In the past decade, drifting has progressed from a backstreet niche to one of the motorsport world’s most popular and alluring disciplines. Supreme skill and incredible car control are central to success and to wowing the massive crowds the sport draws online and trackside.
Sadly, along with the majority of global motorsport events and championships in 2020, the Drift Masters European Championship programme was seriously disrupted during the spread of the pandemic and the organisers managed to host just one round, the King of Riga event in Latvia.
Thankfully, for 2021 things are looking a bit more normal and the DMEC calendar will feature three meetings and six rounds in Austria, Latvia and Georgia, with a bumper driver entry of more than 50 drivers representing 22 nations, mixing proven winners and local heroes.
In last year’s sole event in Riga, defending DMEC champion James Deane enjoyed a superb duel with Worthouse team-mate Piotr Więcek in the final with Deane taking a hard-fought victory. Jack Shanahan joined fellow Irish driver Deane on the podium, with Shanahan continuing his hot form that created such a stir in 2019.
It all starts in Austria!
Preparations for the 2021 DMEC weren’t entirely free of interference from the ongoing pandemic. Things were scheduled to get underway in Norway in mid-June, but subsequent travel restrictions denied the Scandinavian country its DMEC bow, and instead the action will kick off at the challenging PS Racing Center in Greinbach, Austria on July 9.
Drivers will have two chances to bag maximum points at the season-opener, and things will heat up after some early practice on the Friday with round one qualifying action. After a final Saturday morning practice session the battle for the Top 32 will get underway with Sunday's round two rounding off proceedings. After a year off full-time competition the action will be frantic and the atmosphere intense and it will all be available live on Red Bull TV.
After the dust has settled in Austria, it's a trip north for another double-header and another double-points weekend...
Return to Riga
The Baltic nation of Latvia is renowned for a few things including UNESCO World Heritage Sites, medieval towns, great beer, beautiful lakes, waterfalls and Art Nouveau buildings. Add to that one of the fastest and most challenging circuits in the drifting world.
DMEC President Arkadiusz Dudko explained: "The 2021 DMEC calendar is unique and exciting for both the drivers and the fans. We are going to new countries and reaching more people across Europe. Once again we will race in Riga, which holds a special place in the heart of the drifting community. Latvian fans are some of the most passionate in the sport."
Georgia on my mind
The beautiful and historic Georgain capital of Tbilisi will come to a standstill for the stars of the DMEC on the weekend of September 4-5. That’s right, the Georgian authorities have decided to devote the city centre of Tbilisi to the art of drifting – and it promises to be some finale.
Chosen by organisers of DMEC because of the city’s "unique and incredibly attractive location", a new DMEC champion will be crowned on the streets of the Georgian capital. Local hero Nodo Kodua, the country's most recent drift champion, and Mevlud Meladze, the second-placed driver in the national championship will be getting plenty of support.
Ireland's Conor Shanahan made his debut in the Drift Masters European Championship in 2018, sensationally beating fellow Irishman, DMEC and Irish National champion, James Deane in Poland. The 18-year-old is relishing the new season and a chance to shine on a new circuit
"Tbilisi is going to be insane!" stated Shanahan. "It's something very different and exciting; I can't wait to find out what the race layout is going to be. Racing in the middle of a city is definitely going to put us out of our comfort zone and it'll be great to take our unique sport to the people. Riga is one of my favourite tracks – it's the fastest, and the smallest mistake can bring you unstuck."
Just in case you are a bit rusty when it comes to the way the DMEC works, here is a brief recap.
Competitors aim to complete a pre-defined course whilst sticking as closely to the judged criteria as possible. Points are earned for how close the drivers can get to ‘clipping points’, their speed throughout the course and, most importantly, the amount of style with which they do so. Faster is better, and slower drifting with a lack of commitment will get fewer marks than a driver who embraces speed, style and commitment.
Following individual qualification runs, drivers are paired up against each other for ‘twin battles’. The aim is for the chase driver to follow the lead driver as closely as possible, while sideways. This part of the event is run as a knock out competition and is the real high point of the meeting.
Can James Deane make it three DMEC titles in a row?
Irish ace Deane triumphed in last year’s one-off event in Latvia, beating former team-mate Piotr Wiecek in a thrilling battle. The Polish Nissan driver will be looking for revenge in 2021, while Irish drifting brothers Conor and Jack Shanahan will once again be among the favourites to wow the crowds and clock up some serious points.
For 2021 the younger Shanahan sibling, Conor, will be debuting his all-new Toyota GT86 while Jack will be looking for his elusive maiden DMEC title following some pre-season preparation competing in the RDS series in Russia and the FIA Drifting Cup in Latvia.
"I'm really excited for the new season," said Conor. "It's been a super-long 12 months and it's good to finally get behind the wheel again. This year will be my first full series with the support of Red Bull and I'm planning on sending it all season long."
Add drivers like triple British Drift Champion Duane McKeever, Norweigan driver Ørjan Nilsen and double Czech drift champion Michal Reichert, who will be looking for a maiden DMEC win in his 1,150bhp BMW E92 M3 and it is sure to be an intense battle wherever you look.
Red Bull Driftbrothers are ready for action with new cars
The Red Bull Driftbrothers, Joe and Elias Hountondji, will be a highlight after partnering with BMW M, the German brothers will debut the first-ever purpose-built BMW M4 G82 drift cars in Austria with double power of the BMW M4's inline six-cylinder engine to 1,040hp and boosted the maximum torque to 1,300Nm.
For Elias Hountondji it's a big leap as he swaps his decades old BMW E30 for a truly cutting edge drifting machine. "There's a world of difference between our current M4 Competition cars in our drift spec and our first E30 318ES with a four-cylinder engine, 1.8L displacement and a measly 136 horsepower," confirmed Elias.
"Nearly 40 years of engineering artistry lie between the first BMW E30 and the freshly baked BMW M4. The only thing that's stayed the same is that the drivetrain is in the back and the engine is in the front – a recipe that still makes for a joy to drive!"
Elias and Johannes have been among the top drivers in drifting for years and were crowned King of Europe champion and runner-up in 2017. In 2016 and 2017 they also won the team title and have been active in the Drift Masters European Championship since 2018, so with new wheels and a new season there will be plenty of expectation in the Hountondji family ranks.
Where to watch?
The DMEC commentary team of David Egan and Ian Waddington are ready and waiting for it all to kick off in Austria – catch all the action LIVE on Red Bull TV.
Download the free Red Bull TV app and watch unmissable action on all your devices! Get the app here.
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