First off, I didn't see Big Ben, the London Bridge, though I did catch a glimpse of the Royal Palace from the plane. My time was spent working with Andy, the owner of Learn2Drift UK.
Two and half weeks, this was the time I would spend with the team at L2D. Located near Milton Keynes, about an hour North of London. It seems so far that many drift schools are different, in the way they function and for what clients they cater. The commonality of these schools, isn't their approach but their desire to remain boyant. It's a strange Niche, drifting exists in a weird plane of popularity and somehow unfamliarity; like a mom talking about skateboarding she saw on tv. People know about it, but don't about about it. It's a difficult balance to attract clients without bending the buisness to suit either entertainment, or education.
L2D seems like it's changed and progressed over the years to remain relevant, what feels like roots in education now operates with a bias to entertainment. The strategy? Put as many people behind the wheel of a drift car as possible, even if it is only a sample.
This is an interesting stratagie as it achieves a few things. This introduces a lot of people to drifting in large clumps. A literal crash course if you will to see if you like or dislike it. The 'Experience' days run by L2D function like so:
-Arrive early for a briefing, sign in and greet with staff, and meet with andy who addresses the whole group with some education, but also some entertainment through stoies.
-Next up is your first of two turns drifting! You'll hop into the seat of a car with an instructor who will do a quick demonstration of the two skills you're learning. Controlled donuts, and figures of 8.
-Swap seats! It's time to try it yourself. You'll have a limited amount of time to practice these maneuvers with the instructor offering advice and guidance.
-Break time, the team needs to get the next drill prepared.
-Short course: This is taking your new donut and figure 8 skills to test. A 3 cone system, slide around the first, transistion, slide around the second, transistion, and donut around the 3rd. Exit the course. You'll get 4 tries of this to see how well the information stuck with you
-Last but not least, you'll get to experience some passanger ride alongs with the instructor driving.
-Your session is done, some tea and crisps (chips) await your return to the pits.
It's a process erroded to perfection after 6 years of operations at L2D, and it works. For many, that's a good enough touch to understand the feeling and understand the allure or difficulty of drifting. For others, their appetites are now wet and hungry for more. This is where the real teaching begins. You can now book into a 1 to 1 session with an instructor or a few hours, or even a whole day.
The meat and potatoes seems to be the experience. Most people want to just try it out for a laugh, and leave it to the professionals to be good, but for every 100 people through the program, one comes back eager to be good.
This process is decently streamlined. L2D moves from city to city, a bit like a traveling carnival, bringing the fun to you, and possibly introducing you to an addictive hobby. Peddling drifting in your area!
to reduce tire usage, improve perceived vehicle power and streamline the learning process, the track surfaces are generally watered down.
A unique part of the experience for clients is the photo system. You pre-pay and sign up with an assigned magnet number before the day begins. Jonathan, who's at every event, does his best to capture a few shots of you through out the day that make you look skilled and rad.
Instruction varied, from professional drifters to past students who found success in the hobby of drifting. Being successful is a positive attribute of the experience, but more so, L2D feels like an advocate of the motoring activity. The experience offers an opportunity for many people to gain perspective about what drifting feels like, and adjust their expectations of it closer to reality. Many people are surprised by the smoothness, calmness and grace of it. That their expectation of adrenaline and explosions are innaccurate to it's zen qualities of freedom of movement and understanding of physics. It's casting momentum and controlling it. Traction loss, and a loss of control are two separate things.
I landed at Heathrow and was greeted by Andy in the blue IS200 shown above. The IS200 was an important model for this trip, L2D has roughly 25 of them. The blue and the champaigne colored ones in the photo became important specifically to me. We left the airport and hopped on the M1 North to Woburn, near Milton Keynes, this is where the L2D shop was.
The shop featured a few important things; spare parts, half finished cars and more importantly, some important characters for the trip. On the left is Andy, then Bob a handy and helpful neighbor. Jamie the mechanic, and Shane the shop hand. These guys are the core center of L2D and wont ever get much of the credit, but these are the people you'll find sleeping in their car outside the shop or outside the event the night before. These are the guys I spent many all nighters with getting things prepared and organized so the clients can have a good experience.
L2D is busy. If I can say one thing, it's that this is beyond a full time job. The drift scene in the UK is quiet, but it's massive. As a Canadian, I really don't hear much about any of the 4 or 5 drifting competition series coming out of the UK. I know of, but nothing about, Driftland UK, and I'm aware there is many good drivers, but hell if I know any of them. It's strangely contained within the UK, and you don't hear much about it.
The general UK public is fairly aware of it's presense as well, and so L2D's schedule is fully booked for the rest of the year. It's jammed packed, with groups of 30-40 people rotating through the course every 4 hours. This sadly, doesn't leave a lot of time for fit and finish, or polishing. The fleet cars work, the tranport van and transport truck work, the L2D bus works, but that's about all there is time for. Conveinces, polish and tidying up are too exhaustive of time and resources, so the focus is more on high numbers of clients at a short but sweet experience, than providing a highly detailed lesson.
My first day off the plane I was up for about 32 hours, slept for 4, up for 24, slept for 4, up for 18 and then I got my first solid nights rest. It's hard work and it's non-stop work to keep the fleet running, and getting them to your city of choice for you to try it out. These first few days weren't a fluke either, during the trip I'd have a few days where I was up for 24hours, and at one point, I was up for 48.
I experienced 4 different venues while with L2D. Aldershot, Birmingham Wheels, StandLake, and Rockingham. 3 of these were 'Banger' tracks. Banger racing is a type of British car derby racing. It's still oval racing like nascar, but contact is completely allowed. I haven't noticed any limitations to the vehicles being used, it seems free to use whatever, so the track has to be safe. Banger tracks feature 4 foot high walls, that are about 3 feet thick and often have atleast one cable running along the tops of them. This ensures that the vehicles stay on the track. Interestingly enough the entrances onto these tracks have massive steel doors that are hundreds of pounds heavy. Most of our events happened on these banger circuits.
We ran a few different types of events. Most commonly would be our experience days, which allowed large numbers of people to have a quick try at drifting, or atleast controlled traction loss. Some days were Academy days, which featured both experiences, and 1 on 1 teaching sessions. While some where trying out the crash course others could participate in 3 or 6 hour sessions by themselves or with a friend with their own private instructor. Additionally there were just L2D track days, which were bring your own car and drift, no instruction needed. These were a lot like home.
I'm never impressed by professional drifting. It's a long story, but I just never get excited about it. Amature drifting, or people drifting for their own personal fun, is what makes me really happy. It was nice to see some non-professional teams showing up in big numbers to drift with each other as friends. Team Bad taste had a huge group of people with good attitudes roll in and enjoy driving.
My favorite was the 1 on 1 sessions. Doing direct lessons was the whole focus of my trip, and I was a bit surprised when I found out how little it was part of the L2D program. I did get the opportunity to do so, which made me happy. I think my process is a little different than what they run normally, but when talking to other instructors it was clear it was a freestyle learning session anyways, which I like.
I never admit to having favorite students, but it was a pleasure to get a chance to teach Mark Armstrong, a Virtual Drift Championship competitor. Having some medical issues has kept him from trying drifting in a real car and I got the opportunity to be there for his first time. You can check out his channel at: Mark Armstrong Gaming
Mark did great, and is proof that practicing on a sim first, translate very well to jumping into the car and getting into it. I'm hoping he comes and visits us at Capital Drift here in Canada, so we can continue his learning!
After long days of teaching, you do begin to feel a need for release. One of the main motivators for the instructors is the opportunity to drive. Passenger laps is strangely a fun reward for both you and your student, and a bit of a continuation of the lesson as well. It's where you as the instructor put the student in the passenger seat and show them a good time, and review the skills you've discussed. Yes, you need to let go of the steering wheel! Let it spin in your fingers. Jonathan Davis, the resident L2D photographer, Captured a lot of photos of me doing passenger laps and managed to make me look better than I am. He's got a bit bigger of a gallery I'll be tacking onto this post in the future. Here's a few for now.
That's enough masterbation for now. I'd rather share some photos of me teaching than showing off, but that's all I've got until later.
What I can sum up from this trip is I like sharing what I love with other people. This is the 4th country & continent I've taught in now. It's the same everywhere I go: People love drifting and connect extremely well over it. I have yet to go to a different part of the world and find a negative experience at a drifting event. Everyones there for the same reason, to enjoy the Zen of drifting. The true secret glue of L2D is the people running it. I can't say the structure or function of the business is what keeps it a float, rather the passion and ownership of the staff and instructors is what justifies the whole process. Drifting is a wonderful motoring activity that embraces an individual unique characteristics, and it was evident in the staff that each was their own unique individual, but all of us had a strong passion in common that allowed us to be excited to share what we love as a team.
Pictured above is a group of people who drive better than me. Heath (lean) on the far left, Danny (send it), Sarah, Jamie, Julie, Leon, and Tim (Peppa).
I'll be back for a few reasons, to teach more drifting, hang out with this good group of people, and to finish my secret project.....
Andy has a lot of IS200's. Remember how I said that was an important car in the photo near the start of this article? For some reason, the IS200 in the UK is worth $50 and nothing more. They're a great car! 1G-FE engine with a 6 speed manual. It makes only 150hp which is plenty if you know how to use the momentum of the car to your advantage. This was was slated to be 'breaked' or pulled apart for spares and wrecked. I felt differently about it.
48 hours later, 2 full moons (not kidding), only a 4" angle grinder, a welder set to the 'on' position, and some 3am McDonalds runs at 160km/h through british country roads I came up short, only gettting to this:
Then angle grinder process really slowed down the process. But here's the final result before having to come back to Canada. This will be waiting for me in England on my next visit to finish up.
Andy was nice enough to lend me a car not quite converted into an academy car quite yet. It was another IS200, for those of you into the SXE10/JZXE10/GXE10 chassis here's what the UK spec IS200 looks like. I had heard 1G motors werent great, but this was a positive experience, not only did they survive the years of punishment at L2D sitting on limiter for 8 hours aday, but it was a smooth experience. The inline 6 revs so much smoother than the RS200 version of the car with a 2L 3SGE. Both cars are 2 liters, but the inline 6 feels so much smoother and the torque feels earlier as well. Additionally the 6 speeds had interesting gearing. 1st felt long, and the rest of the gears through 6th felt very short. Where normally I'd cruise slow areas in 3rd, it felt 4th was best, sometimes 5th. 6th could've been a bit longer for fuel consumption reasons.
Andy also lent me a room or 'flat' for a bit, this was my room. A bit warm during the heat wave while I was there, but a space of my own to unwind.
Woburn Safari park was right on my path between my flat and the L2D HQ. I drove this road often. It's right through the center of the park, which was serene and full of large packs of deer.
It might be my own weird interpretation of observations, but it seems Englad has a higher number of Albino beings? I saw quite a few albino people, and lots of albino animals? Not sure why.
That's about it for thispost. If you have more questions about my trip or L2D, message me on here, on speedhero.ca or on facebook.
I will post a bigger album of photos once I get them! I'll update this post once they arrive.
For now, there are a few more pics here: Early Album
A big thank you to Andy and his Lady Jo for hosting me as well as a big thank you to all the L2D team and clients who were so nice to me during the trip! I'll be back!