Drifting is one of the world’s fastest growing motorsports. And over in South Africa, Smoke Factory runs the national competition as well as a popular drift school and a specialist garage and workshop. We caught up with co-founder Mikey Skelton to find out more.
MIKEY, PLEASE TELL US THE STORY BEHIND SMOKE FACTORY
Smoke Factory is a garage and workshop in Midrand in South Africa, near Johannesburg. Our sport is drifting, and we’ve been using Motul products for four or five years now. We’ve been in motorsport for 12 years.
Do you compete as well?
We run on three different levels: we organise the national championship, the Super Drift Series. We also run a team within that series, which comprises two fully-sponsored drivers. And we also have a drift school that caters for your layman learning to drift and wanting to get a full-on sideways experience.
How did the idea come about?
We were action sports promoters before, promoting entry-level sports like skateboarding, BMX, downhill mountain biking, motocross and freestyle motocross. We then discovered drifting at the X Games in the US. When we got back to South Africa, we bought two cars and started promoting drifting at car shows, giving people a bucket list experience sitting in the passenger seat and driving them around a skid pan. Over time we saw the need for a decent competition and built up the Super Drift Series. Drifting is a new age motorsport. It’s a hard hitter. Very loud and colourful. It’s a sensory overload.
Drifting is very hard on a car. How important is it to have good components?
It’s very important. Since we started using Motul products we’ve had a lot fewer breakdowns and better performance out of our engines. And I’m not just saying that. That’s the absolute truth. Drifting is either on or off the throttle, so it’s very abusive on the engines. With the right products like Motul we definitely have come a long way. Just from a longevity, maintenance and wear and tear point of view, we seem to be getting more life out of a motor.
How’s coronavirus affecting the drift scene in South Africa right now?
Yes, it has affected our work somewhat. We’re waiting for different levels of lockdown to be lifted so we can start racing again. From an event perspective, it’s literally on us but we foresee the future in online eventing and we’ll definitely get back to it once the lockdown is lifted. But we’re pretty positive and optimistic for what it can do for motorsport. People are going to be hungry for it and going to racing tracks will be popular. I believe the racetracks are going to be fuller. It’s “familytainment” and after a long period of not being able to go to these things, I think they’re going to gain in popularity.
What cars do you use?
We use Nissan 350Zs. We have seven of those in our fleet. For the drift school cars, we have kept the car’s 3.5 V6, but for the competition cars we put in a Chevrolet V8. We like the 350Z’s chassis for drifting.
What does it take to be good at drifting?
To be honest, anyone can drift. The 80:20 rule exists in drifting. The first 80% takes 20% effort to learn, and the last 20% will take 80% of your effort, time, cost and energy to hone the skill. The biggest expense in drifting are your tyres, once your car has been built. So, you’ll need a nice, flush bank account to spend on rubber. In terms of personal skills, you need a fair amount of wit and a large adrenalin gland. Our idea it to take people from the streets and get them on to the tracks.