As the eyes of global drifting turn towards the iconic Tsukuba circuit in Japan, we in South Africa get ready to cheer on local boytjie Juan Stemmet as he represents the country.
It’s a milestone of note, as Juan is the FIRST South African to drive in an international competition of this caliber, up against the heavy hitters of international drifting.
The FIA Intercontinental Drifting Cup kicks off on Friday at the circuit, which has a bit of a cult following after appearing in more than one video game.
Of course, it has been quite a road to get here.
It all started when Raziek Rajah, the founder of Drift Outlaws, an outfit that has given local drifting a regular track and is featured on the Razor Customs Car Show, was encouraged to submit an application to get top driver Juan into the event.
The 25-year-old Juan was accepted and he and his Nissan S13 200SX powered by a Ford V8 are now in Japan and ready to race.
“The FIA IDC event is like a world cup for drifting. All the best drivers from across the world come to battle it out.
“Only one driver from each country is accepted to compete.
“I am super excited to compete in this event and will give it my very best to make everyone back at home proud and represent South Africa.
“This is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I am very grateful for everyone who helped me get this far.
“And also thank you to all my sponsors Total Excellium, City of Cape Town, Razor Customs car show, Goodhope Construction, Showtime magazine, Autosty- ling, Acom and Good Hope Tyres for making this dream come true!”
Juan started out eight years ago as a hobby drifter and his “big match temperament”, as Raziek puts it, enabled him to stay calm and reach the top of the Drift Outlaws ladder and be entered into the global event.
“And his skill is undeniable. At the top, the guy who is able to remain composed is the guy who is able to deliver at the end of the day.
Bobby spoke to Raziek in Tokyo, a man who has been the mobilising force behind this expedition.
He says: “When Outlaws started I never expected we would get to the point where we would be carrying the SA flag.
“It’s a humbling and surreal experience to stand on the same platform with the best in the world.”
With 25 drivers representing 17 countries, there are some serious contenders, including Scotsman Andrew Gray in his 100HP Toyota that has won Formula Drift four times; New Zealander ‘Mad Mike’ Whidett; and returning champion Georgy “Gocha” Chivchyan, a multiple title winner in his domestic Russian Drift Series.
So, petrolkoppe, this is one to watch. You can find a live broadcast of the FIA IDC at http://fiadriftingcup.com/broadcast/