There’s a lot of debate over the true origins of drifting, and whilst there appears to be no conclusive answers on where it truly begun, there’s no doubt that the Japanese touge would’ve had a huge part to play in the birth and growth of the sport. One day I’ll make sure I visit the spots where I believe to be its spiritual home – in the meantime, let’s see what happens when we bring some of Europe’s best drivers to battle it out on the mountain roads of Karpacz, Poland!
Last season, King of Europe introduced an entirely new competition – King of Touge. The final round of this street-based series would feature a crazy challenging layout through closed roads high up in the mountains.
With the event being such a crazy spectacle they decided to run it again, this time it would be the ProSeries drivers who’d be put to the test. With the series mostly using long, high speed purpose made tracks – this was an entirely different concept.
As always, the day started with the judges explaining exactly what was expected from the drivers, they’d cover the various clipping points and explain the best way to navigate the tricky layout for maximum qualification points.
When touge drifting started, I doubt that anyone expected that further down the line we’d witness the AE86’s predecessor packing 1068 horsepower under the bonnet whilst running the kerbs on the other side of the planet.
As you probably anticipated, these streets aren’t really built for the purpose of drifting, however when it does happen there’s certainly no shortage of excitement. Polish fans are hugely passionate about drifting, and if they could, I’m sure they’d be standing right on the kerbs reaching out to touch the cars.
Any fears that people had with the ProSeries drivers not wanting to push their cars to the limit were immediately put to one side – these guys were here to drive as hard as they possibly could, whatever the concequence.
Naturally, drivers would struggle as they tried to adapt to the challenging narrow track which offers absolutely no run-off like most of the larger tracks they’re used to the comfort of. This wasn’t a track that allowed room for error – each slight mistake proved vital.
I’ve seen the STW BMW E21 in various places online for years, but I’ve never had a chance to see this beast in the flesh. The ‘chop-top’ suits this car perfectly – it looks mean and drives equally so. Marek Wartalowicz took the top spot behind the wheel during qualifying, his appearance at the King of Touge event last year undoubtedly helped him to navigate the tricky layout.
Szilveszter Gyorgy, who took second place during qualifying, would once again be filling the track with plumes of red smoke. His car has undoubtedly been one of the smokiest this season and it was awesome to see the red clouds lingering through the Polish woodland.
Having taken the win at Round 1 in France, Norbert Kovacik was keen to prove that despite lacking the power of some of his fellow competitors, he would still push for points against the steep incline of the track.
I’d noticed Mike Kauffmann’s awesome looking PS13 lurking in the paddock at Round 1 – I was disappointed to hear that he’d suffered some mechanical issues and wasn’t able to run. Needless to say, I was pretty happy to see it turn up in Poland – Mike originally purchased the car from a friend of mine here in the UK, it’s a small world!
For those of you who saw my Round 1 coverage, you’ll undoubtedly know that I like to go exploring when I’m at events. I didn’t stumble upon any wild animals this time round, but I didn’t expect to have this to venture up either.
This is the Orlinek ski jump, which is placed directly next to the first corner of the track. Believe it or not, I’ve not ventured up too many ski jumps in the past – seeing what these guys go through before launching themselves into the air is pretty terrifying to say the least!
With the ski jump no longer in use (and also a severe lack of snow), it makes for some mind-blowing views in case some crazy guys decide to host a drift event directly below.
Having a unique perspective on the action is always awesome, seeing these cars enter sideways from above is something I’ve not seen before, it looks pretty surreal.
It was time to take in the stunning view before heading back down, you don’t often get backdrops like this at a drift event.
Back down on earth, the view wasn’t any less spectacular, with the light pouring through the smokey trees with the ski jump in the background and Szilveszter’s red smoke still lingering, this place was beginning to spoil me.
It wasn’t just the views that made this track great, with it being uphill there was some steep elevation changes which made for some great shots.
Upon returning to the pits, I noticed ‘The Green Monster’ for the first time. I’d seen a lot of Ireland’s Danni Murphy on various websites and social media throughout the years – it’s always great to see the girls that also appreciate drifting just as much, if not more than their male competitors and aren’t worried about getting their hands dirty!
Danni would be competing in both the ProSeries and also Queen of Europe which was running alongside KOE this weekend. Despite having maximum seat time at her disposal, she sadly ran into a clutch issue which sent her heading off-track and requiring some serious repairs, which she undertook in true Irish style before getting back out on track!
As day two begun, we’d seen plenty of drifting and incidents, but we were yet to witness the battles which were about to take place.
As drivers prepared themselves, it was clear that this wasn’t going to disappoint.
Fresh tyres were added to the rims to ensure maximum grip which was very much needed here.
Some of the drivers were here to fight for their spot on the podium, drivers who struggled were quickly eliminated – leaving only the best to remain.
With the challenging layout, drivers were still navigating the track extremely well and hitting the clips that the judges had laid out.
Some would have to exit the competition with bent cars on the back of a recovery truck, but they wouldn’t let something like this stop them smiling after having an amazing weekend!
Whilst other drivers continued slaying their tyres on the hot asphalt, there was something looming on the horizon.
The forecast had threatened thunderstorms throughout the weekend and just as we’d nearly forgotten about this as we entered the Top 4, we’d soon realise that drivers were getting their last chance to smoke out the mountains.
It was business as usual while the weather was beginning to turn and the venue darken.
Inevitably, the spontaneous Polish weather which had been threatening to make its appearance throughout the weekend decided to flood the track right in time for the final battles. This meant that the track which had already been pushing drivers beyond their limits had now turned into an ice rink.
With the weather changing so drastically so quickly, it once again made for a beautiful sight as the steam arose from the tarmac as the fans hid for shelter.
Beauty and weather aside, the battles must continue. We can’t let a bit of rain stop the action and the event has to end on-time so that the public road can be re-opened.
The final battle would have been so much more intense in the dry, but the ability to tame a 1068 horsepower monster uphill in the wet was something that I definitely admired.
After being on amazing form throughout the weekend in an equally amazing car, there was no doubt who was heading home with the winners medal.
Jakub Przygonski is used to navigating tricky situations having competed in the Dakar rally several times on a bike, there’s absolutely no doubt that he is just as talented behind the wheel. With the weather bringing the heat back once again, it was time for the usual champagne shower!
This had been a truly incredible event, with undoubtedly some of the most amazing views I’ve ever seen mixed in with an incredible spectacle of driving.
Until next time the track will bear the scars as a reminder of the chaos that went down, we hope to be back to bring the excitement back to you once again in 2016, Karpacz!