Drift: Q&A: how an underground culture exploded

Cars Culture

We catch up with Mark Buckle, Drift driver and one of the founders of the British Drift Championship, to get an inside track on what was once the outlaw motorsport

Drift culture was born in the mountain passes of Japan. But it’s become one of the most popular motorsports in the world. Its popularity is testament to the appeal of accessible motorsport. Mark Buckle is one of the stalwarts of the UK scene.

Influx: Drifting has a poor reputation amongst some pundits in mainstream motorsports. What’s your take on that?

Mark Buckle: We’re not MSA or FIA accredited. Because of that some of the cloth cap brigade turn their nose up. They still think of Drifting as kids in supermarket car parks doing doughnuts, or going sideways around roundabouts on Saturday nights. That’s not what we’re about. One of the reasons for setting up DriftCup was to actually take kids off the street and to give them a chance to do that stuff in a few years time at, say Silverstone. They will be doing that, in front of a crowd of 15,000 on September 24 at TRAX. Our rule is simple. If you are seen or caught Drifting illegally, off-circuit, then you’re banned from competing.

Influx: Who’s your Drift hero?

MB: That’s a really difficult question as there are so many Drifters across the world that impress me. In the UK it would have to be Matt Carter, his chasing skills are second to none. In Ireland James Dean is simply on another level. But my hero has to be Katsuhiro Ueo, I can watch him driving his AE86 from 2001 to 2005 over and over again.

This is worth a watch for the commentary alone.

Influx: When and how did you first get involved in the Drift scene?

MB: I got involved when a friend wanted to use Drifting to promote his business. They purchased a car and I drove it in the Euro Drift series. From there I moved on to get my D1GB license. I continued to drive in the Euro Drift Championship until the end of 2007.

Influx: Can you give us an idea of the numbers involved in the scene?

MB: Within the championship that I’m involved in [The British Drift Championship and DriftCup] there are 150 drivers competing and there is a large waiting list for the DriftCup, which is the feeder series to the BDC. There are regular practice days at Santa Pod, Norfolk Arena and Rockingham, among others, that are always full to capacity. Just last week a practice day at Rockingham sold out in just 6 minutes online!

With the different ways of getting involved and the speed of growth of the sport it’s really hard to put an exact figure on driver numbers. In terms of spectators we will be expecting around 1,500 people at our Anglesey meet on 17th September. But people don’t have to be there to watch as we run live stream filming of the races from our website and count our viewers in the hundreds of thousands in 61 countries. The BDC Facebook page has nearly 1 million likes. That gives a good indication of the level of interest out there.


Influx: What makes Drift such a popular sport?
MB: It’s down to its accessibility, in my opinion. Competing in other forms of motorsport can involve a huge financial outlay. With Drifting you can pick up a cheap BMW make some very basic modifications and go try your hand. The practice day venues allow people to drift without having to be in a competition. Also, the rules are basic and the ethos of drifting is ‘respect’, You show respect to and from drivers and organisers alike. This makes it more of a community of like-minded people who share tips, set ups ,and parts at events. No other motorsport I know has the same ethics.


Influx: Tell us about the creation of the BDC in 2008
MB: I got involved by accident really, starting out by offering to help where I could at the BDC’s predecessor Euro Drift. As time went on Paul McCallum and myself made some improvements and evolved the championship to where it was by the end of 2015. Then it was time to let someone else take it to the next level.

Influx: You’ve now moved back to encouraging the sport at a grassroots level with Driftcup, can you give us some background?
We started the Driftcup series to replace licensing days, so we can test drivers to see if they are up to standard to compete in the BDC. With the rapid rise in standards it had become much more difficult to separate drivers at this level. We needed this competition to see who could master all the elements and move up. We’ve also started Matsuri events which are based on the Japanese festivals of Drifting. This is a chance for Drifters, their family and friends to come and enjoy. There are two days of no pressure, non-competition Drifting. There are pit lane parties, floodlit drift displays and much more.

Basically just come along and enjoy yourself.

Images Courtesy BDC