Drifting event to burn rubber in Starke

Unlike NASCAR or Formula 1 racing, drifting ignores factors like speed and time. Instead, the sport is about control.

“It’s a lot of excitement for fans to watch―watching cars get so close to each other while sideways,” Alex Schlagel said.

Schlagel competes in the Formula Drift PROSPEC league and helps promote the sport on the side. His next competition is in St. Louis at the end of August, but he’ll be drifting this Saturday in Bradford County.

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He’s working with Catch My Drift to host the drifting event at the FIRM (Florida International Rally & Motorsport Park) in Starke.

The ConFIRMed Drifting event will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.—rain or shine—with drifting, ride-alongs and food.

Unlike competition events, ConFIRMed drivers will drift for fun and practice in more of an exhibition. Spectator tickets cost $20 at the gate or $15 online with kids 12 and under free.

With a general admission ticket, spectators can ride along with certain drivers―at no extra cost.

Catch My Drift owner Joe Gorcesky said it’s a great place for first-timers to learn about the sport and drivers to get plenty of seat time.

He said lots of driver’s enjoy the no pressure fun of these events.

Spectators will see a wide variety of cars as well, from Mustangs to a couple of Skylines, with a range of horsepower. The drivers, too, will vary from pros to newbies.

Currently, the event has 30 drivers signed up with more likely to show up last minute, and Gorcesky said he expects 250-300 spectators.

ConFIRMed will also mark the first drift event at the FIRM in four years. Gorcesky said sometimes tracks have bad experiences with drift events and decide not to hold them.

But, he and Schlagel both hope Saturday’s event will open up more drifting opportunities.

Gorcesky started drifting in 2006 and soon began to help organize events. Last year, Catch My Drift launched its first season with five drift events.

Only one of the events was a competition. Mostly, these events provide practice to drivers and introduce others to the sport, one of the fastest growing motorsports in the nation.

Gorcesky said the first year went well despite the pandemic, and this year, Catch My Drift will hold nine events in five states.

Gorcesky is a teacher and runs Catch My Drift on the side to partially finance his own drifting. He said students talk less and less about NASCAR and Formula 1 while drifting seems to be growing.

Pop culture has fueled some of the love for drifting, with YouTubers spreading the sport.

Schlagel started drifting in video games and eventually switched to real life, buying his first car for $1,000 and competing in Gainesville. Since then, Schlagel won the Southeast Drift Union ProAm Championship in 2017 and moved up to the PROSPEC league.

He says the video games accurately portray many details like the timing of when to brake, throttle and countersteer. However, the screens can’t quite mirror the G-force a driver feels or the real life consequences of a miscalculation.

For drifting, drivers must get sideways by a certain point on the track, and judges give points based on the line, angle and overall excitement.

Throughout the course, judges expect drivers to get close to “clipping points” with the back or front of the car.

After qualifying rounds, the competition moves on to tandem battles.

Schlagel calls tandems the bread and butter of drifting. In it, two driver’s compete head on by drifting at the same time. The lead car drifts the course while the follow car mimics its movements, trying to stay as close as possible without interfering.

At fun events like ConFIRMed, multiple cars line up and drift together.

“It’s a feast for the eyes to see five or six cars sideways next to each other ripping around the course,” Schlagel said.

He’s not deterred by potential rain either.

“It’s really good practice to learn in the rain,” Schlagel said. “In fact, many of the times I’ve drifted at the FIRM it did rain, and I love driving that course in the wet.”

Plus, drifting in the rain saves drivers some extra money on tires.

Alex Schlagel smiling in vehicle

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