Keep Drifting Serious - Vaughn Gittin Jr.

by Rathyna Gomer

If you’re a hardcore drifting fan like me, I’m sure you’ve heard of the documentary Keep Drifting Fun (KDF). I thoroughly enjoyed the sentiment of the film and love that it captured such a large cultural segment of the drifting world.

Over time, the KDF movement swept the drift community and brought out the passion and lightheartedness of grassroots drifting. Although I initially loved this movement, I noticed a backlash and divide that was created between grassroots drifting and competitive drifting. Don’t get me wrong – drifting “just for fun” is perfectly reasonable for some. Not everyone enters the sport with the end-goal of Formula Drift or with a desire to be judged on their driving in a competitive realm.

On the flipside, there are many folks out there that have dedicated their entire lives to competitive drifting. It seems in recent years there has been a great divide between the grassroots and competitive drifting worlds. So much so that many fans have deemed competitive driving as boring, stupid, not true to the sport or its roots, and many other negative things. I’ve seen many arguments claiming that grassroots drifting keeps drifting fun and that’s all drifting should be.

What many fail to realize is that there is an incredible amount of passion and fun to be had in the competitive realm. Fun and competitive/pro drifting are not mutually exclusive. It’s not a decision between keeping drifting fun and competitive driving. There is not more passion in the grassroots world. The two are just very different. The point of this editorial series is not intended to further divide professional and grassroots drifting, but rather to bring the two together and showcase that there are many similarities in the passion, commitment, and enjoyment levels for those involved in either.

So in an attempt to showcase the passion of the individuals who have dedicated their lives to competitive drifting, I would like to introduce the new editorial series, Keep Drifting Serious.

We have a lineup of some pretty impressive drivers and programs to be featured in this series, but I wanted to start with arguably one of the most successful drift programs in the world – Vaughn Gittin Jr in his Monster Energy Nitto Tire Ford Mustang RTR and his team. Remember, Vaughn started off in the grassroots world and still does a lot of just-for-fun drift events, so this is a perfect testimony of what the pro world looks like. We chatted with Vaughn for a bit. Check it out:


A front glance of the Monster Energy Nitto Tire Ford Mustang RTR.

Some drifting fans say they prefer grassroots drifting because professional drifting lacks style and passion. What are your thoughts on that?

That's the amazing thing about drifting. There are diverse ways to experience it and participate in it. Grassroots drifting lends itself to have some more diversity on the track based on the fact that at those events there is no judging that needs to happen, there is no playing field that needs to be level. Just a bunch of drivers having fun trying new things with an open line,  and hitting a freestyle run in his or her car. This is why most of us got into drifting, it was skateboarding with cars essentially. When you add a competition element at the grassroots level and especially at the pro level that free spirit changes. You now have an objective defined by the judging criteria and mistakes have serious consequences so everyone is attempting the same things. Most of us pros have a unique style but there is only so much you can show  in a competition. I would simply have to say that grassroots and pro drifting are unique and amazing in their own ways. It's to each's own which they choose to watch/participate in.


Some drift enthusiasts claim that drifting should always be kept “fun”. What are your thoughts on that? In what ways do you consider competitive driving to be fun? 

I guess everyone has an opinion of what drifting should be, everyone also has an opinion of what fun is. I think everyone should do what they enjoy most. If you just want to have "fun" great. If you want to chase being the best at competition and that is fun to you great.  Competitive drifting is a huge challenge, it's stressful, it's taxing on the mind and body throughout a weekend. The fun comes to those of us that enjoy all of the elements of surviving a competition weekend. Personally, I enjoy both competition and grassroots events and I participate in both.


Take us back 15 years. What did pre-Formula Drift Vaughn Gittin Jr. look like in the drift world? (i.e. what car were you driving, did you have any intention of going pro, etc.).

I had a 240SX with an SR20DET that I built on my back in my garage. I drove to events with my chest on the steering wheel cause I had the back seats replaced with spare wheels and tires. I never thought to go pro when I started drifting, hell I was just excited to get a track that let us drift on it! I was just having a blast hanging with friends and slaying tires. I was hooked and wanted to challenge myself more and more and that drove me to start competing.

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Monday, October 24, 2016 6:31 PM
Drifting is extremely subjective by nature. To be successful a professional series has to strike a difficult balance between fair competition, performance of the cars, and excitement for the fans. In my opinion no one did this in the US better than D1. The cars looked amazing, were extremely fast compared to what the average guy had, and often the drivers were inches from each other's door. I'm not knocking formula d as I've been to many rounds and it is certainly exciting, but just not the same somehow. Maybe i'm a jdm fanboi but that is my view and a part of the subjective nature of the sport.
Tuesday, October 25, 2016 6:01 PM
The title is a bit of a put-off, just as 'serious' is the opposite of the word 'fun' really, and having a bit of a dig at Keep Drifting Fun. So the intro was a bit sour. Grassroots and Competitive don't need to be properly divided though. It's evolving all the time.
But the interview with Vaughn Gittin Jr. is good and talks about how he still loves and enjoys it along with the seriousness of professional competition. But he states it isn't for everyone though, which makes me believe he very much understands negativity around it. In summary, even perhaps admitting it's for those who don't mind the sort of 'masochist' nature of it.

There is both official and unofficial/unspoken requirements of moving to that competitive realm, and a bit of freedom is lost. Eg. The argument of a must have of 1000+ hp is one. Or with how it currently is, how would an FD comp go on a downhill mountain track?

KDF is just a reminder drifting didn't start as a sport, and wasn't competitive. It was you and your friends against the mountain bends not each other. Almost synchronised dancing up and down the hill. And there is a beauty in that not really represented in competition.

Each definitely has it's place though, obvious by the crowds that follow each and both paths.
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Wednesday, October 26, 2016 2:24 AM
The current FD is way more extream and close than the driving during D1 glory days in this country. I have been there and seen it. Back in the day, the skill of the D1 drivers made FD look like it was a joke but it is ridiculous to try to compare any drifting from that era to modern day pro drifting.

The title is sorta meant as a dig not towards grassroots and fun day drivers but toward those fanbois who hate on pro drifting and say really dumb things like the cars and drivers at XX fun day are better than the pros. Then they show videos to prove they are right which actually proves that they are wrong and how little they know about drifting.

These people usually say they are "street drifters" or "Touge" drivers and most likely can't even drift or drive other than being second gear parking lot crashers or guard rail knocker downers. They like the non-competitive nature because they can hard park and no one will call them on their lack of skill.

There is nothing wrong with being a crappy driver either as long as you don't front as being an expert in the sport or a good driver but the drift world seems to be full of fronters and to me personally it's annoying to read their numerous comments everywhere.

My personal opinions are mine alone do not reflect upon the stance of this company.
Wednesday, October 26, 2016 1:20 PM
Couldn't have said it better myself Mike. I think the sport is also still so new that the perceived gap to some is much smaller and more easily bridged than it really is from amateur to pro.
Wednesday, October 26, 2016 5:46 PM
Ah, the skill there is definitely not in my eyes. The FD guys are insane and eclipse pretty much everyone else now, from what I've seen. Even when they take on the guys in Japan. The cars though could be different for example on a downhill touge, and the drivers would without a doubt really shine. I'd find it quite interesting. (Could a lightweight 4cyl be competitive again? Perhaps allow more variation without a horsepower war. Anyway..)

But yeah, besides, no one likes talked up posers wherever you go, in any culture :)
Bad apples in every bunch and all that, but it is annoying.
Wednesday, October 26, 2016 5:48 PM
the skill there is definitely not in question, in my eyes**
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Wednesday, October 26, 2016 9:57 PM
Well said guys, you get it. Soul drifting and the pursuit of pure driving is cool. Fronting is annoying. The internet is filled with the babble of fronters and the every kid gets a trophy culture makes them all winners in their minds. What is happening to us?

To me a Downhill Touge is nothing to do with drifting and more like road racing. A car setup would be the same as road racing. However, I am very against anything other than brisk 7/10ths driving on public highways. Especially around here. Canyon runners have to share the road with Motorcyclists doing canyon runs, sightseers and bicyclists. Any of them may cross the center line at any time. In canyon roads around urban areas you can run into this 24/7. On popular roads there are usually 3 serious accidents every weekend and the roadsides are filled with little memorials to the dead. I don't really feel for participants that crash, I feel for the family of 5 in the minivan that they went head onto. Limit driving should be kept to the tracks or controlled roads.
Sunday, October 30, 2016 7:38 PM
+1 to not fooling around on public roads. That's why we have tracks, and if you must have fun on the road, man up and pay to have it closed for you.
Sunday, October 30, 2016 7:39 PM
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