Every now and then your life takes a completely different direction, sometimes for the better and sometimes for worse. During my absence from WW over the past 9 months or so, I’ve been constantly working towards a goal which I’m delighted to have achieved.
Normally these months involve using my spare time to look over the past year, sometimes to edit old photos, catch up on things which I’d put off for the year, or very occasionally to appreciate not being blasted with burnt rubber. As any European drift fan knows, Winter is a long, cold boring season – a time where drivers prepare their builds (often slowly) to work towards summer.
Luckily, Winter in the Middle East is quite the opposite. It’s actually the only time that drivers get the chance to appreciate the “mild” weather, since hosting a motorsport event in their 50+ degree Summer heat is undoubtedly challenging.
With this in mind, following King of Europe’s expansion and success in Asia last year, there had already been plans in the pipeline for a World series. Little did I know until Christmas Eve, that I would actually get the chance to take a large part in this.
So, instead of facing the Winter blues, I didn’t have to think too long about whether I’d like to spend January in Dubai. I’d heard a lot about the up-and-coming drift scene in the Middle East, and I couldn’t wait to witness it for myself. Having not actually been out of Europe since I was 4, it was pretty exciting!
After admiring some of the most incredible cars and architecture, including the tallest building on the planet and the amazing vibes that come with Dubai, it was time to head to another Emirate which was located just over an hours’ drive away.
Fujairah was quite different to the sheer insanity of what I’d just experienced – although it has a rather large strip in the centre of the city, it also has some history which certainly isn’t very common in Dubai! We ventured away from the typical tourist destinations and went to visit some of the more historical sites.
Upon visiting this fort, it was clear that they don’t get too many tourists when they actually handed us the keys to go inside and take a look around. Having not been outside of Europe that I can ever remember, it was extremely fascinating to get the opportunity to look around these buildings. Since they were mainly made of mud, I don’t think they’d survive too well back home!
Next day it was game time, drivers had travelled from as far as the UK and Australia to compete at the first ever round of King of Nations. They would be battling it out on a purpose-made layout which was created by none-other than the Drift King himself, Keiichi Tsuchiya.
The event would take place in front of the Sheikh’s Palace and would also overlook the newly-built Sheikh Zayed Mosque which would make for an amazing backdrop that I’m certainly not used to seeing in the camera viewfinder!
Having had the pleasure to previously witness Tsuchiya’s judging at Slovakiaring last year, I knew that he would undoubtedly create a layout which would strongly encourage speed and style. Given that some of the local cars are 900+bhp full-retard beasts with anti-lag with all the delightful noises you can ever imagine, making the layout more technical would make it fairer on the lesser-power competitors.
One of the lower-powered cars which would shine early-on was Japan’s very own Drift Samurai. He would be borrowing a local S13 which had around 370bhp under the bonnet. During his battle, he stuck with Ahmad Daham’s 950 horsepower weapon the whole way around the track. After even managing to force a one more time – he would eventually have to graciously admit defeat. It proved that Tsuchiya’s style would enable a fair playing field amongst the competitors regardless of the power.
It was great to see some of the variety that was on show out there, from Hyundai’s right through to Camaros and Mustangs. They’re definitely JDM lovers at heart though!
Newly formed team ‘Lunatics by Nature’ undoubtedly stood out for me at the event. The two most noticeable cars were a PS13 and a Rocket Bunny Boss kitted S14.
The other team member drives one of Vaughn Gittin Jr’s ex-RTR Mustangs. It’s a shame that photos can’t express noises, because even if you hate V8’s, I think you’d struggle to hate these cars.
These beasts were undoubtedly built to stand out, and they sure as hell passed the test with flying colours.
As the weekend wore on, and drivers got the chance to get more and more used to the layout provided by the Drift King, it was time to head into the battles as Tsuchiya wished them luck for the day ahead…
King of Europe driver Baggsy would ship out his S13 from the UK to the UAE for the event, putting on some good shows for the crowd before eventually being knocked out by Sultan Kayello’s Hyundai Genesis.
What happens when you get yourself an S15, throw a 2JZ in, strap a turbo to it and then install anti-lag? This. I’d heard about Ahmad Daham’s car before coming over and it definitely lived up to expectations with some of the craziest 2JZ sounds I’ve heard to date and great driving to match!
Despite having less than half the power of most competitors, French driver Nicolas Delorme would put up a great fight against UAE drift Champion Ahmed Al Ameri. He would later go on to beat Daham and take third place on the podium.
As the fans eagerly awaited the final battle, it would be Ahmed Al Ameri’s GT86 facing Sultan Kayello’s Hyundai Genesis.
After a mistake in the first run from Kayello, it would be TRD-sponsored Ahmed Al Ameri who would take the winner’s trophy!
You could tell just how much this win meant to Al Ameri, as Tsuchiya threw his arm up in the air to celebrate the victory.
Within seconds of that photo being taken, people stormed the track to congratulate Al Ameri and a media frenzy quickly ensued.
It was an amazing first round for the Championship, and it certainly felt like a fitting place to hold Round 1. It was great to get the chance to experience a completely different drift culture and meet some amazing people and drivers from all over the World.
It was also privilege to have had the chance to participate in Keiichi Tsuchiya’s 60th Birthday celebrations.
As I was leaving a place that’s often known as supercar heaven, this immaculate 240Z appeared – it felt like a fitting tribute to the JDM love that’s present in the UAE!
Next up, we hit the road to head to King of Desert Round 2 in Muscat, Oman! Stay tuned!