As of March 13th 2021, there had been no competition drifting in the state of Victoria for 364 days. Although there had been a Summer Matsuri and private drift days, drivers and crews had been unable to prepare and practice the endurance, precision and consistency that is necessary in competition, since the only VicDrift championship round in 2020.
To have a chance at winning on the Formula Drift layout at the Calder Park Thunderdome, the drifters would need consistency. Have a weak chase or lead run, and you'd be knocked out. They would need endurance, to make sure they were able to have competitive runs, battle after battle to the finals.
But the drivers would also need to be able to push their and their car's own limits. Not too far, but enough to impress the judges and surprise their opponents without finding the wall.
To do all that run after run after run is already a tall order, so it became ten times harder when rain was added into the equation, but I'll get to that soon.
Before practice commenced each car was given some pre-drift checks, making sure all cars had the given safety requirements.
The chance of rain was brought up in the driver's briefing, but it became evident that competition wouldn't be cancelled because of it. And that if it became too heavy, then the drivers would be given sighting laps prior to their battles.
Practice began allowing the driver's to get into a rhythm with their machinery and the track layout. With rain on the radar, it became necessary for the drivers to get as much track time as possible so when the conditions did change, they were prepared physically and mentally.
It wouldn't be all smooth sailing though, with the yellow and red flags being waved for multiple spins and strewn bumpers left on the track. Ben Venni would also break part of his front left suspension, meaning it would have to be towed back to the pits and the race to get it fixed would begin.
Practice morphed into qualifying as the clock ticked down towards the Top 32 and the clouds grew heavier and the rain loomed.
Justin Gruener would prove again that he knows how to put in a good run at the Formula Drift layout as he became the top qualifier two years running. Because there were less than 32 competitors, each driver would qualify and have a chance at knocking Justin off the top step.
After qualifying there would be a 1-hour lunch break, and that's when the rain came. Because of the angle of the banking, water would just flow down it and sit in a massive puddle at Turn 1. VicDrift officials tried alleviating the problem by digging a trench next to the puddle, and driving cars through it to wade the water into the trench and off the asphalt. Although there was still quite a sizable puddle once battles began, it would have to do.
Another problem was the banking itself. During practice and qualifying, the drivers would drift along a certain line, that line becoming clean from rubbish and rubber as the day went on. But now, the rain had washed that clean line away, meaning that many competitors struggled to even make it to Turn 1.
From the Thunderdome grandstands from where I was shooting, it was quite difficult to keep track of who was winning each battle and even how many driver's were left. One thing that was obvious however, was that some battles seem to go in a flash, whilst others had multiple reruns as both drivers would struggle with the conditions.
The top 4 would eventually be Ben Venni in his LSA powered Commodore and the three R33's of Justin Gruener, last year's winner Cam Marton and 'Mr Keep it Reet' Jason Ferron.
Cam Marton would win his battle against Jason Ferron but disaster would strike the Commodore again as the suspension would break just prior to his battle with top qualifier Justin Gruener. Although unfortunate, Venni certainly made his presence known as one to watch and possibly an underdog for the championship.
This meant that the Final Battle would be between Two time champion Justin Gruener and last year's winner Cam Marton. Would Justin Gruener start his hunt for a third VicDrift cmapionship off with a win, or would Cam Marton go back to back at the Thunderdome?
After a close battle to the end, Justin Gruener would prevail to win the first round of the 2021 VicDrift Championship. Cam Marton would finish second whilst Jason Ferron would round out the Top 3. A locked out R33 podium. I thought the R33 being a boat was just a joke, but it turns out it is the perfect weapon for drifting in the rain.
Thanks to all the people who came out and faced the weather, and to VicDrift for holding a great event as always. I can't wait for Round 2!