Chances are you’re not too familiar with the newest sport that’s taking our country by storm. A mix between the full-throttle driving popularized by the Fast & Furious film franchise and a Ricky Bobby-level fanaticism that’s akin to sports like NASCAR and Formula One, drift racing has come a long way over the past few years thanks, in part, to organized competitions like the Formula Drift series. Last week at the Formula Drift Pro Championships Las Vegas we had a chance to catch up with Chris Forsberg, the 30-year-old NOS-sponsored driver from Pennsylvania who’s made a name for himself as one of the best competitors in the league:
When’d you first develop an interest in racing? How’d it come about?
Chris Forsberg: I’ve always had a fascination with speed and racing, whether it was riding down hills on my bikes or messing around on my parents tractor which was the only thing motorized I could get my hands on when I was 13-years-old. My uncles were into drag racing and my grandfather as well so I had some experience with tracks in different settings whether it was motorcycles or drag cars and just always loved it.
How’d you first learn about drifting? Was it the internet or were your friends into it?
Forsberg: Yeah, me and my friend learned about it from a buddy of his. A friend of a friend who lived in Japan was sending us Real Player videos of cars sliding around on the internet and we just immediately got hooked — we all came from the BMX and skating backgrounds so it just seemed like a natural progression.
For those who aren’t very familiar with drifting, in what ways would you say it differs from sports like Formula One or Nascar?
Forsberg: Drifting is very youth-based. It’s really centralized around that skate lifestyle like X Games and being able to express yourself with a tool which in this case is a car instead of a skateboard or a bike. The people that get into it all share a common interest: they love going fast, they love the adrenaline rush, that sheer feeling of almost crashing but getting away with it…just pulling off tricks with cars, essentially.
Being a self-taught driver, how does that set you apart from some of your competitors?
Forsberg: Like I said I got into drifting specifically for the love of the sport and thought it was cool it wasn’t a fall back from [professional] racing or anything like that. I just found drifting, loved it, and moved straight into it whereas a lot of our other competitors here come from pro racing/Rally backgrounds.
NOS sponsors you and your team – in what way has their involvement helped boost your career?
Forsberg: Well, NOS has been with me since pretty much day one. We partnered up back in 2006 and it was like a handshake deal — here’s some drinks lets have fun. Through the years, though, we’ve totally grown together and we’ve just kind of stuck by each other all the way through to what it is today. NOS is sponsoring drift events all around the country with lots of grassroots support and helping to build the sport so they’ve really invested an interest in drifting itself and not just trying to put their logo on the side of a car. They truly love the sport as much as I do.
Tell us about the drifting community and their involvement, what do these events mean for young guys who are into the sport?
Forsberg: Fans here have a lot of access to the cars and drivers as opposed to other sports. We have open pits, we have guys either hanging out working on their cars or just hanging out in the pits meeting fans so it’s a lot of hands-on versus being up in a grandstand and just watching the show in front of you. The fans that come out here are either into sports or they’re into cars or they have their favoritie driver they want to come see — it’s a combination of things and being able to come out and shake hands with the fans really closes the gap which makes it more entertaining for people who come.
Is there a big similarity between the guys who are into action sports and the ones who are into racing?
Forsberg: Yeah, me and a lot of the friends I got into drifting with all came from that background and a number of the guys we met through drifting from different parts of the country all either had skating or motorcross-type backgrounds. I thinking drifting is just another realm of action sports that you can do with four wheels.
With companies like NOS becoming more and more involved, how have you seen the sport evolve from its inception to today?
A lot of the progression has obviously been with the cars. These cars are being built top notch, they’re becoming faster and lighter and more powerful. We’ve run some numbers recently and a lot of the drift cars have more power-to-weight ratio than almost any other motorsport and it’s just taken us to this point of just sheer hell-on-wheels. We want to put on the best show for the fans and put the best cars on the track as possible and it takes companies like NOS to give us the support to do that.
Do you see the sport ever becoming as big as something like NASCAR?
It’s tough to say if drfting will ever be as big as NASCAR. I’d obviously like to think that. The biggest thing right now is we’re busting at the seams at a lot of the events we go to and we’re pulling in more crowds than some of the Le Mans races and Grand AM stuff, so we’re bringing in huge crowds and getting to that next step…I do feel like we’ll be able to fill [larger venues] in a couple years because the sheer volume of fans, the spread of social media, the videos that are coming out and even the live streams.
— Adrian Brinkley