So this is my Nissan 200sx 420bhp drift car. Over the past 5 years I’ve been using it in events run by the Prodrift in Ireland, the British Drift Championhip, and mostly the European Drift Championship which finished at the end of last year, and that we won at Snetterton Circuit.
This was not my first drift car – I’ve been a big follower and competitor in drifting for nearly a decade. For me it all started in the early 2000s, when I went up to join some friends who had hired out Nutts Corner Motorsport Circuit (back when it was council owned and only £30/hr). They were their in their E36 M3s, Vauxhall Carlton GSis, twin cam Corollas and sierras sliding about and it just seemed to me to be just about the must fun you can have in a car. Back then there was no Irish Drift Championship or the likes – it was entirely for our own enjoyment, and at a circuit that was only 20 minutes from my front door and so cheap, how could I not want to get involved.
It was only a matter of time until myself and my good friend Robert, both of us at Uni at the time, clubbed together and for the princely sum of £450 became proud owners of a ’88 E-Reg “Jackie Charlton” Vauxhall Carlton GSi. Weighing in at nearly 2 ton with a healthy dose of rot around the body didn’t deter us as we had180bhp, a limited slip diff and plenty of torque from the 3.0 straight six. We had a ball of a time learning to drift the horseshoe corner in the middle of the circuit.
By it’s third outing the Jackie had decided it had enough and after the expansion bottle had exploded like a steam train boiler for the 8th time, the head gasket let go. We moved her on and purchased yet another E-Reg carlton, and did it all over again. I then bought my own car, and went through a series of Nutts Corner drifters including a 24v Carlton, ex-Police Senator, a few MV6 Omegas, and then lost the plot completely and bought an R33 Nissan Skyline for the job.
This was back in late 2004, when skylines were quite a rarity. Julian Smith had brought an R32 GTST to the Irish Drift Series the year before and everyone was blown away by it. I was now in full time employment and proceeded to pour all time and money available to me into this project including painting it the most wonderful Bayside Blue and extracting 380bhp from its 2.5 straight six turbo motor. In my three years ownership I took part in dozens of events including drifting at the Scottish Car Show, and along side Steer From the Rear in their donut stunt displays at the annual Fintona show. DJ Danny Dee coined the phrase, Andy “Smokin'” Cooper!
All fantastic fun, however being in my early 20s with such a car that was still road legal I was asking for trouble. It was a magnet for getting pulled over, and licence losing speeds were always a few quick gear shifts away. The drift championships were starting to grow dramatically in size and standards, and if I was to keep on drifting I needed to have a purpose built track only machine to meet the new regulations and be competitive.
Now 2007, I was off to Wales to buy a Nissan 200sx S14A, probably one of the most popular choices for drifting today. And why buy such a popular choice? Less cylinders to buy pistons for than a Skyline, lighter, and much more readily available parts at much more sensible prices. This car was going to be built in my garage, and I had to be able to afford to compete as well as build the thing, so rediculous engine conversions were out as well.
With the new car home, the Skyline went up for sale, and the resulting funds were dipped into for among other things a car transporter (and trailer test), a respray, suspension, rims, body kit and a scary parts list of engine internals. This was autumn, and the licence day for Prodrift the next year was early March. Cue A-Team theme music. Robert led the way with the mechanicals, and we lifted the engine out and took it off to WK developments along with the large collection of performance parts. The body was stripped and went to be painted inside and out.
Early January and everything was back, and with the garage floor like the back page of a Haynes Manual component photo, we had to piece everything together! Looking back at it now, I wonder how we ever managed to find the time. Late nights after work and every weekend was spent working on fitting, electrics, fixing parts, breaking some stuff along the way and fixing it again. We learnt every intimate detail of the car, and the most satisfying moment was definitely hooking up the new ECU and finally turning the key and hearing her fire on all four.
Testing was an experience. The car was on a “base map” – enough information in the ECU so that it can run the new gear and do some light driving, and enough to run the engine in. Still road legal, off I went for a 300 mile run in anticipation of the mapping. It was late February 08 and Jez Horsham was due within a week to map the car – thankfully nothing fell off in between. Jez appeared and within a few hours the car was transformed into a fire breathing monster. With over 400bhp and considerably less weight than the standard car, along with shorter gearing, it felt ludicrous to drive. I made it to Rosegreen for the Prodrift licence day a few days later; got my licence, and I managed to keep the car away from the infamous oval wall that had claimed many drift cars over the years. The car went off for graphics shortly after and it really did look the part.
And with the big-league car I had to put it where my mouth was, and after taking part in some local events to iron out the niggles and problems I started approaching sponsors with a view to going to the European Drift Championship licence day in early 2009. Very fortunately I gained local support and was off to Santa Pod to earn my licence there, to put me along side drivers such as Phil Morrison, Julian Smith, Mark Luney and the likes. I was extactic, and for the next four years I would tour the best race circuits in the UK as part this exclusive group of drivers.
First up was Oulton Park, then Knockhill, then Silverstone, then Cadwell Park, and finishing at Brands Hatch. I’m very proud to have left long black lines at each, several times. Seen F1 car demos (and the teams up close), met some of the time attack and civic cup guys, and got a real flavour of some of the big time teams, from my small-time garage-built perspective.
My S14 held its own, and I won the two finals in both 2011 and 2012 at the fastest drift circuit in the UK, Snetterton, fending off some of the 600bhp+ monster cars on the field. There was great camaraderie between the teams; especially Paul Conlan, fellow competitor from NI – we travelled together and all the drivers stayed in the same hotels, which meant for some epic social events, as well as meeting many big names in the national motor industry. When you see Ken Nomura standing beside the bar though, you wonder how he reaches the pedals. I was also asked along to some local events in NI, including the Cultra Hill Climb which was a break from the norm for the club and most enjoyable.
The European Drift Championship finished in 2012 due to a change in format at the big race venues, and I decided a change was in order. Blackwater Graphics proposed the new orange, black and yellow colour scheme and I painted the wheels and cage to match. The background of sponsor Magowan Tyres matched this perfectly for our photoshoot. This year I’m taking part in the British Drift Championship, which has been a step change in my drifting career and been great fun.
Thanks to my sponsors:
Magowan Tyres, Nutt Travel, Motoglass, Reallymeansounds.com, Blackwater Graphics, Graham Curry Photography, Driftkits.eu