Firstly, it’s a good idea to tell you that before the road trip began, the production crew had to embark on a little journey of their own. Heavy heads from the night before (preparing an intoxicatingly large amount of equipment!) meant that the 04:00 alarm was that little bit harder to wake up to. Kit bags, cameras and a very tired three man team set off in the crew’s Toyota IQ shortly after 4am from their base in Wiltshire, heading to Jap Performance Parts (JPP) in Crawley.
To give you a picture of the scale of what we are trying to do, here is a Google Earth plan of the route. A long, winding and distant ribbon of tarmac (we hoped!) was quite literally highlighted for us and the journey time prediction of “1 Day and 2 Hours”, albeit an optimistic one, it wasn’t too daunting, especially when we had the comfort of Saj’s own Mitsubishi Evo 10 carbon demo car as our chariot.
The channel tunnel wasn’t a new experience for the majority of us except for one camera man, so unlike him, we weren’t that entertained nor thrilled about the process. But for those of you reading this, that haven’t experienced the luxury of sitting in your own stationary car for 40 minutes under orange strip lighting – it’s exactly that – 40 minutes under orange strip lighting.
Fast forward to Germany as motorways, Belgium and a small part of France and Holland were not very exciting.
Germany is something that is best described by Peter Farrow, who has spent holiday time here and even speaks enough the native tongue to get by. But, like the rest of us in the Evo, our minds were too busy watching the sparsely populated autobahn whiz by. Wind turbines and immaculately presented industrial complexes adorned the landscape set in lush green rolling hills for as far as the eye could see. It was frankly amazing how quickly 14 hours went past. Austria was the first country we would rest in.
I don’t think any of us had any time to think about the next stretch of the trip, let alone let our breakfast settle. On a side note, if it wasn’t for Peter’s (right) translation, we would have all looked a bit silly ordering breakfast by pointing and speaking loudly in English, our pride, for now, was safe.
This trip came at a price, in fact when the accountant has finished raiding our bank accounts I’ll tell you exactly how much of a price it was! We would average about 4 hours non-stop driving on a full tank, but only 2 on a full bladder, so there was a lot of sweating and fidgeting going on inside the cabin. But before you feel too sorry for us, Look at the back of that Evo and tell me it’s not worth it!
As our descent through Europe continued, the luscious forests and rolling hills of Germany and Austria began to disappear and we were welcomed by the cold, grey and “Straight-Edged” version which could only indicate that we were now in the industrial area of north Hungary.
We bypassed Budapest to save time, time that I might add was put into perspective when we noticed that it was only a “short” 10 hours to Bucharest (800km).
With the limitless autobahn coming to an end in that precisely “German” kind of way, it meant there was a lot of bottlenecked traffic, which gave us a brief time to stretch and admire the Evo amid the rest of the heavy traffic.
As we came off the motor way and started to make our way through the last few miles of Hungary, the quality of life style here was quite a harsh difference to what we were use to earlier in Western Europe. Before our approach to the Romanian border we were struggling to find a place stop and eat.
After a few wrong turns we finally found a place to stop and eat, the Fikete Bika Etterem or in English the “Black Bull Restaurant”
The meal, to our pleasant surprise, turned out to be one of the best on the trip and goes to show you should never judge a book by its cover.
Making use of their kindness we offloaded footage, charged our laptops, ate ourselves stupid and returned to the poorly kept roads that is south Hungary.
Regardless of where we were, the car always attracted attention. Even the waiters in the “Black Bull Restaurant”, shown above, left their posts to watch the car drive away.
It wasn’t long before Pete decided to jump out of the car to talk two young chaps, who gazed upon the Evo. To Inform them of our trip to the Drift Grand Prix and to stay connected by following us on Facebook.
In Romania, Peter and Sajid were constantly trying to find and navigate alternative ways around the awful traffic. As the sun set it dawned on us that there really was only one main road which we needed to follow in order to get to Bucharest… and we already were on it.
Shrouded by darkness we were unable to appreciate the beautiful mountainous landscapes of Romania. We were forced to battle hundreds of miles of bumper to bumper trucks, dodging pot holes, train tracks and stray dogs. It felt like New York City traffic in the middle of nowhere.
As we weaved our way through the bulk of the small villages, we had the relentless task of overtaking hundreds of trucks. To our surprise, except for a few, the driving courtesy of lorry drivers in Romania was better by clear margin than England. It was an exhausting, on the power, on the brakes trip up all the rocky mountainous roads of Romania… far too intense to even sleep, for me anyway.
Above is a snap shot of the legendary “Dragon Star Courier” driver who kept us amused for a good hour of the trip as he tried to shake the Evolution from his rear view mirror. We laughed as “Dragon Star” did countless overtaking manoeuvres, which coined phrase “Fag Paper Close”.
However as seen the next photo some drivers were not so lucky. We unfortunately witnessed, on at least two occasions , lorries that had turned over or crashed..
…we proceeded gingerly.
A few mandatory refuel and coffee stops later we finally arrived in Bucharest Friday morning at 3:30am. We were thankful to see the city lights once again, but to be fair, we were unable to take in Bucharest atmosphere, our concentration was getting to the hotel as quickly as possible to rest up ready for Friday’s event.
By 04:00am, exhausted we were still in the Hotel foyer. It was not what we wanted hear at such a late hour, but a change in the booking information by someone at the hotel cost us another 50mins of sleep. As the hour approached 5am we were becoming a little impatient and frustrated to say the very least and the hotel staff were not forthcoming. Being told to wait till 7am to check in was the cherry on top for Sajid. However hats off to Saj for driving 21 hours non stop… still to this day don’t know how he did it.
After an unimaginative breakfast, which looked like it had travelled 1500 miles in the car with us and a depressingly short night’s sleep, we assembled the gear and joined the Friday morning rush hour traffic of Bucharest.
As we crawled through the city, sticking out like a sore thumb, all of us were taken back by Bucharest’s atmosphere: busy crowds, hundreds of Dacias, rustic architecture, stray animals you name it it was here – we had finally arrived.
Drift Circuit?! Yeah… I’m standing on it. What a truly grand setting!
No words, even till this day could describe the feeling of seeing this epic backdrop. Unbelievable to think we had this for drift grand prix over the next 3 days.
The circuit was laid out on the palace square in front of this very building. The Palace of the Parliament (Romanian: Palatul Parlamentului)
The upcoming screeching of rubber and torturing of tarmac in probably the most important location in Romania…#Win – I think so.
Being new to the surroundings It wasn’t long before we were familiarised with wheels and faces we knew well. After touching base with JPP Driver Walton Smith, we ventured off to take some establishing shots.
On a personal note : with the show and shine stand also starting to take shape; my jaw was left dropped for the remainder of the day as I leered over many cars, like the fresh E46 you see above.
After a few of our graphics were applied to the cars of our good friends from Kyouto Drift and Nigel Colfer we set off to get signed on for the event. (Above is Peter Farrow and Nick Seward aka. Ricky Bob, attaching some newly printed Togethia vinyl’s to his Nascar themed S15)
Whilst vehicles queued up to be scrutineered, it gave the drivers a chance to mingle. Here is Nikolett Szanto talking with Walton Smith and enjoying a close up view of the JPP Skyline powered Subaru Impreza. Walton was equally impressed by Nikolett’s V8 powered Z4 Hardtop, (see below)
Nikolett kindly allowed us to put a couple of Togethia Stickers on her car. Here it is sitting on the final stretch, whilst the hot October Sun beamed down on the scruitneers doing the final checks to the BMW.
As the Impreza screamed onto the track the crowd erupted with excitement. However within seconds Walton knew the car wasn’t behaving correctly and lost a significant amount of power with the rear left “feeling out of place”, in Walton’s own words.
As Walton came to a stop, he stared at me with confusion as much to say he hadn’t a clue what had gone wrong. A few feet later as he attempted to crawl back to the pits the nearside wheel bearing collapsed around a sheared drive shaft.
With all of our hearts in our mouths, we feared that prior 30 seconds of track time, might be the only time we would have all weekend…
As Sajid ran onto the track to inspect the damage, it looked like the drive shaft had snapped off where it ran through the bearing. Thousands looked on as we pushed the Subaru off track. It didn’t look good and Walton’s face said it all…
One of the highlights of the Saturday was being knocked unconscious by one of the clipping point bollards that flew through air after being hit by Pawel Trela. Above is the actual incident unfolding as I saw it through the camera: keeping the burst shot on as I collapsed to the floor.
Here is a short video of that very moment, that Vince Knight captured.
Looking down the track from the start line the intial run up was considerably longer than I first thought. I could appreciate how much courage it took from the drivers to lock the rear wheels before taking this harsh left hander and over a 100mph.
Terry Grant, world record holder and stunt driver, entertained the crowds in between the drifting rounds, (special Togethia video coming soon).
As Walton kept consistent, Trela almost span on the first corner, and subsequently straight lined the first clipping point, however this went unnoticed by the judges, allowing Trela to slip through and pushed Walton out of the competition.
After the Subaru returned, it wasn’t long before Sajid, Walton and Togethia had to swiftly pack all the equiupment away and depart to make good time in order to get home within the next 2 days.
When we set out, we hadn’t envisaged leaving the event so prematurely. As we drove away, the echoes of the battles still on-going only made the departure that little more devastating.
Later that night we stopped in a small village in the mountains, a few hours north of Bucharest, we awoke to some of the most breath taking views we had ever seen. Something we completely missed on the outward journey which had been in darkness at this point.
On our last evening in Europe, finding a place to stop proved difficult. As Mark and I offloaded footage, taking in turns to take a nap, Peter and Saj tried over 11 hotels from the hours of 11pm – 4am. But nowhere was open or had rooms available, we managed eventually to get hotel just over the border from Austria back into Germany.
Even though we failed to secure a podium finish, the atmosphere we experienced in Burcharest placed this event among the best attended this year. Even if this is the last event we attend in 2011 we could not be happier with the progress of Jap Performance Parts. Long may that relationship of JPP and Togethia progress as we head into 2012.
Togethia Media Services and Jap Performance Parts would like to say special thanks to: Florin, Ciuli Krt and Dan from Romania, Terry Grant, Dan Epure, Fuel Topia, Evl Santos, Alex Manning, Brad Hacker, Nick Seward, Ross at Dragon Performance, Ian Gratton, Faruk M Kugay, Bryn Musslewhite. All the security staff and Health and Safety personnel at the event, Julian Smith from Garage-D, Jules Chambers from Chamber Performance, Steve “Stiggy” Evans, Monster Energy, Will Belcher, Vit at JPP and the rest of the staff in the Drift Allstars.
Check out our Teaser for the event.
Photos: Tim F.Matthews
Processing: Will Belcher
Words: Mark Henderson / Peter Farrow / Tim F.Matthews
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