Vd – With this being his second VegasProAm season, Brandon is far from new to competitions. Ok, tell us about yourself and how you got into drifting.
BW – As embarrassing as it is to say I was a victim of Initial D. I gained an interest in the AE86 and drifting after first watching the show. Having previously owned a Mitsubishi Cordia and a Honda Civic I was caught up pretty heavy at the time in the VW scene driving a 1985 GTi. In 2001 a friend of mine saw an AE86 GTS for sale close to where I lived and told me about it. I bought it the next day for $400. I fell in love immediately with RWD. My attitude quickly went from JDM Initial D fantasy to a harsh reality that drifting is not easy, especially with an open diff and stock 15 year-old suspension. After years of autocross and automotive immaturity I stumbled across what would become some of my best friends who were also drift enthusiasts. By this time (2007) Utah’s first organized drift event was held. Over the years of owning a corolla I had turbocharged and subsequently blown up a stock 4ag, swapped a 4agze and also blew it up and then bought another corolla with a good running stock blue-top. It was with this car that I learned to drift. Looking back I can’t imagine any better platform to learn the basics of drifting. Corollas are SOOOO hard to drift! They make almost any other car seem easy. The following year I was cursed with buying an s13 and turning my back on the AE86, at least for drifting, I still have love for the corolla. Since owning an s13 I have been through 4 chassis’, 6 KA24E, 1 CA18DET and an SR20DET. In 2008 GT Live came to Utah and I qualified 9th which earned me an invite to the Red Bull FD licencing event in Long Beach. With no roll cage or safety equipment I had to pass. But I was hooked on competition level drifting. Ever since then I’ve been attending Vegas Drift events.
BW – 2010 was a very fun year for me despite much disappointment and failure. My particular SR20 engine setup was very unreliable. I had oiling problems (replacing crank and bearings twice that season) and I was continuously replacing bad turbos with other cheap unreliable turbos. The car made 350hp but wouldn’t run without smoking or soaking the MAF in oil. Round 1 I drove my turbo corolla and qualaified 7th but with no safety gear I couldn’t compete. Round 2 I broke my transmission on the line for my 1st qualaifying run. I did place 2nd behind Odi at round 3 and drove to the podium with a rod knock haha. Round 4 was by far the most fun. The course was much faster than we were used to and the Pro-Am drivers really stepped up the level of driving. At the end of that event (at which I placed very low in the tandem comp) I was surprised to be awarded the Wild Card invitation to the Pro-Am Nationals at Irwindale. I still joke that the Wild Card was really the pity card in my case because I had done so poorly that season. The judges told me it was because I had shown improvement over the season and they believed my car was holding me back. Nevertheless I prepared my car and attended the event. I broke a transmission in practice (2nd time that season) but thankfully George Kilada had a spare. During qualifying my MAF was getting soaked in oil and causing my car to cut out. Then to top it off I lost an intercooler coupler and in an instant my weekend and my season were over.
BW – After being mechanically cursed in the 2010 season I decided to invest time and money into a reliable high-torque powerplant. No it’s not a V8. Toyota’s 1JZ seemed a good fit for me not only because of it’s ability to make reliable power but also a nearly indestructible transmission which broke last round. So far I am pleased with it’s 381hp. It is a very smooth powerband and the sound of that engine is very unique and very sexy. It seems thought that the mechanical curse has followed me into this season since the 1JZ starved for fuel at this last round and melted 2 pistons. At this very moment it is in pieces and being rebuilt with some CP pistons and ARP hardware thanks to Driftmotion.com who is sponsoring our team this year. The transmission is being fitted with Marlon Crawler parts to strengthen it’s few weaknesses. As far as other modifications on my s13, I have modified knuckles and steering rack combined with MAX inner tie rods and z32 outers for increased angle.
Vd – Tell us about your recent tandem against JS4KIX driver Gary Ganotisi.
BW – I must say that tandem run was one of the funnest I’ve had in a competition. Keeping in mind I had just dealt with extinguishing a fire under the hood of my car after my qualifying run, I was still high on adrenaline. I spoke with Gary to tell him that I had lost first gear and would be starting in 2nd so I may need him to adjust his speed to compensate for my handicap. The first run with me leading felt good but every time I looked back Gary was right on me. With such tough competition I felt like I needed to really get close and stick to him to get the win. I remembered that Gary had specifically asked me to not hit his car since he lives in Hawaii and keeps his car in Las Vegas making it difficult to repair. When we launched, I tried to get a good start due to lack of first gear and I ended up taking off too fast. By the first initiation we were side by side. I initiated behind Gary and by the middle of the corner had caught up and we made contact (still very sorry Gary). As a result I spun out. Just for fun I cut through the 2nd turn to catch up and finish the run in tandem. It was very fun driving with Gary. His rear wheel left a nice half moon mark on my passenger door.
Vd – Fill us in on Trackside Drift and the scene in Utah?
BW – Trackside Drift is an organization that hosts local drift events in Utah. As the founder I can say that I get less seat time hosting an event than all the participants. There is so much work and stress that goes into hosting an event it makes me appreciate that much more the effort that Nick and the Vegas Drift staff put into these events. I would like to thank Vegas Drift for all the work they do providing us a venue to drift on a competitive level. Make sure not to take for granted what they do for us as drivers. It is an awesome series. In Utah we have had some struggles in our drift community. We lost a long-time drift site but have continued to hold events at Miller Motorsports Park. This year Trackside Drift has teamed up with LapBattle.com to create a more affordable drift series. We would love to see some Vegas drifters come up and make an appearance. Check out DriftUtah.com and LapBattle.com.
BW – The best advice I can give to anybody new to drifting is…
First: Don’t try to make your car more powerful to start out. True drifting isn’t about power. It is about skill. Power just makes a better show.
Second: Coilovers and a welded diff are all you need for most cars to learn how to drift. Just get behind the wheel and go to events. Many people tell me they are afraid to look dumb in front of everyone while learning. We’ve all been there. Just get out and do it.
Third: For lot’s of people drifting is a lifestyle. It is more that just fun on the weekend. Make friends with other drifters. Attend all the meets and events you can. Even if you don’t drive, the drift community is made up of some good people. I have made a lot of good friends just by attending events.
Vd – Are there any sponsors or people you would like to thank or mention?
BW – Check out www.D-Spare.com or add Dspare drift parts on facebook. That is a site we started to sell used parts to help fund our drift team. Buy stuff! Thanks to Driftmotion.com for their help. They had all the parts in stock we needed to rebuild the 1JZ and it was in the mail the day after we got back from blowing the engine. Thanks to Derrick Lopez for changing my transmission in 45 min at Irwindale last season and building my roll cage. Thanks to my wife Amber for being supportive of my passion over the years. She went with me to my first Vegas Drift event at Nellis in 2009 shortly after we had met. Thanks to my awesome team Jose Mendez and Joe Baclawski. Thanks to all the other drivers and teams that support our team by bringing us your tires for mounting and helping with tools and parts whenever needed.
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