Much like burnouts, drifting is a motorsport that’s seen a massive boom in the past couple of years, and here at Street Machine, we’ve been keeping a low-key eye on the sport of all things sideways.
Speaking for myself, I bloody love it. I own quite a few Japanese cars, and took up the sport of drifting properly this year in an R31 Skyline beater. I’d argue it’s one of the funnest things you can still do with a car on a modest budget, and it’s easy to see why it has become so popular.
So, when American YouTuber and drifter Adam LZ announced he was bringing the LZ World Tour to Australia, it was a bloody big deal for drift fans. This is the drifting equivalent of when the Street Outlaws crew toured Australia to film their drag racing TV series. Naturally, I had my tickets booked straight away for the two-day drift festival at Melbourne’s Calder Park.
The idea of the LZ World Tour came from the LZ Invitational event that Adam runs in his home state of Florida every year. Adam invites 30 or so of his best mates and drivers along for two days of drift competition, demos, show ’n’ shine, vendors – basically a standalone drift festival.
For 2023, Adam, along with his good mate Dave Egan and the crew from Irish events company Drift Games, decided to take that formula global and came up with the LZ World Tour. Kicking off in Englishtown, New Jersey, the tour has taken in Canada, Ireland, and finally Australia at Calder Park. It’s not an accumulative championship, more a moving circus with different guest drivers and cars at each stop.
The Australian leg was run in conjunction with Melbourne-based drifting events company Keep it Reet. Many of the big-name American YouTubers and drivers who came out for the event such as Jimmy Oakes, Grant Anderson and Collete Davis rented turbo Skyline sedans from the illustrious fleet of drift cars Keep it Reet holds for guest drivers. Adam’s own ride for the Aussie event was an SR20-powered 180SX – a clone of his infamous ‘Cream’ Nissan S13 240SX.
Other big names on the drivers list included plenty of Kiwi drifting top dogs, the biggest of those being ‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett and his ‘Radbul’ three-rotor MX-5. Gaz Whiter and Ben Jenkins were other well-known Kiwis in the mix, and they were joined by a bunch of Melbourne drifters including Cam Marton, Mike Lake, Marcus McCathie and Keep it Reet frontman Jason Ferron.
With such an illustrious guestlist of drivers, crowds packed into Calder Park for both the Saturday and Sunday action. The competition layout for the drifting used Calder’s national circuit – mainly the big corner behind the drag strip startline, commonly referred to by drifters as ‘The Bowl’.
After qualifying, the 32 drivers were divided into a top and bottom 16. The top half of the field moved straight onto Sunday’s final battles, while the bottom 16 had to duke it out on Saturday for the three final places in Sunday’s final.
Along with the competition runs, the LZ World Tour also featured jam sessions – where the track was opened up for competitors and demo cars to let rip – and fantasy battles, similar to callouts at the drags, where competitors stage one-on-one battles separate to the main competition. It all meant that there was rarely a dull moment on track, with fans entertained by sliding, close battles, big burnouts and slayed tyres aplenty on both days.
All in all, the LZ World Tour was a ripper event for its first crack, with the big-name celebrities putting on a good show and local hero Cam Marton taking the overall win in his R33 Skyline sedan. The Yanks have already hinted at the event returning to Oz next year, and we’ve got everything crossed that it comes to pass.
WHO IS ADAM LZ?
Adam Lizotte-Zeisler could be thought of as the drifting equivalent of Cleetus McFarland. A self-made man, Adam kicked off his YouTube channel as a BMX rider while he still was in college. It didn’t take long for him to discover the world of Japanese cars and drifting, and his popularity skyrocketed soon after. Since then, Adam has amassed 3.7 million subscribers on YouTube, nearly one billion video views, the dream-worthy LZ Compound in Florida (which you can find out more about online), an enormous personal car collection, and his own LZMFG car parts and clothing brand.
Adam has also competed in everything from grassroots drifting comps right up to the top-level Formula Drift, first with his own team, and then as a professional driver for RTR Vehicles in the company’s Ford-backed Mustangs.
HOW DO DRIFT COMPS WORK?
Drifting is a judged sport, much like burnouts. There are no stopwatches or speed traps; drifting is all about style. Judges will pick a layout of a few corners, giving drivers a specific line and criteria to follow.
Qualifying runs are done solo, followed by battles in pairs. Over two runs, each driver gets a chance both to lead a run and to chase. The lead car runs as normal, while the chaser must replicate what the lead driver is doing, staying as close to the car as possible without passing or crashing into it. That last bit is easier said than done!
- 1. Mitch Pullen’s S13 Silvia has been dropping jaws since its debut this year. The Silvia runs a Mitch-built blown LS that screams to 9000rpm and shoots exhaust flames out of the bonnet.
2. Levi Clarke’s ‘Drift Rod’ 1932 Ford put on plenty of shows in the demo sessions alongside Mitch Pullen’s S13. It debuted at World Time Attack Challenge not long ago and runs an aspo LS3 and a Datsun ute chassis.
3. Local hero Cam Marton took the overall win in his R33 Skyline sedan to the cheers of a packed crowd. It was a true underdog story, with his home-built R33 going up against pro-level machines, and Cam was ecstatic at the win.
5. The poster and merch art for the event came true on Sunday, as Adam LZ’s ‘Cream’ S13 took on Mad Mike’s rotary ‘Radbul’ MX-5 in a fantasy battle.
6. South Aussie Jay Duca’s freshly completed Nissan Prairie was one of the fan favourites from the event. The Nissan people mover has been grafted onto a KE70 Corolla chassis, with aspirated 2JZ power! It was doing demos all weekend alongside Jay’s 2JZ-swapped Honda Odyssey.
7. Benjamin Sneddon and the boys from Mukka Motorsport jammed to get this six-rotor – yes, six! – FD RX-7 done in time for the event. Every time it did demos at the LZ World Tour, everyone stopped and stared with glee, the shriek from the six-rotor ringing out across Calder Park at 11,000rpm!
8. Running as close as possible to the wall is all part of the game, as shown here by Jason Ferron in the Barra-swapped R31 Skyline wagon. ‘The Bowl’, as it’s called, claimed plenty of tail-lights across the weekend.
9. The only female driver in the field, American Collete Davis came to grips with The Bowl in a borrowed Keep it Reet R32 Skyline. Unfortunately, she gave the wall a decent hit on her first qualifying run, before being eliminated by good friend and fellow Yank Jimmy Oakes later that day.
10. ‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett’s Radbul was another fan favourite, seen here in the merchandise area during one of Mike’s signing sessions at the Red Bull booth.
11. Punters packed the Calder Park facility all weekend, braving typically cold Melbourne conditions on the Sunday to see their favourite drivers blaze it up in the Top 16 finals.
12. Another big part of the event was the massive show ’n’ shine. Hundreds of cars spread the whole length of the drag strip, with plenty on display in the pits as well.