Is Gatebil Europe’s Drift Matsuri?

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Year upon year, one of the standout attractions at Gatebil Rudskogen are the drift sessions, and it’s pretty easy to see why.

Firstly, for us photographers, drifting is an incredibly attractive proposition to shoot.

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Why? Well, it’s all of those little split-second moments that we’d look for when shooting any motorsport – slides, wheel lifts, smoke, flames, crashes, close calls, dirt drops and so on.

Except rather than happening as a rarity, it’s the norm, on every bend and every lap.

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As a result it’s not hard to make drifting look good in pixel (or celluloid, if you’re so inclined) form.

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From a fan’s perspective, it’s not much different. You get to watch some pretty exciting driving lap after lap without any of the processional nature of watching some other forms of motorsport or track days.

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Competitive drifting? No matter how much hardcore drift fans will try and convince you otherwise, that’s still a very niche interest. There are relatively few that can endure spectating an entire competitive drift event from start to finish – it’s a long slog (unless you add more crashes and more flames, it seems).

Thankfully, it’s a discipline that’s becoming more and more concise it seems as it matures. That’s another discussion for another day I feel…

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When it comes to drifting at Gatebil, however, it’s all a bit more relaxed. The open drift sessions here remind me of the old Option videos that I used to watch when I first discovered that strange Japanese men and women liked sliding sideways in strange-looking Japanese cars I’d never heard of.

Who was this lady called Silvia? And why was she so popular?

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There’s no complex scoring system to get your head around, no queuing for 40 minutes to drift two corners and then straight to the back of the line, no pressure and no stress.

Just an open pit lane and as many laps as you can squeeze in before you run out of tyres or talent.

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As I explained previously, I’m writing this by proxy having sadly missed out on this year’s Gatebil. But after experiencing the festivities last year, I can confirm that the drift sessions at Rudskogen are as lairy as they look in the photos.

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There’s an eclectic mix of cars and driver’s abilities, all out for it at the same time, which creates for some pretty interesting moments. You never really know what’s going to come sliding over the horizon next, and after a while at Gatebil, nor are you often surprised by it.

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Why is there a carbon fibre Aston Martin Vantage, an S15 and a Pro-Lite truck all in one drift shot? Because Gatebil.

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Following some pretty serious accidents safety margins have been stepped up quite a bit from previous years, so the festival doesn’t quite have the lawless vibe that it once had, but you couldn’t really tell from watching the drift sessions alone.

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The only apparent order to the madness comes in the form of the Super 3 drift competition, which sees teams of three drivers navigate the large sweeper before the start/finish straight, in triple tandem, getting as close to one another as they can. Even then, no one really seems to take the competition all that seriously.

Drifting at Gatebil is the closest thing we have to a proper drift matsuri in mainland Europe – it’s all about people sliding around and having fun in a controlled environment.

That comes pretty close to the spirit of what drifting should be all about, if you ask me.

Jordan Butters
Instagram: jordanbutters
jordan@speedhunters.com

Photography by Dave Cox
Instagram: shootingdave

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Is Gatebil Europe’s Drift Matsuri?