It’s that time of month again when I sit down and look at a new driver of my choice and asks him some questions. Since living down in Florida I really wanted to dig in and look for a Florida driver I found interesting. I remembered this kid that showed up late to one of the events I was running a couple of years ago in the Cleveland, and when I asked him why he was late he replied, “I just drove from Florida bro.” Andrew Mensah was that driver and he is this months Up and Comer.
Edgar Sarmiento: Andrew, so I noticed you speak all these languages on your Facebook. Where are you from?
Andrew Mensah: Well I was born in West Palm Beach, Florida but when people ask I tend to say South Florida or Miami because most people don’t know Florida too well. Though now that Formula Drift was at Palm Beach International Raceway, people in the drifting community tend to know finally where I’m talking about.
ES: Yeah, South Florida sounds about right. How long have you been drifting?
AM: This past weekend was the official fifth anniversary of my first track drifting experience. I got into it before I started driving by watching videos and reading about it in magazines.
ES: I know you drive wherever you can, what events are you planning for in 2014?
AM: My main priority this year is making a transition to international drifting so I will be exporting my BMW to Japan, and entering a few Drift Muscle events, D1SL and other events to get my name, car, and driving into the Japanese drift scene. I am going to seek sponsors for next years season and hopefully come out strong for a good season of Japanese drifting.
ES: Yes, I did notice that you are always talking about Japan this and Japan that. Is it that cool?
AM: Yeah, Japan is really that cool. When you’re a person, like me, that initially goes because you know of the cool cars and technology, and then you see that but you also see so much more. My first trip to Japan I did all of my drifting at Ebisu, my friend Shane showed me the Japanese car culture, and then I left. That alone was amazing. My last trip to Japan was on a completely different level, I stayed at Shane’s house and made friends with local drifters, went to tracks like Nikko and Fuji, drove with locals, and had a blast learning the language and the culture all while having exciting door to door tandems in the rain at Fuji and hanging the front tire in the air at Nikko.
ES: That’s amazing Andrew! You barely ever hear about someone leaving the US and heading to Japan to do some sliding around. Make sure you share some details later with me. What would be some your highlights in drifting?
AM: Some of the highlights of drifting for me was the first time I put my car into third gear and stayed on the throttle, it was so much better than I ever thought. The first tandems I had at Central Florida Racing Complex and getting used to following another driver instead of only thinking about what I was doing myself. The V8 swap in my car. Driving with a lot of angle for the first time and loving it. Doing my first official backwards entry. Driving East Coast Bash in my missile on 4psi, and tandeming with Drift Alliance. Driving for the first time Drift Matsuri at Ebisu. There are so many more, but every time I do or learn something new in drifting is a highlight in my book.
ES: So since you have experience some Japanese drifting; what would you say a perfect set up is?
AM: It’s different! My personal ideal American setup would be an E36 because I love them and they make amazing grip, LS7 crate engine with at least 500hp stock, Hinson LSx RX7 Turbo manifold headers, GTX4201 turbo, with a huge wastegate dumped out the center of the hood. Hollinger 6speed, quick change diff, SLR, WiseFab, BMW OEM (if your lucky), or some other angle and control arm kit BC Racing ER type Dual reservoir coil overs Big spacers and wheels for the rear, add some flares or a wide body kit to fit the new width Nitrous because everyone at the top has it, so why not. And obviously necessary seats and safety equipment you need.
My ideal Japanese set up would be the same car with a smaller turbo and no nitrous. Ha! But seriously I love cars so much that saying what setup is really perfect is something I cant really do because every car has its own thing about it that makes it awesome.
ES: Seems like you have a game plan already! Do you have any thoughts or opinions on the American drift scene?
AM: American drifting is as good as it can be. We don’t have tons of circuits within driving distance in most of the country. I’m just glad that drifting exists in America, and it has its own thing going on that’s different than the rest of the world.
(Footage of our last staff trip to Japan for Matsuri. It is a blast!)
ES: I know you have attended a lot of different events. Which one was your favorite and why?
AM: My favorite event I ever attended, despite having gone to awesome events like Matsuri, East Coast Bash, Lone Star Drift, and Street Wide Drift, would be the 2012 Black Friday event at Central Florida Racing Complex. It was our first overnight event in Florida, and it was a smashing success. We partied hard, and drifted around a giant bon fire until the sun started to come up. Ebisu Matsuri is definitely a second place.
ES: Any recommendations you can give to anyone getting into drifting?
AM: Don’t give up! Go faster than you think is okay, and use the drift to slow you down. Modify your suspension before swapping your engine. Make sure you have fun responsibly within your own limits. Respect you limit, but know when to push them at the same time!
ES: Any big plans for 2014?
AM: Turbo the V8, move to Japan, and have fun in Japan!
ES: Thanks Andrew! I can’t wait to check out anything you share from your move to Japan. Any shout outs?
AM: Chelsea DeNofa – for recognizing the thirst in me to drift at a decently competitive level and helping me to get there
Erick Gomez – for caging my car when I really had no way to get it done and I was in school with other priorities, but he got me caged up on the super bro rate, and changed my drifting for good.
My past and present mechanics: Pablo Garcia, Aaron Messmer, Alberto Rosa, Ben Brandner, Fred Conkling, Mickey Figueroa, Kevin Smith, Antonio Diaz, and Hayato Tomaru.
And everyone else that has helped me along the way!