With the Matsuri Supa Drift Series taking place on 26 and 27 June here, local motor sport competitor Richard Flamet is hoping that drifting can pick up as a sport in Namibia.
As a member of the Windhoek Motor Club, which will be hosting the drifting event, Flamet who got into drifting himself within the last two years describes the community in Namibia as rather small and fairly upcoming. South Africa’s top drifters will showcase their world class skills at the event which will take place at the Tony Rust Race Track and also conduct training sessions to help promote the sport code locally.
Drifting is a technique in motorsports in which the driver briefly oversteers at the start of a turn, causing the rear of the vehicle to enter a controlled lateral skid until the turn is complete.
Although the community is small, locally, due to video games and sports channels, it is not a completely obscure one, and Flamet’s wish is that when the South Africans drifters have long returned, the sport continue to attract as many spectators.
“In Namibia there can be a tendency for the public to only come out in support when we have visitors from outside the country but not so much for the local guys,” Flamet says.
Coming from a family of motor sport enthusiasts, although not a professional himself, Flamet has had the opportunity to showcase his drifting skills a few more times than other local motorists.
“I’m the only one locally that has done a drifting exhibition. Most of the guys are upcoming, and a lot of them are busy building their cars in anticipation of the arrival of the South Africans. I believe the sport will grow here,” he says.
His last exhibition was a filler event for the Drift Spin Drags (DSD) Motor Club this year and is weighing offers to drift outside the country. Flamet says he built his own car, a Ford Sapphire V8, specifically for drifting and says it is a practice that requires as much patience as it does effort and certainly money.
He suggests, the more power the better. Suspensions and a gear box that can handle the punch is certainly worth the investment but one of the mostly costly aspects of drifting is tires.
Due to constant loss of traction in the tires, they are often easily worn out and have to be replaced. Tires cost N$2000 each (N$8000 per set) and Flamet recalls having to spend up to N$20 000 on sets of tires at a previous exhibition.
He says, “The benefit of those who want to join now is that they can always contact me or Warren Thomas of the DSD Motor club for instructions on how to build their cars and so forth. I had to teach myself.”
With drifting, finishing is not always the goal and therefore motorists are judged on technique, drifting angle, how close they can come to a wall or obstacle without touching it, and how good a tandem drift is. Tandem drift is when two cars are on the track at the same time and attempt to drift in synchronization.
Drifts in Namibia have not been officially judged as it is not yet a recognised sport, but Flamet says he it should hopefully be registered with the Namibian Sports Commission by 2016.
“One of the biggest challenges is lack of venues. We only have the Tony Rust Race Track, which is where the Matsuri Supa Drift Series will take place, but it is only an oval track,” he says, adding, “You can’t switch directions or manoeuvre obstacles, you have to just go in the same direction.”
Another big challenge for motorists, Flamet says, is funding, particularly for tires which wear out fast when drifting. Fortunately he gets help from Tire Rack who provide him with a free tire for every one he purchases.
“I’m hoping to learn as much as possible at this event and that a lot of people can pitch up and support,” he says. He however cautions those that are only now picking up drifting not to do so on public roads.
“That’s not where drifting belongs. It belongs on the race track. There are so many things that can go wrong, but at least on the track, you have the luxury of being able to recover as you have the track to yourself, but on the streets, you can end someone’s life, or your own,” he cautions.
Flamet is keeping an eye open to drifting outside Namibian boarders. “I received invitations to Cape Town and Johannesburg from super drifters, but after this show, I will know how far we are from the South African guys. If we’re still far, I’ll keep training until I’m ready, but otherwise, I’ll take up the offers,” he says.
He also does rally racing and says he prefers drifting and rally racing to just normal motor sport racing as it is more challenging. He says, “It is about going fast, but with a purpose. It’s one of the most difficult sports. Drifting takes a lot of panache. It is fun for both competitors and spectators. I also plan to start drifting motorcycles soon.”