Just “Loose” It! Club Loose Drifting Experience
If you’re any sort of an automotive enthusiast, then you’ve likely heard of a style of driving called drifting. Controversially labeled as a “sport,” drifting has become a nationwide sensation over the last 15 years all across the United States. Whether you blame the third installment of The Fast and The Furious or Formula Drift for the increase in popularity (and for the infamous “Drift Tax”), it’s a sector of automotive motorsports that just can’t be ignored.
To many, becoming a professional drifting driver, let alone learning how to drift at all, seems like an entirely unattainable goal. The pros pilot high horse-powered cars competitively with full pit crews on-site and some of the biggest auto brands sponsoring them. Add to the fact that most of the drivers make it appear effortless and you start thinking to yourself, “How and where can I learn how to do this?!”
As easy or as difficult as drifting looks, depending on your perception of it, any professional driver, from veterans like Daigo Saito to Pro1 rookies like Ryan Litteral, will tell you that one of the biggest keys to succeeding on any level is this: Seat time.
And that’s where grassroots organizations like Club Loose come in.
GO DRIFTING OR GO TO HELL!
The closest events for me take place at Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey – The birthplace of Club Loose. When you arrive, everything within your immediate surroundings suggests that you’ve made a wrong turn: The cars look destroyed and the organizers look like members of a biker gang with a motto that’s short and sweet – “Go Drifting Or Go To Hell.” Now, this all sounds like a recipe for a deterrent but it’s quite the opposite. Club Loose event organizers genuinely want drivers to, not only learn how to drift but to also, have fun doing it!
Over the course of the 10 years since it’s origination in 2008, people can sign up to drift at tracks as far North as New Hampshire Motor Speedway and as far West as San Antonio Raceway. Many of their events like “Freedom Moves” are over a two-day span, giving drivers plenty of seat time along with the opportunity to camp and party on track. Suddenly the Bloodmasters don’t sound so bad.
In order to avoid sheer pandemonium, drivers who sign up for an event are put into one of three groups: A (for the “experts”; the only group allowed to tandem), B (for those on the intermediate level; the ones who are starting to get the hang of it), or C (for those who are just starting out in drifting). With sessions for each group that last roughly an hour and 30 minutes each, everyone has enough time to practice…or fix what they’ve managed to break.
SAY WHAT YOU WANT
Providing people with an avenue to learn to drift in itself is pretty unique but what I think separates Club Loose from other organizations are the personalities. The people who attend come from all walks of life. The personalities of the cars are all so different in the way they’re modified. It all reminds me a lot of the skateboarding culture of the 80’s and 90’s.
With an almost anarchistic, free-spirited aura in the air, It was difficult not to walk around the paddocks without seeing something that made me smile. The “Pabst Blue Ribbon” 240sx and the makeshift attempt at a Bimmer pickup, for example, both gave me a good laugh. Sure, they’re both freedoms of expression, but they also scream the all too familiar acronym I.D.G.A.F. And that’s the best attitude you can have when it comes to drifting. It’s an attitude I wish I embraced more when attempted to drift at a few of their events.
TURNED UP TO 11
As someone who once attempted to drift in Group C (with absolutely no prior on-track experience), I can understand and appreciate now just how challenging it all is. With that in mind, when groups B and C are on track, I’m photographing of course, but there’s also a burning sense of desire in my gut for the drivers to “get it.”
But when their sessions are over and it’s Group A’s turn to drive, the best analogy for how the atmosphere changes are that things get turned up to 11. Virtually every inch of the track is now one long, driftable run (whereas Groups B and C can choose to drive on either the front or back course). Everyone driving is either in tandem or part of a drift train and, as a photographer on track, you can’t turn without seeing drivers fully sending it. There’s a rush you get that’s not easy to explain.
In short, there are many who choose to spend their weekends clubbing. Others train for and run marathons. But if you like to let loose, party, and maybe even learn to drift, then spend some time at Club Loose…or go to hell!