Jim McFarlane and Mikey Skelton are the brains behind “Driftfari”, a new drifting event in South Africa that’s cross between Top Gear, Gymkhana and Nitro Circus rolled into one. The experienced drifters normally run the Drift Nationals and Supadrift series, but with COVID-19 putting a stop to their season, they came up with a new way to take their drifting on tour.
Jim, what is Driftfari?
Driftfari is basically a safari for motorheads. We’re a drift team and we run the Drift Nationals (in South Africa). We thought, because of COVID, we couldn’t run events or shows, and we needed to give back to our partners and sponsors in some shape or form. So that’s when we had the idea to do a tour around our country and do some cool stuff having a bit of fun on highways, byways, racetracks and workshops, and put it together in this tour, which became Driftfari.
How big was the tour? How many cars involved?
There were four drivers: myself, Mikey, Eric Van Eyssen (nicknamed “The Viking”) and Stacey-Lee May (the Queen of smoke), who you might recognise from Hyperdrive on Netflix. We plotted our routes and went in convoy, making a few stops at sponsors. For example, we went to the Dragon Energy Drinks factory and did some drift games and challenges. We also went to Container World, the Motul head office and Clarks Sport to check out the new racetrack and new workshops. We also did what’s known as a “drift matsuri”, which is like a training camp with fellow drifters. Then we decided to get pretty hardcore. We drove over to Harrismith in the golden Gate National Parks and drifted up one of the most incredible, beautiful and most dangerous mountain passes. It was quite exciting when your mechanics and maintenance crew look down into the valley and see one or two wrecked cars, evidence that things can go wrong.
How did you organise it all?
We went through quite a strenuous and painful process. We had to jump through so many hoops, get permissions and approvals, especially because of COVID. We had to make sure we were COVID regulated, and get sign off from lots of different departments, the health department, the National Parks and so on. We actually finished the Driftfari in the harbour of Port Elizabeth. It’s one of the most picturesque places and the footage we got was mind blowing. I’d almost compare it to something like Top Gear. We also went to some more mountain passes and to another racetrack with 20 or so drifters. You really could call it a safari on wheels. Hence the name.
How was it funded? Were the events free?
It did come out of our pockets. We utilised the sponsorship we still had. Something like this was our way of giving back to them. We didn’t realise doing this would far surpass any other events. The amount of return our sponsors have got from social media and TV has been impressive.
Has it all been online, or did you get some spectators?
Strangely enough, we did get a lot of spectators. Especially on one of the mountain passes. It was in a rural township and we had to ask for permission to drive the road from the local chief. But that was a lot easier than some of the other hurdles we had. It was such a nice environment, and the local people came out and treated us like heroes. I can only truly relate it to when Clarkson, Hammond and May would go and tour a country for Top Gear.
Is this something you will continue?
[Laughs]. Most definitely. We didn’t realise the return and type of exposure we would get for our partners and our ourselves. This is something we are going to do every year and keep Driftfari alive. It really did work so well.
It also sounds a lot like Ken Block’s Gymkhana.
I’m glad you mentioned it, because it involves a bit of that. And also a bit of Nitro Circus and Gas Monkey. We’ve taken the best of all those incredible programmes and genres and we’ve kind of mixed it in one trip.
Has it finished now for the year or more events planned?
We’ve finished the tour, but we’ve got so much content to carry us well into next year. The amount of stuff we did over those three weeks has been phenomenal.
Motul is a sponsor of yours. What is it about its lubricants that suit your drift cars?
I can tell you now our cars wouldn’t have been able to handle the heat and the altitude of the mountain passes without it. I couldn’t thank Motul enough for what its products does to our cars. Honestly, we push our cars to the absolute limit. The cars are going on a three-week tour, up and down mountain passes and at drift tracks. We definitely couldn’t have done it without performance lubricants like Motul. Everything else broke around the cars except the engine [laughs].
© Pictures: @urbanpoetry