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Drifting merrily along

So putting my life in the hands of two guys I had never met before, as they took me around a racetrack sideways, was a little challenging, to say the least.

It all started when I saw the film, Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift, and jokingly said that I would like to try it. The next thing I knew, I was preparing to go drifting.

I arrived at Eastern Creek Raceway this week feeling surprisingly few butterflies — but they were there. Watching my two drivers for the day, Andrew Parissis and Fernando Wiehrl, do warm-up laps, left me just about ready to head to my own car for a quick getaway.

But these guys are professionals, and to be honest, I kind of wanted to experience that rush.

So, I jumped (well, it was more like a crawl) into Parissis' Nissan 200SX S15, with my helmet and seatbelts strapped very tightly.

With my left hand clenching the roll cage and my toes curling in my shoes, we were off.

The first lap had me thinking, "this isn't so bad", but then Parissis put his skills into action.

Quick manoeuvring and what seemed like a routine run-through of technique, left the rear of the car flinging from left to right. I felt like I was in a movie, with the car heading sideways towards a barrier, almost in slow motion, anticipating the collision, not to mention the ensuing carnage.

But my reliable driver gained control and sent us flying in the other direction. And after the first slide, I knew I was in good hands, with the manner of control and skill that Parissis demonstrated.

While the older generation may see this sport as simple hooning, sitting in that passenger seat proved it was so much more. These drivers know what they're doing, and I'd be willing to trust my life with them ... oh, hold on, I did.

We went out on a smaller warm-up track and only reached speeds of about 60km/h. But that was enough for me. In competitions, such as the Australian drift series these guys will be competing at Eastern Creek next weekend, drivers reach speeds of up to 160km/h.

And in a competition, two cars will hit the track in a cat-and-mouse scenario, where one car leads and performs slides and handbrake entries through a series of turns and the second car follows. In a second battle, the follower takes the lead and the judges award points for speed, the angle of the slide and the car's ability to produce tyre smoke.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, I'll build up to that for next time.

I smiled hugely as I was flung from side to side, while my drivers performed feint drifts, handbrake entries and clutch kicks. You're strapped in so tightly, but your body still gets thrown around and the rush even led to a couple of embarrassing "Woo-hoos".

Despite my apologies in advance for screaming, I didn't feel the need.

After a few laps of jolting round the track, my hands made their way from their tight squeeze of the roll cage to almost above my head and flowing in motion with my body. A little "uncool" perhaps, but, hey, I was enjoying the ride.

We headed for the gate, so I could make a swap into a Nissan 180SX, where my next talented driver, Fernando Wiehrl, awaited.

So excited by my first dabble in the sport, I jumped into Wiehrl's car, ready for him to show me what he could do. Also a very capable driver, he gracefully spun us from left to right and even spun us round in a circle, just like in a scene from Tokyo Drift.

Wiehrl seemed to create more smoke than Parissis, which seeped through into the cabin, and left me choking just a little. But even that couldn't wipe the smile off my face.

These guys go through about 20 tyres in one competition and after our hour or so at the track, Wiehrl's tyres were completely bald.

So, I'm hooked. I'm now a drifting fan. The feeling was just incredible as I allowed the excitement to take over. The force at which the car moves, and the angles in which they slide around the corners while following what would normally be considered the traditional racing line, felt truly amazing and it was an unforgettable experience.

The cars felt like they were almost dancing on the track. I can see this taking off as a celebrity reality program a la Drifting With The Stars.

So, what's next? Skydiving? Bungy jumping? Becoming a drift driver myself? Well, I think I'll live off this high for a while and let my mum sleep a little easier at night.


Fast facts

Toyo Drift Australian Series, Round 3

When: Next weekend (July 29, 30) 9am-5pm both days

Where: Eastern Creek Raceway

Price: Saturday, $15; Sunday $25; weekend pass $35; children under 12, free

Drifting techniques include:

Feint drift: Flicking the car from one side to the other

Handbrake entry: A pull on the handbrake on the way into a corner to initiate a slide

Clutch kick: When a driver turns into the corner and clicks the clutch to give a sudden jolt and break the traction.

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