Formula Drift: Wraps on Wraps on Wraps
I’ve been attending race events and drift events since 2007 (I was 11 years old), and how we used to describe the event was, “There’s that red car again”, or “Oh, the blue car qualified!” It’s no longer just as simple as the red car, the blue car, the lime green car, or the Orange car.
Now, while walking around Formula Drift with all the Pro cars and people that simply bring their car to the event, it is rare to see a singular colored car. Now, every single pro car is wrapped. Plastered in sponsorship logos, random stickers, and causes they support, these racers barely have enough room for their names. The bold don’t stop there, a vinyl on the back bumper with a clever phrase seals in the driver’s own personality.
To describe the cars at this event, you would have to say, “The Falken Tires 350Z with a green splattered front end and blue back bumper is practicing.” Or, if you know the driver’s name (which is rare for attendees of the event), you can simply say “Vaughn Gittin Jr.’s car” or “Vaughn Gittin Jr.’s gray and black wrapped Mustang with the big Monster Energy logo on it.” The colors and companies are what these racers rely on to be noticed, second to their drifting. Like, “Remember that NOS Energy car? How did that one place?” Their sponsors are basically their identifiers.
Other than major Pro drivers that have one or two main sponsors, the cars and the designs on them identify and describe the driver as a person. One car may be completely covered in sponsorship stickers, whereas another may have a large vinyl that shows that they support a specific cause. Another may have a unique paint or wrap job unlike anything you’ve ever seen. A 5-series BMW draped in blue chrome. Pearl white serves as a foundation for metallic blood red accents on another. A wild blue and purple kaleidoscope design masked any flaw on the next car in the line-up. The cars tend to either scream, “Look at me!” or it says, “I support this cause, I want to thank these people, and please use this hashtag.”
Above all, the cars no longer draw attention solely to corporations paying for the fun, they reflect the individual in the car. That small detail has changed the vibe of the sport and the community. Even though the sponsorships still exist, a lingering grassroots vibe is undeniably present – and the people love it.
By Greyson Pendry
Day 1: Arrival.
Productions of all types have a natural progression, especially those that center around sports. Formula Drift is no exception. The first day is far from magical. Vendors are assigned their slots, race teams set up shop in the paddock, and the crews of riggers begin constructing whatever needs to be done. The drivers test out the track and attempt to sort out any major concerns with the course. After some deliberation, ideal revisions become new tasks for the event coordinator to sort out overnight. These venues have to effectively harbor hordes of people and high-octane athletes over the next few days. All parties expect to witness the controlled chaos typically only seen in cinema. In Orlando, fantasy is a way of life –Formula Drift has a reputation to uphold.
Day 2: Dress rehearsal.
This is the first time Formula Drift has ever attempted an event at Orlando Speed World. By only utilizing the bare essentials for operations, the ambiance teased us with what was still to come. The atmosphere was remarkably similar to a ‘soft opening’ at a new store or business. Multiple practice runs from competitors in the ‘PRO’ and ‘PRO2’ (the difference being similar to ‘varsity’ and ‘junior varsity’) brackets entertained a reasonable turnout of people.
The second day wrapped up with the final competition for all of the drivers in the ‘PRO2’ class, including an afternoon thunderstorm and a podium ceremony, which merely foreshadowed the glamour we were all dying to see from the upperclassmen. Upon completion, many of the fans and drivers mingled with one another into the early morning.
Day 3: Show time.
Speaking from personal experience, the final day of Formula Drift events are always a spectacle. The wait was over, and Orlando did not disappoint. Every person in town who drives an import, better known as ‘tuners’ in this community, nearly destroyed the main gate into Orlando Speed World. The air was charged with anticipation. The unfavorable weather forecast deterred not. The sponsors spared no expense. The vendors displayed their premium products. The DJ blared his best dub-step mix tape, and the drivers laid down some fierce competition in the wacky Florida weather. From blistering heat to an afternoon downpour, the weather tested each driver’s experience and skill. Even with standing water on the track, the pilots of these bold machines persevered. The only thing more relentless was the crowd, who refused to stop the party. This is Formula Drift.