Besides the addition of Chris Parry aka Paz, the dudes at Driftworks have also deemed it a good idea to ask me blog up some stuff, I guess it’s because I have a big mouth. My name is Mat Steele, but i’ve kinda become known as Mitto, after a seriously old joke team in Japan, called Mitto Natto Racing (roughly thats like being called Yorkshire Pudding Racing). Pretty stupid…
So let me start right at the start. Cue trippy wobbly movie screen and let yourself trip back to 1998 maybe ealry 1999. Pretty much the same way as Paz, I found some random drift clips online after looking for parts my FF crapper. Those clips, of random 86s and 180s inspired me right from the start, although i didn’t really know what the hell they were doing, i knew it was cool.
I wouldn’t actually get to drift myself till much later. Around that time though, i worked for a company whom were the first over here retailing Veilside bodykits direct from Japan. By 2001, Veilside sent an invitation for one of us to visit them at Tokyo Auto Salon, I signed myself up, since i had a friend living in the north of Japan to visit too. I spent a month there and it is pretty much what bound me to drifting for the rest of my life.
At Auto Salon that year, I met Nomura, Taniguchi, Orido, Tarzan Yamada and Yoshinori Koguchi. Meeting Koguchi left me star struck, and seeing his 180sx in the flesh blew my mind, as much as i had no idea what i was seeing, i knew i wanted it, bad! I’d meet a few of these guys again over the years doing various drift related things, I even got to drive a few of thier cars, but thats another story.
Skipping forwards a few years, a couple of skylines, silvias and random smashers later, I’ve been around the block a couple of times. Managed to judge at quite a few events around Europe and meet a bunch of amazing people. But i’d always held fast to the dream of living in Japan and running the Touge and docklands, just like those video clips i’d seen years before. By 2009, I was living in Japan full time and doing all those things i’d dreamed of.
The more time i spent in Japan, the more i began to realise that i’d lost my way with drifting. In Europe, i became too focused on wanting to win things and got too dissapointed that i didn’t. I think that’s partly because of my exposure to drifting being at least 80% D1 orientated. All of the events in Europe and seemingly the rest of the world were about being a champion. I began to re-evaluate what drifting meant to me and prove to myself that i wasn’t bad at it.
(I also managed to make a few videos out there that you can search for on Vimeo under bubble massacre)
I’d picked up a jzx90 mark II, which i had styled out in my own little ridiculous way, and ran as much as a possibly could. I got the car from Kids Heart in Nagoya, the shop that built the official Sil-eighties for Nissan and the workplace of Tezuka, of Bee-R D1 fame. I remeber Takayama san (the company owner) asking me why i wanted a jzx, I explained that i wanted to use such a big car so that i could learn something new. Something like a jzx is easy to drive when you are messing about round cones in 2nd gear, but on the street, when you are flat out in 3rd and 4th gear it becomes a lot more difficult. Scary infact!
During my initial street sessions in Japan i thought i was doing pretty well, pulling the top end of 3rd gear, big handbrake entries and hitting the imaginary clipping points, which were basically kerbs and other things that are hard / immoveable. I was pleased with myself, until i asked Go-kun (a chubby drift lunatic from the team “Get Drunk”) how i was doing, to which he replied “below average” !!??!WTF!!
Now if your pretty stoked with your driving and then somebody basically tells you that you suck, it’s pretty depressing. I asked Go-kun to take me out in the car and show me where i was going wrong. This involved hidiously massive 4th gear clutch kicks and foot to the floor high speed manjis. Go-kun, basically has no fear in him, no hesitation or concern for the consequences, it was like watching some kind of slightly intoxocated (see team name again) drift magician. MY EYES ARE OPEN.
The spot we would run at at least twice a week was refered to as “main” located somewhere in the deepest, darkest part of Tobushima docks, in the southern part of Nagoya city. It actually took myself and my buddy about 2 months to find the place, it would take another 2 months before anybody would run with us. But, this is the place that changed drifting for me. Nobody there care’s about competition, they just want to improve thier driving and have fun with thier friends. An attitude that i took to very quickly, the more time i spent there, the less i wanted to be better than anyone and the more i wanted to make myself and my friends laugh by trying stupider things. I spent as much time at the local convience store talking bad Japanese as i did actually drifting.
Sidenote – as a result of my time hanging around at the docks, my japanese got quite ghetto. “nanni gan tobashi ton ja? mei no mai kala kiero!” I can’t do kanji, but if you speak Japanese and you can’t understand that, sorry! 😀
Most of the time at the docks, I would be hanging around with the infamous “JC” or this guy, Travis Woodham. If you meet him, brace yourself, he has servere ADD and is incredibly good at Japanese. His nickname in Japan is “Tora-bisu” (Tiger and word play on Ebisu) or “High Tension San” because he’s alway’s hyper. If you ever get the chance to meet this guy, he will make you laugh. So this little part of my story is dedicated to my buddy, Travis.
In the background, you can see his RB26DETT powered 4 door skyline in sexy brown, paint by Body Make McCoy. Whom also paint cars for people like Dart Izumida Jnr and Yokoi of Team Mind Control fame.
So after about a year of being in Japan, various reasons came about that meant i had to leave. I’ll always miss my time in Japan, not really because i love Japanese cars or that i’m JDM tyte as people like to think. But because even in the dead of winter the view from my apartment would look like the picture above, because everytime i went out i would my find something unusual to make me laugh, because it didn’t matter how many trophies you had or how good you were, as long as you really went for it.
I love drifting from all around the world, but outside of Japan, it seems so much focus is put into winning things or getting sponsors. Blasting round in a car that made regular people think you were a dickhead and having a back window full of your friends teams stickers is warming to the soul. I got to hang around with stupid bosozuku kids, hammering the hell out of my 1JZ to make my own call at them and yelling rude japanese to make them laugh. Whoever told you about “beaters” is full of crap, Boso are funny dudes.
Being in Japan is one of the best experiences of my life.
So now i’m back in England and somehow, i’m back into competition. Which in a way goes against everything i’ve just written… But, i’m not doing it to win, infact i don’t care at all, to the point that i try to actually ignore what the judges say and do my own thing. I don’t mean to be rude by that. The way i see it, if somebody tells you how you should run a course, you will always try to do something that isn’t that dream line you have when you look at a course for the first time. You have to make it work for you, keep watching those crazy dudes at Meihan and YZ, keep running the stupid way they do and you’ll keep a smile on your face for years to come. You’ll get better and develop your own style.
I’m aiming at JDM Allstars in particular, because the course’s remind me the most of my time in Japan, just messing about. I guess a few people have gotten sick of me ranting about Japan by now! But please take one thing from it, and that is, that competition doesn’t matter, having the coolest car doesn’t matter, it’s all about having a laugh and feeling like you achieved something for yourself or friends. This is what i’m about and what i’m trying to promote, it’s a shame that somewhere in the middle of my time drifting i forgot that.
I’ll leave you with this shot taken by my buddy Daniel Bridle from Motormavens. Offline and i got a terrible qualifying position, like 58th or something. But man, I got stupid angle and inside my £7 helmet, i have a dumb happy face going on!
Thanks to everyone that helped me along the way, especially the Driftworks guys that have never let me down and asked me to be involved in thier latest e-venture 🙂
I hope you all enjoyed reading my first blog, because i hated writing it! 😀