Seems like you’ve been on the Long Beach drift scene from day one; how did you get started in the sport and who were some of your early influences?
When I started drifting there really was no US drift scene. I loved motor sports and looked to professional drivers for inspiration like Rod Millen, Ron Bergenholtz, people who had been able to build a career out of professional driving. I also looked to the old Group B rally cars, Can-Am cars and modern dirt cars for inspiration.
You’re a Long Beach native – How does it feel to perform in front of your friends and family at the Formula DRIFT and Motegi events right in your hometown?
It’s an awesome experience to be born in Long Beach and drift professionally in my home town, with my friends and family there to see. It’s a great way to kick off the Formula DRIFT season and one of my favorite events of the year.
Style is one of the major criteria for the judges at drifting competitions. Can you explain what elements factor into drifting with great style?
Style is all about “wowing” the crowd and surprising them with angle, smoke, and aggressive line. The attitude of the car or showing confidence in your car’s setup and ability to put the car where you want it to go on track. Things that get the crowd going like being close to the walls also impress the judges.
There’s some awesome slow motion footage on Youtube of your GT Radial Energy-X Mazdatrix RX-8 tapping the wall at the Long Beach Formula DRIFT competition. Seems like the rear end suffered significant damage, yet your crew got the car put back together in time for the top 16 round. How many parts did you have to replace and how many guys pitched in on the effort?
Since we were in the home town, there were lots of my crew guys there, which came in handy when we had to repair the rear after the crash. Mazdatrix had the Time Attack RX-8 on display and we pirated some parts from it to quickly rebuild the car. We were very happy to get back out in the top 16 but there is a lot to do to get the car back up to 100% before Atlanta.
By the way, congratulations on a solid 14th place finish at the opening round of the Formula DRIFT series in Long Beach. The Formula DRIFT series travels to Road Atlanta on the weekend of May 9th…is there any feedback that you are able to take away from the opening round that will apply to your strategy for round two?
This was the first round with the newly built car and new setup. With this track experience we are looking at our data and making changes for the longer and faster Road Atlanta track. I feel we still have a lot more potential and look forward to pushing the car further in Atlanta.
You recently signed a deal with the GT Radial Formula DRIFT team; what is your tire set up and how many sets did you burn through at the opening round of Formula DRIFT in Long Beach?
We are currently running the new GT Radial Champiro SX2. Wear is based a lot on track length and surface but I beleive we used 14 rear tires at the Long Beach FD event. We could use 20 plus tires by going to the final round in an event. The SX2 tires are wearing exceptionally well and we are looking forward to pushing the limits.
You build rotary engines for Mazdatrix – In layman’s terms, can you explain the dynamics of a high-performance rotary engine and how they differ from a traditional piston engine?
Mazda Rotary Engines are the only automotive combustion engine in mass production to not use the typical soup can shaped piston design. It’s basically a spinning triangle in a peanut shell shaped block. With much less mass and distance to move, Rotary motors can spin to higher RPM ranges and have higher horsepower outputs for their size than any conventional piston motor. In most forms of racing they have been banned because of their ability to outlast and outperform conventional motors. Drifting is a great place to showcase their great motors.
I understand you were a guitarist in a rock band. What was the name of the band and what kind of gigs did you guys play?
I played guitar in a band named Belikose based out of Sothern California, with my best friend and a few local buddies. We played some great shows in Hollywood at the Knitting Factory, The Roxy, and House of Blues in Anaheim. We really had a great time and there are still some of our songs floating around on line.
Your nickname is “The Menace”…is that representative of your driving style, or are you known for playing practical jokes?
Back when I first started, I beat a few top-rank drivers with my privateer setup. Formula DRIFT Announcer, Jarod, gave me the nickname and it has stuck.
In a typical race, the competitors lay their cars on the ragged edge – often within inches of each other (and the wall). Certainly there is some “Trust Factor” involved; are there competitors in the Formula DRIFT series whom you feel completely comfortable racing bumper-to-bumper with?
Those who have made it into the Formula DRIFT series are at the top level of professional drifting. I have lots of experience driving with some drivers who have been in the series for a long time. At this point, you have to trust each other and respect each other.
Do you have any friendly rivals in the Formula DRIFT series, or is it pretty much a band of brothers in the pit area?
Formula Drift is like a big family. We all get along, but give each other a hard time on and off the track. When it comes to the track, friendliness gives way to competition. In the pits there are definitely some rivalries and practical jokes going on.