King’s Lynn group offers a sideways look at life behind the wheel

Malcolm Foskett, who has taught the tyre-squealing art of drifting to more than 3,000 adrenalin junkies over the past decade. ANL-150223-145155001
Malcolm Foskett, who has taught the tyre-squealing art of drifting to more than 3,000 adrenalin junkies over the past decade. ANL-150223-145155001
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I’d definitely list not skidding as one of my favourite things to do while driving on the road, so the whole idea of “drifting” does not come easy!

But having been offered the chance of a brief taster session to mark the launch of the newly-named Adrian Flux Arena at Saddlebow, it was time to throw off some inhibitions, and throw some shapes on the motoring equivalent of a dancefloor.

And there are few better instructors around than former hotrod world champion Malcolm Foskett, who has taught the tyre-squealing art of drifting to more than 3,000 adrenalin junkies over the past decade.

Helped by a team of volunteers, Malcolm runs the Norfolk Drift Team (NDT), based at the Arena, as a hobby with the focus firmly on fun, family and charity.

“I didn’t have a clue what drifting was when I was invited to Canada to write an article for a magazine about it,” he said.

“There were a couple of Japanese chaps there. That’s where drifting was born really. They reckoned I’d make a good drifting teacher, so here I am!”

The NDT hosts a day of drifting each month at the Arena, with drivers paying £40 to drift their own cars all day, passengers paying £5 for demonstration rides and free admission for spectators.

Malcolm, who is now showing me our well-used BMW 318iS ride, said: “The idea here is to promote safe drifting for people that could not quite afford to motor race but could just about afford to do drifting.

“I’ve not had one car in 10 years that’s cost me more than £500-£600, although you can spend up to £30,000 on a car and turn into a 900bhp monster that’ll melt a set of tyres in a couple of laps round here!”

Once, Sam Peate, from Mundford, stood in my newbie shoes and, now a volunteer and veteran of four years’ drifting experience, he’s on hand to tell me what to expect.

“The first time I had butterflies in my stomach and was really nervous. To start with I was not very good and just kept going round in circles,” he said.

“I conquered that one over a few weeks and it probably took me a year to 18 months before I was able to do everything and link the whole circuit, which was the greatest feeling, like I had just passed my test again.

“When we drive on the roads we’re all aware of other people around us and we have to drive sensibly, but when you come here on a track it brings the inner child out in me again. It also teaches you skills that you can put into use if you ever need to know how to control a skid on the roads.

“I’m doing nothing illegal and I’m free to spin, go as fast as I can and have fun. It’s very addictive.”

I’m now sitting in the passenger seat as we head out on to the wet circuit – the centre of the Arena inside the speedway track – on a cold, misty morning.

Malcolm gets me used to the car “swinging about” with a series of slightly disorientating standard manoeuvres like a figure of eight, a swaying manji (drifting sideways one way then the other without spinning) and keeping the car sideways through a sweeping long bend.

The tyres squeal and smoke in protest, spinning wildly in search of grip as the revs climb towards the red line in first gear.

After this brief demonstration of head-spinning expertise, it’s my turn. It didn’t start well as I was told off for crossing my arms turning the wheel, one of those bad driving habits many of us pick up once we’re free of the attention of driving instructors and examiners.

It seemed counter-intuitive to rev the BMW in first gear up to about 6000rpm, accelerating into a tight right skidding turn before spinning the wheel full lock the other way and completing a figure of eight.

It’s actually impossible not to smile as you’re throwing the car around without any regard for traditional road safety. It was a clear track after all and that was that for my first lesson.

The experience - and dizziness - is not dissimilar to a fairground waltzer ride, only you’re in control. It’s easy to understand how drifting can become addictive, especially when you’ve mastered the moves and are in total control of a car dancing around cones with the precision of a Swiss watch.

And, unlike many forms of motorsport, elitism in drifting is almost invisible.

“It’s all about families here,” said Malcolm. “The youngest passenger we’ve had is about seven months old, and the oldest person to drive and do a donut was an 86-year-old woman – she loved it. It’s just pure fun and anybody can be taught to do it.

“People come here from as far away as Dorset, Lancashire, Kent - some have been here for every drift day for the past four years.”

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