy how this show combines so many different styles onto the grounds of a fully functioning airport for a truly unique experience.
During FCF, I bumped into the owner of this S13 Nissan Silvia, whom I have followed on social media and forums. He is a car enthusiast who already has a couple builds in America, however purchased this coupe while stationed in Japan. With the entire Japanese tuning industry at his disposal he was able to pick up a plethora of parts most of us can only dream of finding. When he returned to the United States, he imported the Silvia with him and now drives it around on American soil. It has seen more of the world than most of us. Additionally, it gained majority of its age in a foreign country, and now has renewed life on the East Coast of the USA.
For my rookie trip to the SEMA show, the veteran attendees warned me of the limited space and the general chaos. However, nothing could prepare me for the actual craziness of this massive trade show. I arrived the first day filled with excitement but the heavy crowds prevented me from gaining any material. I used that day to map out my journey through each of the halls for the coming days. By the end, my 4-day journey averaged a minimum of 8 miles and 18,000 steps per day.
People have been building the Honda Integra chassis since its birth. Until now, there has never been one as advanced with such an attention to detail as this particular build from Ryan, the owner of Rywire. In the weeks leading up to SEMA this car’s inclusion was heavily publicized on social media, and it did not disappoint. It was the one car I was looking forward to seeing, and ended up being my personal favorite of the entire show. Throughout the build process, he implemented modern elements not found in builds before him. The car runs off a complete motorsports stand-alone engine management system from MoTec, and shifts the custom sequential transmission via electronic paddle shifters, all wired by Ryan.