It was probably 25 degrees out. Both windows were down in his red 2 door sr20det swapped E30 (89 325is, for those who really care). Steve and I, although not well acquainted at the time, decided to take a detour on the long route home from a successful photoshoot at the Scarborough bluffs. Down through the Rouge Valley we go. Heading in on the Toronto side, to exit in a small town called Pickering. To those that don’t know, the Rouge Valley is the closest to a mountain road we will ever get in the Greater Toronto Area, and tons of drifting talent from the city is very well acquainted with the road. It’s the car enthusiast’s wet dream: a freshly paved twisty road through a forest. We got to the first corner, and both went sort of quiet. I knew what was going to happen, and Steve knew what he was going to do. Into second gear we go, and with a clutch kick we enter the corner. We fly through at what felt like full lock, filling the road up with smoke. The SR was screaming for more. The corner, finishing on an up hill, was now in the smoke-filled rear view mirror. The grin on our faces was stuck, and I knew Steve was hooked. Although I had mentioned it earlier in the day, I told him again about a drift day happening the next weekend, at Shannonville again. He finally said he would come check it out. In hindsight, I guess this marked the beginning of the end of the show car famous E30.
To put things simply, Steve got lost in the scene. Having been around the track for a few years already at the time, I was used to seeing a few different things. While many people attempt one drift day, and move on to other things in life, others get hooked. They go to all the drift days, drift for a while and spend the rest of the day going for ride alongs and hanging out with new friends. Some drift for sport and take it very seriously. Fun, grassroots drift days become practice days. I see these people at every track day. They might even dabble in some competition, but they always cap out and seem to plateau for one reason or another. Beit financial reasons, lack of time, poor car setup, maybe they crash and decide to call the quits; there is always a reason that makes giving this sport 100% of one’s time simply unjustifiable. With zero progression, drivers that want to be competitive lose interest and eventually move on. Somewhere to the far left of that you will find Steve. Despite freshly painting the car Alpine White, after the first few drift days he took the car off the road and got a truck, a trailer and spent a ton of time converting the car from an award winning show car to a very competitive skid machine. He signed up for the Canadian Sport Compact Series, the local grassroots drift competition; a series known as the stepping stone to The Drift Mania Championship (DMCC) and eventually, what we all know as Formula Drift (FD). After not even a year of practice/fun drift days, he competed and did very well in the CSCS series.
He refused to let the momentum stop. It took very little convincing to get him to upgrade chassis; after a fun beginning season, he parted out the E30, and sat the shell on its frame rails in the back corner of the parking lot of his shop. It was clear and went without saying that although it was time to move on, he did not have it in him to scrap the car that meant as much as it did to him. It was the car that started it all. The next chassis he decided on using was an E46 that he bought off of his dad, whom he shares a shop with. Funny, because for months the shell of a car sat outside of the shop waiting to be scrapped but despite his fathers endless requests and nagging, Steve kept putting it off. He took the car in and after looking it over decided it was the perfect candidate for a battle car. Not rusty, but not perfect. A car he would have no negative feelings about cutting into, beating on and thrashing. It was like fate. The build began.
And so, here we sit. It is Tuesday, at 12:43am in an oddly busy Subway about five minutes away from his shop where he spent the whole day preparing his now FD spec E46 for the round to come. With dirty hands, we both scarf down a couple of cold cut combos in silence. The FD World round is coming up in five days and the mood is heavy. The car is ready, his things are packed, but the unforeseen level of financial strain of being a privateer in a pro level series is starting to get to Steve and has, in a way, staled the whole adventure. It’s around now that I wonder if the famous drifters of today, the professional fun havers, have ever gone through any moments like this. Moments of utter defeat. On the internet and in photos they seem to all have it figured out; in talking about their journey to success, they only talk about minor challenges if any at all. I break the silence and bring the thought up to Steve, who responds by telling me that every single boss, CEO and creative mind has gone through exactly what we are all going through right now. He then goes on to assure me that 99% of society will follow the basic trend of going to school, finding a 9-5 job and accepting life as is; he wants no part in that. He wants a very rare and different type of success, that few in the world have. ‘Anything worth doing is never going to be easy. If you lose sight of that, you’ll always quit, and you’ll never amount to anything’.
Entering the realm of Formula Drift has been a roller coaster. There are moments of complete and total defeat. Things like getting a phone call giving five days notice of a tech inspection while the car is just an shell; no roll cage, no hydraulic systems, no motor and no disposable cash. Or having the truck’s brake line explode at 2 o’clock in the morning while towing the race car 200 kilometers from home from an event that we failed to even make top 16. On a Sunday. With work the next day. Yes, this actually happened. Every day was something new.
It wasn’t until the FD Canada World Round, at St. Eustache where I was in the pit watching Steve heading back in to the staging area after a cool down lap that I finally understood why he chose to drive professionally. As he passed the cheering stands, he waved; a small gesture made not to hype the crowd up, but just to acknowledge the presence of their support. It was like a light switch. The crowd went absolutely berserk. It was then that all the hard work, all the stress, and all of the financial pain sort of came together and made sense. For that moment Steve was a hero; his position on the leader board didn’t matter, it was obsolete; the shape of his car, now sporting an irreparable rear quarter panel after a nice rendezvous with the wall was irrelevant. He was a celebrity. He was on top of the world.
Photos and Words by:
Devaughn Dunbar – @Devocat
Pierre-Luc Legault Delorme- @OneKindPhotography
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