ON TOUR WITH BRENDON GREAVES – International Drifting Cup

Event Lead Up

It was a tremendous opportunity to be given a chance to head over to Sydney for the International Drifting Cup (IDC) at the World Time Attack Challenge (WTAC) with the team behind the Brendon Greaves-driven BMW M3.

I had only just completed a photo shoot on the machine for Speedhunters, when I was asked by Amy Bell, Brendon’s partner, to travel across the country to see just how the team rolls at a high profile drift event. Of course, I had to say yes.

BMW_37The Speedhunters shoot – coming soon!

For those who aren’t too clued up on what WTAC is about, it is pretty simple – it is a massive automotive festival that focuses (but doesn’t only include) serious track racing and going as fast as you can for that one ‘perfect lap’.

Time Attack, also known as Superlap, originated in Japan in the 80s; as a proving ground for street-tuned cars, built by highly respected tuning companies. The concept was brought here to Australia in 2008 by Ian Baker, and the event has grown ever since.

Part of the evolution of the event has been the inclusion of drifting and these days, the main show is known as the International Drifting Cup. The drifting is a major drawcard for WTAC and has actually grown to be its own entity. If you are prominent in the drift game in Australia, you better be here and competing against the best from Oz and around the globe.

I was told prior to the event that it really is an international competition. There would be drivers from every state in Australia, several from the homeland of drifting – Japan and even competitors from New Zealand and Ireland.

With the event being so important and gaining so much international coverage these days, Brendon and his team decided to debut their new LS-powered E92 BMW M3 there. I introduced you to the car a few weeks back, after going to Barbagallo Raceway with them on one of their testing/development outings.

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The BMW doing it’s thing at Barbagallo Raceway in Perth 

Powering the machine is a Tune Corp-prepped, 427-cube LS motor built by Scott’s Performance Engines. A massive Garrett GTX45 turbo helps make the 970hp at the hubs on 16psi. For IDC, things were scaled back, and the car was tuned with 13psi to make around 800hp. An Albins ST6 6-speed sequential box with an Extreme twin plate clutch takes care of the shifting before the power is sent rearwards towards the Winters quick change. Under the car are Wisefab and Feal components.

BMW_18The Speedhunters shoot – coming soon!

With the car only receiving minimal track time leading up the event, it was a brave move for Brendon to head east but it had to be done – the car was built for the big time.

For me, it was super-exciting and very interesting. My background is in what most would describe as muscle cars or street machines but in essence; my real start was with a handful of serious Mazda rotaries that my brother built for me. Being into Japanese cars from the age of 10 and now 40, drifting was always on my periphery but never my main focus. I looked at drifting as a true outsider. Sure I liked watching the drivers rip up on the track or on online videos and even photographing them was fun, but I didn’t understand much about the competitive nature of the sport. My opinion and interest certainly changed over the last year or so when I had the opportunity to ride in several cars – I was blown away with what they could do.

BMW_24The Speedhunters shoot – coming soon!

The technical skill required to do what these guys do is incredible! The speed they attack corners, the angles they push, and the hyper-aggressive driving styles the heavy hitters employ is unfathomable. These cars and drivers make the burnout world I have experienced, look boring in terms of entertainment and driving ability. I don’t think the guys in the burnout scene genuinely know what they are missing out on.

For me, the IDC and WTAC were going to be another experience to delve deeper into the drift scene and to head back to my Japanese roots.

Sydney or Bust!

For team members Amy, Brock, Shannon Summers (from Tune Corp) and I; we had the easy option of flying to Sydney, while it was left to Brendon and the ‘other’ Brock, to tow the new car over the Nullarbor and towards Eastern Creek.

The drive for the boys was a tedious one. Four blown tyres over the course of the three day, 4,300km trip, made for some interesting stories but the pair seemed in high spirits when they arrived to collect us from the airport. The car was still at the track, locked in the trailer, so we were headed directly there.

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Traditionally, Thursday has always been the set up day and an unofficial test day for the teams competing at both the WTAC and the IDC. The team had to unload the car and prepare it for the first session, so it was time to get organised.

As the car was rolled out of the trailer, a few stragglers headed over to look and have a chat to Brendon about the new car. It wasn’t his first time at the event, he had previously driven his lime green Nissan S15  (https://jordanleist.com/2018/10/03/making-moves-2001-nissan-s15/) there the year before, so people were keen to see what he had updated to and those in the know, were impressed. The BMW is a top tier car, no doubt about it.

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There was definitely some energy around the pits later that afternoon as the test session drew closer. I wandered around snapping images and checking out the competition.

Being new to the drift scene, I was really up on the ‘who’s who’ in Australia but it was cool to see the various styles of cars, the multitudes of engines they were packing and the colourful choice of livery that was brightening up the concrete jungle.

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With the car looking and sounding in top shape, Brendon and fellow West Aussie (and good mate) Adam Monck headed out in the late afternoon sun to get some time on the track. It was going to be a hectic session as the pair got used to the circuit, with the teams already starting to plan the changes to make to their set ups to suit the Sydney surface.

Before the cars could test, the judges and officials met with all drivers and went through what they expected from everyone. The driving line was discussed, the scoring explained, and it was business soon after that. Pretty simple stuff.

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It wasn’t an ultra-serious session for Brendon, but of course, the team still gained a lot of information from the time he spent out on track destroying tyres. One thing became very evident, the BMW was quick, savagely quick and it was packing the most power out of the 32 car field. If the wet weather (predicted for Saturday night) could hold off, Brendon had a great chance of taking the car right into the finals.

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JLL_6716It takes all types of support to get you through the day 

Time to Battle

Friday morning started off well for the team, a simple check over the car and then a lunchtime ‘expression session’ for the crowd was a just a sign of the excitement to come later at night when the first two rounds would be run in the new format.

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Rather than run qualifying rounds, like a traditional drift event, the organisers decided to try a new format for IDC. The concept revolved around making things more exciting for the crowd and to give the drivers heap of track time.

It provided a World Cup-style event where drivers were randomly drawn into pools and would then face off in two-car tandem battles rather than just single runs. Drivers were guaranteed three runs each to accumulate points.

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The format saw the elimination of ‘one more time’ runs during the pool phases, with each battle being scored using a win, lose or draw scorecard. A win scored two points, a draw one point and a loss zero. The driver with the most amount of points from each pool moved onto the quarter-finals where the format returned to the traditional ‘Top 8’ style.

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It was the breakfast of champions – Dare Iced Coffee, Bacon & Egg Rolls and the odd Redbull thrown in for good measure. When working on the car, the team kept it simple and time efficient

I managed to score some time with the New Zealand head judge – Brendan Duncker, who helped me gain an inside perspective to what the drivers were instructed to do for the battles.

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The biggest challenge all the drivers faced was after Thursday’s practice session, the Japanese Judge – Keiichi ‘The Drift King’ Tsuchiya decided to change the driving line in a radical fashion. It was an interesting move to say the least and it certainly rattled the field.

BBB - GREAVES (13)Shannon Summers from Tune Corp is an integral part of the team. He has been tuning the car and working with Brendon for the last year. His knowledge and experience is just the thing that Brendon needs to reach the top

Brendon had to forget what he had learned and performed in practice and had to then follow the new line and know where to hit the marks the judges were chasing. The new line was much faster, more technical, and very ‘Japanese’ in its style.

BBB - GREAVES (14)Damage is all a part of the drift culture. Losing a bumper wasn’t going to be the last battle scar the BMW would cop over the show

Come main event time, all three judges were looking for lots of angle, lots of throttle and clean switches to the inner clips, all while maintaining a 1 ½ -metre proximity. The most significant change to the line was moving from high on the outside to very, very deep on the inner-middle clip.

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Brendon drew Ben Meirs in his first battle, with Meirs leading first in his Nissan S14. Mid-corner on the middle turn, Ben grabbed the handbrake and slowed the car right down causing Brendon to career into him at high speed – damaging the driver’s side door on the BMW. The judges saw it as Ben Meir’s mistake, and it cost him dearly. It was labeled ‘dirty driving’ by the Japanese judge Keiichi Tsuchiya.

In the second run, Brendon blazed the tyres even before initiating which excited the commentators who had already talked up the power and the speed of the M3. It was a solid run that handed Brendon the win in his first battle.

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The next run on Friday night would be the commencement of a horrible theme for Brendon – more reruns than Seinfeld. It was beyond a joke in all honesty. Two would be down to protests, and the rest were required to split the differences between judges.

The results had lots of people scratching their heads, but most importantly, Brendon took it all in his stride. Never losing his cool or dropping his lip. It was motorsport, and he was doing what he had to do to advance.

Round two saw Brendon awarded the win on a technicality after the Irish lad Jack Shanahan de-beaded a tyre and was not allowed to replace it.

As far as Brendon and the team were concerned, they had the win and were going to move onto the Top 8 with little fuss. That wasn’t to be the case though.

AAA - GREAVES vs JACK

For reasons unknown and in a very odd fashion (going against the rules clearly stated), Jack Shanahan had the decision reversed on Saturday morning and got his runs against Brendon on the Saturday night, before the commencement of the third round.

It was a no contest in the end anyway, Brendon slaughtered him with horsepower. The runs were just good practice for Brendon, who at this stage was happy to get more track time with the new car. Disposing of the agitator was just the icing on the cake.

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By the commencement of the third round, the heavens had well and truly opened, leaving the track soaking wet. Not the ideal conditions for a car with the sort of horsepower and speed that Brendon has.

The decision was made to try and pull more power out of the vehicle, decrease the tyre pressures and make some slight alterations to the rear suspension to try to make the car better suited for the conditions. Earlier in the day, the guys had worked hard to solve an exhaust issue that had arisen and that was no longer a hassle.

With the rain still belting down, Brendon lined up against the New Zealander, Jaron Olivecrona in his V12-powered Nissan S14. Jaron laid it down to Brendon in their first run, running away from the high horsepower BMW but in their second battle, Brendon produced a textbook run. The judges loved the battle between the guys, but the New Zealander got the win though. After his effort, I at least expected a draw for Brendon.

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With both drivers on equal points now in Group C, the guys had to battle again after the rest of round three was complete. The result required a sudden death run between the two.

Brendon capitalised with some incredible driving on his chase run and scored the win, but Jaron appealed and somehow got another run against Brendon.

It was to no avail though, as the result stayed the same after the New Zealander spun around on his chase run, banging into Brendon in the process. The win had Brendon moving into the Top 8, which was his main goal for the journey to Sydney. Some of the pressure was off now but the real journey still lay ahead.

For me, I was as nervous as all hell in the crowd. I had stood in the rain for more three hours, photographing for Speedhunters and waiting for each of Brendon’s runs. Wearing my heart on my sleeve, it wasn’t too hard to see who I was cheering on.

It isn’t hard to get caught up with the situation when the driver is a friend of yours and all you are wishing for is success and happiness for them. I knew how hard Brendon and the whole team had worked to get to this point. I think that is part of the reason I just stayed locked at the fence, even though I looked like a drowned rat.

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Into The Top 8

It was what the whole team wanted – a birth into the Top 8. Everyone wished the conditions were better though – the rain was horrid. With a dry track, the competition wouldn’t stand a chance against the incredibly-fast BMW. The rain was a massive equalizer for both speed and power. Luck, if anything, was going to be what sorted the winners from the rest of the pack.

Brendon drew the drift OG from Australia – Luke Fink. Luke had driven well, the entire event and had seemed to get better, the more it rained. It was going to be a tough run.

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In the first chase, Luke ran across the lawn on the inner clip going after Brendon, who did a great job to keep the BMW within the confines of the lines. In the next battle, Brendon initiated late and then ran off where Luke had done the same. With a draw, the guys had to go for a ‘one more time’ battle. It was going to be Brendon’s fourth rerun for the event.

Brendon came out and performed a solid pass as the lead car, and it was looking good, but on the chase run, it all went pear-shaped. Luke Fink grabbed the handbrake mid-corner, instantly slowing his car as he dived deep down to the bottom clip – which forced Brendon into an evasive move and a thus a spin. The last thing Brendon wanted to do was bang up the new car even more. He did what the situation called for and saved the new car.

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It was ‘interesting’ decision to hand the win to Luke Fink considering that other drivers were penalised for pulling the exact type of handbrake trick in the same place earlier in the event. I for one was bitterly disappointed with the outcome. I expected the result to be overturned with some replay footage but it didn’t come about.

As I stood soaking wet and freezing at the top of the circuit I felt a tad deflated – I could only imagine what Brendon and the team were thinking.

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When The Dust Settled

As I sat down with Brendon at dinner later that night, we both had a chance to talk about the day, and he reflected on what happened, and I was amazed to find a relaxed and somewhat philosophical bloke who was just happy to have been a part of the competition.

I told him about his driving lines on each run, pointing out where he was shallow, where he was hitting the outer lines and when he was delivering the ‘textbook’ runs. He listened to what I had to say, even as an outsider, a newbie, I liked to think that I had picked up some knowledge and my opinion and information had some validity with him.

At the end of the day, he saw things in a positive light – he got to drive the car back into the trailer without any mechanical damage, he made the Top 8, and he had competed against some of the best drivers in the world. He was super-appreciative of his team and all of their efforts. He was proud.

As I watched him talk to his mates, I saw a guy who was relaxed and carefree with a smile on his face. He was a driver that took it to each and every person, never relaxing or giving an inch on each run – he was doing the best that he could. He was a bloke who was happy to chat to fans during the day and keen share a laugh with his competition at night. It was a refreshing experience to see a professional who was still in love with what he was doing and his attitude certainly reflected that.

After my experience with Brendon and his team at IDC, I am a drifting convert.

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