Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sitting Shotgun: Dennis Mertzanis


Dennis Mertzanis rolled into Englishtown Raceway for East Coast Bash to do one thing, have fun. ECB is no competition, this event is set by the hearts and minds of drifters to put on a show for the fans and an event to remember for the drivers. I caught up with Dennis late Sunday after everything was said and done, the engines were cooling, the track breathing again... this was time for talk and this is what we got!

1K: Dennis how competitive is your car compared to the cars in Formula D? 

Dennis: My car at a grassroots level, is really successful. You know I built it in a garage and I love every single square inch of it...but the cars at Formula D are amazing. They have incredible grip and power, lightweight. I mean these are relative to my car...pretty high dollar cars. Its hard to keep up, but I think
with the time were gonna put into the car testing..changing tire pressures, suspension stuff..I think that were gonna get there, at least you know..run mid-pack and try to be competitive there. Were working hard to get the car better every single event.

1K: Have you done Pro-Am events?

Dennis: I did a Pro-Am event, I actually got my license at the VIR (Virginia International Raceway) Pro-Am about 2 years ago. But, under some circumstances I had my license this year. All the Pro-Am series I did was based here on the east coast VIR events..I think it was the GT Live event specifically. At one event..did good, got an invite to GT Live...made top 8..then they gave licenses to the top 8 guys...I did (in-audible background tire screech) series, which I recommend to all the guys coming up through the ranks...like if you can do well at Pro-Am..Its kind of a large leap from Pro-Am to Formula D but still you gotta do well at Pro-Am. It really sets you up nice for Formula D.

1K:  What do you think about XDC?

Dennis: I think its great! Anytime you have an opportunity to compete with drivers that are better then you...in a series that's gonna be judged in a similar format to Formula D, that's the best thing you could do...Its totally different then going out to have fun..I mean you have a lot of guys who wanna drift for fun..and then there's guys who drift for fun, but the competition is fun to them as well. So you have two types of drivers..I happen to be one where the competition..I don't know how to explain it..the pressure helps me...and I like that pressure. The practice events.. don't get me wrong, I love drifting, Id drift every single day of the week..but I like the competition side of it.. I recommend any of those series, XDC is a really good start.

1K: What did you think about East Coast Bash this year?

Dennis:  Man its crazy..I definitely wish that it was not the weekend before Formula D Wall, NJ, because honestly I'm maybe at like 90 percent because you know I have my team but..were privateer, real low budget and so if anything were to happen to the car..it would be a serious scramble to get ready. We actually have to go back home and I have to work for the next 2 days, Tuesday, Wednesday, then were coming back...but the guys out here are great! The level of driving is a lot higher since I left cuz you remember I used to do the events here? You know...drift out Wednesday and then I think I did some practice events when the track first opened but we would run it a little differently...and I haven't been back in a year in a half.

Its just amazing, the skill level..its like the track gets harder, more technical, and everybody starts steppin up...and they can grow to that level of course you know? You can really see it in the driving, there's really a lot of really good drivers around here..the cars are getting prepped nice, looking good...its really impressive. The format of course, its Matt Petty you know what I mean? Its always entertaining and fun..its all about fun and drivers and everything..you know 6, 7 car tandems is always. A little bit crazy, especially at night...last night, it was unbelievable..I had a blast, I really wanted to keep staying out there but I had to bring the car in on purpose to kind of relax a little bit because like I said..I don't want anything happening..you know, it was real smokey, then your following
3 cars back, then its dark anyway, its hard to see the clipping points, guys are flyin everywhere! Man that's like, the essence of it right there...that fun, that excitement you get...that's why we all do it...

1K:  Where do you see drifting going in the coming years?

Dennis: American drifting? We have this talk all the time..where do we want drifting to go...I hope that drifting grows into kind of having another professional series just like Formula D, but more of an affordable, sort of grassroots..more guys like myself..where were pretty competitive amateur events, but when we get to Formula D were kind of running at the bottom of the pack..sort of like a street legal series in Japan..something similar to that where its kind of a stepping stone into Formula D. Formula D is amazing and its just a big jump from one series to the next...financially, the car itself, the schedule, all the guys that follow the schedule are back and forth across the coasts..especially from the east coast, its even harder goin out west a couple of times...that's where id like to see it go, have something sort of in between. I know XDC is a feeder series into Formula D, but there almost needs to be a duplicate Formula D at a slightly lower level...where its cars mostly like S-chassis, mostly like a lot of what you would see out here...

1K: Kind of like the US DRIFT series?

Dennis:  Yeah kind of, I guess you could say that..That's where I would hope its going...where its not gonna..grow further apart then it already is between like the Pro-Am driver and Formula D. I mean that jump is already..you know, pretty huge. If it gets any bigger, I would fear that people wouldn't be able to do it anymore..they'd have all the same drivers coming in unless its someone from another country..with money to take a chance like that..

Photography: Dan Jenkins

Sunday, June 20, 2010

On Board- Chelsea Denofa

This video was shot during the XDC Round 3 final run between Chelsea Denofa and Steve Angerman. Chelsea went on to win the battle for third with Angerman proving once again that BMW's do in fact drift well (with a good driver). Just a teaser for what is to come from this round of XDC media! 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sitting Shotgun: Brad Hettinger

Brad (B-RAD) Hettinger...I first recognized Brad about a year ago when I saw his insane looking 240SX convertible. It was two-tone blue and silver, had an R33 Skyline front end on it, was fully kitted, chicken installed, MASSIVE exhaust, and to top it off... his helmet was covered in bright blue fur. 

From that day on, I always would have to follow his lines when I heard his car run. He then went on to paint the car metallic pink and had a front end change more then once. 

Brad was always tearing up the track from start to finish. I have noticed from the first day, that Brad had something in drifting. He later went to Irwindale Speed way aka the "House of Drift", and picked up his Formula Drift license. All while making it there with donations via PayPal from the support of the drifting community and friends! 

Brad also does work at his shop, Ground Werks Garage. Ground Werks will do it all for you, and Brads car shows it. Brad totally rebuilt the vert from the ground up for 2010. The capability of this shop is phenomenal once you see over the B-Rad ride in person. I went to East Coast Bash this year wanting to get a few words with Brad about him and his shop, this is what came of the short but long interview...

 1K:  How was your weekend at East Coast Bash?

  Brad: It was all right. The car was doing pretty decent to begin with, having a couple little setup issues but other then that it was pretty good. I ended up tapping the wall, ripping the over fender off on the passenger side. Then going into night driving last night I bottomed out the car really hard. Don't know if it had any correlation to do with the motor having some rod knock, its blown up now. I'm not sure whats going on there, wont know till tomorrow when I tear it down. It was an alright weekend ya know? I was hoping for better, but you know at least I got to drive a little bit.

 1K:  How is the new setup/rebuild you've done?

 Brad:   Good! The car has had its bugs definitely. There's been a lot of new stuff I've put on it, things other people haven't done. Stuff like that. Has a 350 (z) trans behind the SR now, so I initially had some issues with that off the bat cuz the gearing is all kinds of different I wasn't used to it, kind of gives you short snappy gears. I wasn't used to having to transition through gears as often. Last year, I pretty much would be in third all the time and just be done with it. This year its a lot of second, third, and fourth gear action goin on.

As far as the power.. I'm making about 50 more horse then I was last year. The v-mount setup made it real responsive. The car in general felt really good. It has tons of power, the biggest problem I'm having is to keep grip. I'm just kinda blowin through tires. The main problems I've been having is the suspension setup lately. The past 3 events I've done have been more suspension setup , tweaks in alignment and all that kind of fun stuff.

 1K: How are things coming along with GroundWerks?

  Brad:  Good! We have a lot of new stuff coming, a lot of stuff were working on... If everything pans out the way were hoping for, we'll have a really cool car for next year. I'm getting rid of the s13..Actually after this weekend I'm not sure whats gonna happen with the S13. I've been entertaining the idea to move into a newer chassis to begin with. I kind of wanted to at the end of last year but, I thought it would be better strategy to stay in this car since I was comfortable with it. Just doing a couple things to it, and a couple things ended up being a lot of things, maybe over built the car a little bit..It seems to work pretty good.

We started doing roll cage work about a month ago, that's going really well. Were really happy with the way that stuff is turning out. Still got the dyno stuff goin on. I've been doing a lot of research and development on the Z trans behind different motors. First thing was the SR, I have people interested in doing it behind the KA now. That's the biggest thing, RB20, SR, and the KA, they have a weak trans. You know, its getting kind of hard to get the Z32 parts to do the Z32 trans. That's why I kind of came up and started doing this. It works out pretty good, I'm happy with it.

Brian Hop's car, the one with the orange Gram Lights...his car has the same trans setup in it, and actually before he hit the wall, he was tearing it up. I've never seen him drive like that before he was doing really good! I was gonna drive his car today to try it out, I wanted to see how much different it felt from mine. We have a little bit different things goin on with our cars and I wanted to see how his felt compared to mine, unfortunately I didn't get to go that route. It made me feel good this morning that I saw him drive.

We always got cool stuff goin on. I'm going to start building a Corolla, probably going to use it more or less as a backup car for a little bit till I figure out whats goin on with my actual car situation. My roommate has a Corolla with a 20 valve in it so I was gonna start puttin that together, were gonna kind of share it, go from there and see what happens.

 1K: What kind of plans do you have for Formula D and competing this year?

Brad:   This year I'm taking it back a couple steps. I put a lot into driving last year, I drove like 25 or 26 events last year? Was kind of hoping Id get a little bit more backing then I had but when I started opening up GroundWerks and doing everything that was going on with GroundWerks, I kind of decided to put a little more time into the business then into racing. That's kind of where I've been sitting.. I'm gonna probably keep everything off with Formula D this year...and extend my license hopefully until 2011.

I'm going to the new chassis, go into Formula D with a brand new car...and be a rookie in a brand new car and see how it goes. Obviously there's the politics involved with all of it so I'm probably not gonna do too good in a brand new car. Hopefully everything still pans out and I do decent you know? Id be happy just to qualify every one really...My biggest thing every day is like when I wake up or when I'm eating or whatever you know I'm just thinkin about stuff, I'm all ways hoping the economy's gonna turn around so that you know..worst case scenario I can have a business that can flourish, help me get through everything else..that's the biggest thing I think about...

1K:  Where do you think drifting is gonna be going in the upcoming years?

Brad:   I think its going good places..there's a lot more company's getting involved, stuff like that. We got events like this (East Coast Bash), where its all grassroots guys out with pro drivers. You have events like Road Atlanta and Formula D Wall like they're big events but as far as media wise and the sport blowing up more? I see an event like East Coast Bash being more influential to people then going to Formula D. As a grassroots driver, you go to Formula D your like, “AW I'm never gonna be at this level” like there's no point in ever being                able to be that. But you got all kinds of drivers here.

You got guys where its the first time ever driven here today, and you got guys that have been here on the road course however many times its been open, which I think is like 20 times people have been able to drive on it..I've driven on it every time its been open, every time there's been an event out on the road course, I've been on it. You've just got a wide variety of drivers here, and you don't really see that when you go to Formula D as much. East Coast Bash and like Club Loose itself, I really see it opening up the whole potential of what drifting can really be.

1K:  How do you feel about the drifting community itself?

Brad:   Were all very like, laid back. I've all ways thought everyone's here to help each other out you know? I have people come up to me all the time asking me to borrow tools and stuff like that. I brought my girlfriend with me, its her first time shes ever come to a drifting event with me that was actually like a BIG event. She watched me yesterday morning, I ran around and I think I helped 3-4 people work on there cars before I even got to get into my car. I rolled my car out the trailer, it sat right there on the ramp and I went around and helped people get there stuff ready to go.

I knew my car was ready, and I did what I had to do. Brian was having trouble with his car, couple little engine electrical issues, took care of that. He ended up braking a shift linkage on his car as well I fixed that mid day for him. Were all here to help each other out, I walked over to Garry Gardella's trailer and was like, “Hey I need to use your tig welder” and he was like, “Alright yeah go ahead!”. Everyone's here to help each other out, to have a good time, have fun, its not like cut throat or anything like that. It has all ways been to me, everyone's here to help each other out.. I've never had somebody like, snob me off about being able to use a tool or something like that. That's how I've all ways viewed it...

Special Thanks: Dan Jenkins Photography 

Monday, June 7, 2010

XDC Summit Point Raceway at Hyper-Fest 2010!

Its finally here! XDC has reached its place in the east with Hyper-Fest this year which is a little over a week away! This may possibly be the most INSANE gnar Hyper-Fest ever! Check it out! go here for all the infos!