Our awesome intern, Lisa McDonald, talks with one of the men in the judges box about the sport of drifting and beyond!
Often times, we get to hear from drivers about their driving, their cars and their future as drivers. How many times do we get to hear from those behind the scenes that further the competition and choose the champions?
Fond memories of playing with Hot Wheels as a kid, started the dreams of most drifters. As adults, they take their exotic cars to tracks around the world to drive those turns the way they imagined as kids. Formula Drift Judge Ryan Lanteigne was that same kind of kid, and in a way, still kind of is as he watches the Formula Drift circuit grow and change.
Ryan said a friend of his decided to hold a drift event in 2004 near Montreal. His car, an automatic V8 swapped Mazda FC, ended up in 3rd place. After that event, his friend started the Drift Mania Canadian Championship series that very next year. Ryan started working that event when he was given a shot to do ridealongs in 2007 in his R32 Skyline for Yokohama. He was part of the BF Goodrich Drift Team in 2008 for two seasons and moved into judging for the DMCC in 2010 and then Formula Drift in 2011 where he’s been ever since.
In Canada, the market hasn’t really supported drifting, but Ryan has seen the sport explode, internationally. The sport is being taken more seriously across the globe and as it continues to gain attention from organizations like FIA ('Federation Internationale de l’Automobile' that represents the interests of motor sports and groups worldwide). Formula Drift is also gaining fans from all different types of motorsports, not just drifting.
Ryan gets to travel all over the world for many different motorsports events!
Below is a list of events Ryan works at and helps with:
• FormulaDRIFT US - 8 rounds plus SuperDrift
• FormulaDRIFT Japan - 5 rounds
• Super Drift Brazil - 5 rounds
• Gatebil Drift Series - 1-3 events
• Russia Drift Series - 1-3 events
• FIA - 2 events
• Plus many other events that pop up during the year, such as Pro Drift Peru, MSC in Japan, and lots of pro-am events in North America, etc...
When asked to pick a favorite event, there was no one single event that Ryan said was his favorite, but traveling is definitely a passion of his.
“My favourite track has to be Mega Space in Brazil. It’s a very steep downhill track with banked switchbacks that rewards bravery and commitment from drivers and from our vantage point in the judging stand we can see everything from above, which is an awesome view to have. It’s also a huge hit with everyone that sees my posts about it online, from your average fan to multiple FD drivers.” said Lanteigne.
Ryan also enjoys spots all over the world for different reasons. Not only does he attend drift events, but he also gets to spend time exploring cultures and food. Between the ramen, cleanliness and Ebisu, Japan is a favorite place for Ryan which is a dream for many people.
“I’ve made some great friends in Brazil, so I enjoy visiting them, eating a lot of açai and spending time at the beach.” said Lanteigne.
“Russia has some of the most dedicated drift fans and since the country is so massive, the scenery, the food and the culture changes drastically as you go from city to city which is fascinating to me.”
Ryan loves travel and drift, but he also has a passion for laying out tracks. He’s always had a passion for it, starting at an early age when his parents bought him a city street-designed play carpet. He drew marker points with sharpie markers at the corners so his love of track design started at an early age.
When all of this Coronavirus stuff is over, the new season of Formula Drift starts in July, Ryan is really looking forward to checking out some of the new international drivers that will be competing this year. He is hoping that some of the rumors he heard during the off-season come true, and he is especially looking forward to seeing them in action!
The competition has been getting tougher over the years. Ryan said in the early years, it was easier to judge as the lower-qualified drivers would make mistakes that were easy to pick out. However, over the last few years, it is getting tougher and tougher as drivers are stepping up their skills. Even the Top 32 is becoming harder than ever to call. More teams have figured out how to make their chassis competitive and drivers are practicing more and battling at higher skill levels than ever before. Even the rule book continues to evolve, to try and make the playing field more even and fair for everyone involved.
“As a judge, I get to watch the absolute best car control experts in the world slide their 1000hp life-sized Hot Wheels along walls, within inches of one another at insane tracks! Plus, I get paid to do it.” said Lanteigne.
Doing his job as a judge, Ryan looks for smooth, confident and committed runs from the drivers. He wants to see them approach every run with those three attributes. He applies deductions for choppy and/or timid driving, because he wants to see perfection from the drivers in every run.
When asked about difficult decisions, Ryan gave an interesting example. Precedents come from different situations.
“For example, a couple of seasons ago, Dean Kearney blew a hole through the side of his engine, spraying oil on the track as Ken Gushi was a couple of feet behind him approaching the inner bank wall at Irwindale,” said Lanteigne.
“Ken ended up in the wall, damaging his car, but was it really his fault? Once these crazy situations occur, we can assess them post-event and get official rules in the books for the next time they happen."
For all of you grassroots drivers looking to go pro, Ryan's best advice is practice, practice, practice! Many of the drivers in the Pro-Am circuit only practice when they get out to a competition. It’s usually a matter of time and/or money, but if you’re serious about going pro, these are necessary investments. Lanteigne says you have to drive as often as possible, even if it’s in a beat up practice car. In Orlando, when we see pro drivers in their older builds on the skipad or track, it’s always a treat to watch and learn from.
Ryan is a busy guy who loves the sport of drifting, but he also loves supercars and hypercars as well. As a precision driver, he works events for car companies like Maserati, Aston Martin and Ferrari. He loves the Ferrari Pebble Beach Rally, where he gets to drive, in California. His favorite cars to drive are the F12 and F12 TDF. Even though his life revolves around drifting, he does find time to mountain bike and take snowmobile trips into the Canadian Rockies.
To follow Ryan on Social Media:
Instagram - @lawntang
Facebook - Facebook.com/lanteigne.ryan