At a time when some other forms of racing are taking a hit in overall attendance and TV revenue, drift racing continues to accelerate as one of the fastest growing motorsports, not only in the USA, but on the planet. This totally captivating sport has spread from its point of origin in the remote mountains of Japan and has already touched some of the most far-flung corners imaginable.
Drift racing popularity has surpassed Rally Racing in Ukraine in only four years and it continues to grow.
Grinchuk feels the custom steering kit he added this year will help him to better compete against the newer Nissan's and BMW's.
Most experts believe that the colossal popularity of the sport has everything to do with drifting being more of an art form, than mere racing, and in fact, it is one of the few motorsports where style-points are presented. Watching highly skilled drivers sliding sideways bumper-to-fender, through corners with smoke bellowing from the tires is something that must not only be seen, but heard, to be fully appreciated.
On the Ukraine drift racing scene, when it comes to tire screeching artistry, one name stands out above all others, K&N sponsored, Aleksandr Grinchuk. Along with only a handful of other people, Grinchuk was of the first to introduce drifting in the Ukraine.
Grinchuk was the 2009 and 2010 Ukrainian Drift King Champion and his sights are set on making it three-in-a-row for 2011.
"My passion for this culture came from 'Need for Speed' games and 'The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift' movie," Grinchuk told K&N Race News. "I was lucky enough to earn some money and buy a brand new 350Z in 2007. Then I met some people who were making the first attempts at drifting in the parking lots, and I joined in."
Grinchuk and his friends quite literally learned how to drift race watching internet videos and Japanese films. Then with a month of planning that group put together the first local drift show 2007, and it was an immediate success. "Unfortunately my skill was so low that I could not get to the podium," Grinchuk confess. "But regular training made me the best drifter in Ukraine only two years later." Grinchuk became the overall drifting Champion of Ukraine in 2009 and 2010, and he's currently inline to make it a trifecta.
The stock 2006 Nissan 350Z Grinchuk first started racing four years ago is still very much a title contender.
As European countries go, Ukraine is a large country, and the 2011 season marks the countries fourth year of steadily growing drifting competitions. "Because of the large distances between different parts of Ukraine there are two different championships and one Grand Prix series in Ukraine," Grinchuk explains. "So it is easier for drivers without budgets to take part in one championship or series."
The first and most prestigious is the Ukrainian Drift Championship (UDC). The crew of this championship was one the first to carry on with drifting events in 2008, and the UDC has even better financial support from private associates this season. They will host four rounds in two cities in 2011. First round took place in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine at the Chaika Racing Ring. "The second and third rounds are going to be in my native city Odessa," Grinchuk adds. "The largest parking lot in Odessa is going to be the place for these events. And the final round will take us back to Kyiv. There the judges will decide who is going to be the UDC Drift King 2011. Two previous titles of Drift King 2009 and 2010 of this series has been taken by me," remarks Grinchuk smiling.
The second and youngest Ukrainian drift series is TuningFest: Drift Edition. "It is only the second season for them," Grinchuk says. "But its crew has very ambitious plans to make drifting the most popular show in the East of Ukraine. This year we have four rounds of Drift Edition. Three of them are carried in the large industrial cities of Ukraine: Kharkov, Donetsk and Dnepropetrovsk. And one round is planned in the East Ukrainian resort city of Berdiansk." Last year Grinchuk won that championship as well.
"And last, but not least," Grinchuk says, "is the competition called Drifting Grand Prix Vinnitza. There are two rounds of this competition in May and September. Each round has its own podium but the most stable pilot who gets the most points at both rounds will get the special prize from the Mayor of Vinnitza." Vinnitza is situated in the central part of Ukraine, making it the most convenient place for all Ukrainian drift pilots to gather.
Grinchuk says that all three series are very important to him and he has eleven regular drift events scheduled in Ukraine this year, with two more events abroad, and one special show in Kyiv. "So there are fourteen events in my schedule this season. My only real priority though is for Ukrainian drift events."
The Ukrainian drift scene is currently in mid-season and Grinchuk's team is once again doing well. "We have four podiums from five Ukrainian events. One podium is the first place from Donetsk."
Currently Grinchuk races his 2006 Nissan 350Z. "I think I am the most experimental guy in Ukrainian drifting," says the K&N sponsored driver. "I started to drift using my stock 3.5l VQ35DE engine in 2007. I made it supercharged in 2009. This season I have a twin turbo configuration of the same engine. But I am still unsatisfied. I think my crew and I will try V8 for the next season."
"But still the 350Z is a very good car for drifting," continues Grinchuk. "It has some problems with increasing a steering angle in stock. We made a custom steering kit which allows us to be compatible to other Nissan and BMW, which are the most popular in Ukrainian drifting."
Illustrating just how popular drifting has become in the Ukraine, Grinchuk says, "We have a very good, old school of Soviet Rally Racing in Ukraine as in Russia, but drifting has become much more popular than Rally Racing in only four years. Everybody was telling me that it is not possible to find sponsors in Ukrainian motorsport, but this year I have support from two well known world trademarks K&N Filters and Maxxis Tires. And I am not the only one with sponsors in Ukraine. My sponsors are just the most known."
At a recent international drift event, the FX Open in Belarus, with many of the most distinguished drift artists in attendance such as, Ryan Tuerck, from the US and Tengku Djan from Malaysia, along with champions for Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and Russia - Grinchuk placed seventh out of 46 international drivers.
After the mid-season break Grinchuk has six more drift events and one show remaining. "I will fight to the end to achieve another Drift King title this year," Grinchuk declares. "And my chances are looking really good."
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