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It's 12:30am, and I'm standing at a nondescript intersection in an industrial area in a major U.S. city. It's a warm summer night, and the air around me is completely still. The main building defining my view is a hulking six-story warehouse that was abandoned years ago. Layers of brown, red, and yellow paint cover the brick, each one telling a piece of the building's story—people came here to work, to create, to make a living.
My Mazda stands out in an environment like this, and that is exactly the point. A street drift car looks best when it is dynamic. Even when the car is still, anyone looking at it sees motion. Right now, the car is silent, its engine off, and still as I lean against it I feel nothing but coiled energy. I'm waiting for my friends to arrive, and I can already feel adrenaline, even though nothing is happening.
From a distance, I can hear the distinct sound of a couple of SR engines approaching. Nothing sounds quite like an SR—it's not the smoothest or most refined sounding four cylinder, but its rough sound is exactly what makes it perfect for the street. My friends pull up and park next to me in a line. We're not all from the same drift team, and that's part of what makes it interesting. Each driver represents his area. Everyone brings a unique style and each car tells a different story. My car's story will come in time, but right now I am focused on the task at hand.
We are standing in front of our cars, having the usual conversations. We talk about our day, how we got to the spot, our cars... then we get down to the important stuff. Did we see any police in the area? Who's spotting tonight, and who's signaling? How will we run the course? As much as street drifting can look like chaos, we plan very carefully. Everything is controlled, and great care is taken to ensure that nobody is around and that we are all safe.
In spite of the planning and precautions, I can feel myself shiver, and my hands begin to shake from the adrenalin. I always know that I'm going to drive well, if my hands are shaking before we run.
My hands stop shaking the minute I hop in my car. The door closes and the engine starts. Nothing is more exciting to me than turning the key in my RX-7. Every time I start the 13B engine and hear it settle into its steady idle, I feel my mind instantly focus. All external inputs go away. I put on my driving gloves, and it is only me and this RX-7.
What happens next is all speed, noise, and muscle memory for me. I don't think much while I'm drifting, I just feel and act. As soon as I floor it, my car's 400 horsepower 13B comes to life, and its quiet exhaust note changing to a scream you can only find in a rotary with an open wastegate. To me, an open wastegate rotary engine sounds like nothing else on the planet—it is beyond visceral, as if the exhaust of the engine is ripping the air around it to pieces.
My car screams down the main straight of our course and when the timing is right my friends initiate their drift. I kick the clutch in the FD and flick the steering wheel to countersteer. Street drifting presents a different reality than drifting at most tracks: this course has potholes, bumps, and curbs on the inside and outside. Unused and dilapidated shipping containers have been abandoned and litter various points at the perimeter of the course. Everything is an obstacle. Even though you have to avoid obstacles, it is very important to drive with the most possible style. The entry should be the longest possible, the initial flick fast and exciting, and the transitions fast, too. There is no point of running at all, if you are not going to run in a stylish way.
After running for a while, we park our cars and I get some time to think again. For me, drifting is street drifting. There is nothing else. Drifting on a circuit is exciting, but it will never match the feeling of driving on the street. Every aspect of my FD has been specifically designed with street drifting in mind. Every aspect of my life has been carefully designed, with street drifting in mind. There are fewer and fewer of us old guys now7mdash;each year new younger people enter my city's street drift community, and each year some more older people stop street drifting and commit themselves completely to driving on the circuit. I simply can't stop. In all of my travels, through all of the experiences I have lived, nothing has brought me the same joy as driving the same old corners night after night with some friends.
Having read this far, you may be wondering who I am. I'd like to tell you it doesn't matter. I don't drift for fame, or notoriety, or attention. I don't want you to know my name. But if you come to the right city, the right empty street, at the right time of night, you just may hear my RX-7 for yourself.