As the dust settles on an incredible season opener of the 2018 British Drift Championship (BDC), many people may have been confused by our approach this year. Each off-season we analyse each championship and create a list of improvements to further progress the series. We could have easily pressed copy and paste after a successful 2017 and made our lives easy, but that has never been our philosophy. This off-season, our analysis lead to a deeper and more worrying question – do people care?
Of course, the drift community cares; they, after all, are responsible for where we are today. But do the general public care? The answer is, probably not. Most of us true fans believe drifting to be the greatest motorsport on earth. It’s dramatic, challenging, visually dynamic and totally unique in its presentation and format. A community of die-hard fans and drivers over-achieving and self-sacrificing as a team for the unrivaled love of the sport.
In fact, we have done a good job fooling most people into thinking the BDC is ‘professional’. Drivers stand beside well-presented and expensive cars with nothing in their pockets, whilst driving instructors, fabricators and chefs are expected to become presenters, track marshals, and judges. The show is insanely under-staffed and each staff member over-worked, almost to the point of collapse. Neither the drivers or championship have any right, budget or experience to present as high a quality event as they do. In fact, some purists feel no guilt in picking holes and criticising everything online as they relish their role as anti-establishment heroes to this ‘high-revenue’, ‘high-budget’ and ‘stable’ motorsport. Irony at it’s finest.
So who is a true BDC fan? In my opinion, there are two kinds – those that brave the conditions, sacrifice their time and contribute to its very existence by attending in person, and those that watch livestream. Essentially, those that give, and those that take. Livestream was introduced to create a fanbase for the BDC and each driver across the world. To allow those that genuinely couldn’t make an event the ability to follow their favourite driver. To promote the sport to new fans and encourage them to come experience the atmosphere. The question now is, has it become fickle convenience?
It is important to recognise that the people who physically attend each event are its lifeblood. The BDC would not exist without them and drivers would not have the media exposure they have without the budget they create. We also value their opinion above anybody else. Another important group of people is our sponsors, who believe in our collective dream, even when it may be a risky commercial investment. This group of people are genuine supporters and fans, pushing the sport forward. They are the life and soul and we appreciate every single one of them.
The internet audience is less relevant, as it’s unlikely they will contribute anything other than an opinion. It disappoints me that many purists now fall into this category and use the service we provide them, for free, as a platform to gain social-media attention. It is a selfish approach and I feel we have pandered to them for too long. We are sometimes so afraid of criticism (we are only human) that we shy away from taking the chances the sport needs. I think it’s time for people to decide if they believe in the direction BDC is going, and if not, why do they tune in?
Purists will praise the ‘glory years’ of the mid-2000s and wish the pause button had been pressed there when they were relevant. In reality, it wasn’t that publicly popular then either. With flourishing practice day and amateur competition options in the UK, the grassroots side of drifting is more successful, in terms of driver entries and revenue, than pro competition. We are now the underdogs, but it’s important to know that the BDC is not, and has no aim to be, grassroots. I believe every driver and staff member wants to break new ground, improve all aspects and achieve public recognition. Why else would we put ourselves through it? We at BDC want everybody to watch and appreciate these incredible drivers and help them achieve their dreams, because they truly deserve it. With true general public recognition comes increased sponsorship, higher reward, better driving and new possibilities. It’s the next step, and as of yet, has never been achieved anywhere on earth.
If recognition from the general public is what we want, there are some hard truths we must, as a community, accept. If drifting is as great as we all think it is, it would already be mainstream. That means something is not clicking with the regular guy on the street. Is it too complicated? Is it too repetitive? Is it not entertaining enough?
At Round 1 of the 2018 BDC in Rockingham this past weekend, we tried to address those issues. Our new graphic system was intended to make the format more visual. Our judging system was simpler. Nathan Black was there to provide comic relief when things got too serious. We completed a Top 16 in 90 minutes to keep the action unrelenting. We even had an international TV show filming at the event to enhance our reach to the public domain. All were brand new additions that need time to get right, but we knew the risks and I believe they worked (at times) to elevate the show.
With such a reliable track, media and backroom team now handling the running of each event, we have the confidence to be more creative and try new things. This is an exciting time, where we are confident in the competitive side being consistent and fair, while the presentation side is open to dramatic change. Otherwise, we keep going in circles.
I like to imagine the public acceptance and recognition of professional drifting is stored within a locked safe. With each passing event, we pick our numbers and give the lock a pull. We accept that some numbers will be right and some will be wrong. The drift community will always argue over and critique the numbers we choose, but putting the same ones in time after time doesn’t make sense. We now have the most committed and passionate minds standing around that safe, more determined, committed and together than ever before. We don’t plan on stopping our attempts.
Last weekend easily broke both the attendance and viewership records for the BDC, a fact that surprisingly doesn’t satisfy our team. We think there is a lot more work to do, starting today … We are now entering the unknown, open minds at the ready.
Thank you all for your support and we will see you at Teesside Autodrome in June.