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Beyond Drifting: Baggsy Go Sideways
Steve ‘Baggsy’ Biagioni is one of the few Brit hooligans to make a mark in the international world of drifting. The quintessential Essex A-Road denizen tells us in his own words how he made it a world inspired by the twisty canyons outside Japanese cities.
Essex Boy Done Good: Baggsy is one of the few Brit drifters to take it global. Picture: STEVE BIAGIONI
I’ve been a professional drifter for 10 years, all over the world. Some real highlights have been the demos I’ve put on at events like Goodwood – we’ve taught Idris Elba to drift, people like Richard Hammond too on the Grand Tour – it’s been a hell of a ride over the last few years.
I fell in love with the idea of driving as soon as I passed my test. I was an 18-year-old in Southend in Essex — and I saw some guys doing doughnuts in the car park. I thought that looked a lot more fun than trying to do handbrake turns in my little Fiesta.
I quickly worked out that the cheapest rear-wheel drive car I could get hold of was a Volvo 340. It had a 1.7 engine that produced a maximum of 100 HP. I eventually welded the diff and learned how to do proper doughnuts. It was a tough one though, because trying to do doughnuts in the dry with 100 BHP isn’t particularly easy. I needed to wait for the rain!
Smoking: Solid construction. Industrial strength upgrades. Nissan Silvia makes the perfect drift platform. Picture: STEVE BIAGIONI
Back when I was kid I’d watch Eurosport and Men & Motors – and it was always Michael Schumacher, who was driving for Ferrari at the time, or it was Valentino Rossi that inspired me. My family is part Italian and I’ve always looked up to athletes like that. I took it upon myself to take inspiration from people like that and to do the very best that I can in whatever I do. Drifting became my focus because that was my real passion.
My early goals were to compete on a national level — I just wanted to be able to go around the UK and race at places like Knockhill, the Adrian Flux Arena, Silverstone and Lydden Hill and all these circuits that are so iconic. Just being on the other side of the fence, being on the track itself, began to be an aspiration in its own right.
Baggsy is a thoughtful soul – as well as a mentalist wheelman. Picture: STEVE BIAGIONI
I started to spend more and more money on the car, and then realised I needed to upgrade; and that Japanese cars were the way forward. I got hold of a Nissan 200SX. I basically fell in love with the sort of drifting, fell in love with adapting these cars and hanging out with my friends in a community of like minds that shared the same passion.
The car I use now is a Nissan PS13 — it’s a rear-wheel drive machine from the early 1990s, but it’s fully converted to a competition drifting spec. It’s got a 7.4 litre V8 engine with a Harrup supercharger – so it produces around 850 BHP. At the moment it’s running a Quaife 69G Gearbox with Winters quick change rear end. There’s ST suspension Wise Fab arms to give us a huge amount of lock on the front end but maintaining grip.
Many people ask really hard questions about what I’m thinking about when I drift. In a way you get into the zone – in a way you think of nothing, You’re reacting in a kind of flow state. It’s in the body as much as in the mind. You’re feeling instinctively what the car needs, what input you have to make – just trying to play with the edge of control, to keep it all in hand when the car is losing grip. People ask me, like ‘how do you know when to left-foot break’ or ‘when is the perfect time to pull the handbrake?’ But it’s just a natural reaction. That feeling of being in the zone is such an addictive feeling, it keeps you coming back for more.
Silvia, detuned: The original platform has the sculpted everyman steeze period correct for late 20C. Picture: SUBMITTED
I didn’t particularly do very well at school and I thought if I was going to be able to find something that I was really good at, something out of which I could make something of myself, then I would give it my absolute everything – and that is what I have done with the sport of drifting. What drives me more than anything, I think, is the fear of failing.
I’m not saying I’ve got everything right – like everyone I have made mistakes along the way. I’ve learnt from them and tried to get better – I’ve taken advice from good people around me and I’ve just tried to keep pushing – trying to make the best out of whatever situation in which you find yourself.
Looking back, if I were to meet my younger self, I would tell myself to enjoy the moments more. I’ve spent so much time rushing from one thing to the next, one event, one gig, one project to the next, that I’ve not stood back and really enjoyed some of the things we’ve been able to do. There’s so much organisation, so much thinking about how what and where we’re doing stuff, that it is sometimes tricky to appreciate how lucky we are to be doing what we’re doing.
Baggsy getting it sideways. Picture: STEVE BIAGIONI
There was one moment where so many things came together for me and I realised I had achieved something personally important for me. One moment I was standing in Tokyo, on Shibuya Crossing, which is a really iconic spot in the middle of the city and I had a bit of a moment.
I realised that I was a kid who went to school in Upminster – my mum works at the school and my dad drives a bus for a living – I realised I shouldn’t have made it this far. I shouldn’t have made it all the way to Japan, to be drifting professionally here in the home of the whole scene. It wasn’t what I necessarily set out to do — but in that moment I realised that this was it, you know, this was about as good as it was ever going to get.
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