As I’m sure most readers are aware, the FIA has taken a keen interest in drifting as of late. This was first brought to my attention last year at Round 1 in Long Beach when Jim Liaw introduced me to a man from the FIA by the name of Morgan Caron. I was told he was there to “check it out” and see how we did things at Formula Drift, but not much else. After that we heard of meetings at the FIA offices in Paris between some of the organizers of the biggest and most important drift championships in the world. They were there to give their opinions and ideas of the direction of the sport globally, and help the FIA understand what the sport is all about.
I didn’t hear much else about the FIA’s interest in drifting until I was contacted by Morgan in September. He wanted to meet so we could discuss the future of the FIA’s involvement in drifting, and more specifically, he wanted to talk about judging. Luckily we were in Japan at the same time in October; he was there to “check out” the D1 round at Odaiba, and I was there for the Formula Drift Japan finals in Okuibuki (and to play at Ebisu of course). We met briefly in Tokyo and he proposed a Judging Working Group to compliment the overall Drifting Working Group.
Over the next few weeks we spoke to a few judges and ex-drivers that have experience judging and asked if they would like to join our group. From Norway I called on Christer Halvorsen, who started karting in ‘92, circuit racing in ‘96, rallycross in ’99 and drifting in ’07 all over Europe. He has been a part of implementing drifting at Gatebil for the past 3 years and sits on the board of his local ASN in Norway. David Kalas agreed to join as well from Czechoslovakia. He competed in hillclimbs and drifting for a few years and has been judging since 2008 all over Europe. And finally Robbie Nishida, who we all know has competed in Formula Drift since 2005 and D1 for many years, and has recently been judging Formula Drift Japan as well. Robbie was brought on board for his many years of experience, passion for the sport and his ability to transition seamlessly between English and Japanese. Once our group was set, we met in December in Paris to discuss the basics of judging, and gave recommendations on how the FIA should structure its judging regulations.
The day was full of dry and technical drifting talk, as would be expected from a group of drift nerds establishing the basis for new FIA rules, with a lot of debate over small issues and points we all felt strongly about. We got off topic a few times, as we strayed into the stories of events past that we felt were relevant to each point we were trying to make, but thankfully Morgan was patient and didn’t fall asleep as we went on and on. In the end we came up with a lot of ideas, solutions and even more questions yet to be answered. Many of these questions will be brought up at the next Drifting Working Group meeting in early February. I have been invited to present our progress to the group and get a consensus from everyone in attendance on some important points. I’ll keep you posted!
I feel as though I’ve seen a lot of progress within Formula Drift in the 6 years that I have been a judge with the series, and we’ve explored a lot of different avenues with our judging regulations. We’ve accelerated quickly through many different styles of judging; from painfully intricate, overly detailed judging, to a more laid back approach that gives the drivers the confidence to push harder, drive closer and be more expressive behind the wheel. My hope is that I can bring the lessons learned in Formula Drift to the table so that the FIA can start off from a great place and be at the forefront of drifting in 2017.
With all of that being said, most people tell me there is still an air of mystery around the FIA’s involvement and interest in drifting, so I asked Morgan, whose official title is Head of Transverse Motor Sport Projects, a few questions to hopefully clear up some confusion. I have translated our brief conversation from French and edited it with his consent for clarity.
Ryan: Give me a quick run down of your career in motorsports.
Morgan: I started karting at the age of 10 and kept doing it until the age of 25. I was the French Karting Champion and the Vice-Champion of Europe. I transitioned from being a driver to working at the Fédération Française de Karting, which is the French Federation of Karting. After a year I moved to the Fédération Française du Sport Automobile (FFSA), which is the French Motorsport Association, where I stayed for 15 years. In 2015 I started in my current position at the FIA.
Ryan: You’ve attended some drift events in the last year or so. Which ones did you attend and how did they differ in your opinion?
Morgan: I attended Formula Drift Round 1 in Long Beach and the D1GP finals in Odaiba, both in 2016. They’re both very professional series and I was very impressed with the fan engagement and participation. I saw few discrepancies between both events, save for the philosophical differences owing to the fact that Japan is the cultural birthplace of drifting.
Ryan: What are FIA’s goals with respect to drifting? How will the FIA’s involvement affect drifting in North America? Elsewhere in the world?
Morgan: Drifting has really become popular all over the world in the last few years, with many new series and events popping up very rapidly. Unfortunately, many of these events are put together rather quickly and are held without much concern for safety. Faced with these unregulated and unpredictable new events, local motorsports clubs found themselves powerless to intervene before something terrible happened, which led to the FIA getting involved. They decided to create the Drifting Working Group to establish guidelines for the sport, while concentrating on setting safety standards for car builds, competitors and particularly for the tracks, whether they be established circuits or parking lot courses built from scratch. The objective isn’t to revolutionize the sport, which has been around for decades, but instead to bring new tools, ideas and training that will allow it to grow.
Ryan: What are your expectations for 2017?
Morgan: I am focused on and very much looking forward to The FIA Drifting Intercontinental Cup, which will be the first International drift event organized under the watchful eye of the FIA.
Ryan: Can you divulge the country or the track where the event will be held? Do we know who won the bid to organize and promote the event?
Morgan: It will be made public on January 18th!
So as you can see, the FIA is not trying to take over the sport and change everything that we know and love about it. They recognize the successful practices and procedures of the big players such as Formula Drift and D1, and plan to standardize a set of safety regulations, organizational guidelines and judging practices for their members around the globe. And of course we can’t forget the upcoming announcement about the Drifting Intercontinental Cup, which I am as eager to learn about as you are.