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

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