I participated in a radio talk show program a few years ago. An issue raised during the discourse was – How to create a more exciting package at Dover Raceway. I suggested then, that, with drifting enjoying the popularity it has gained worldwide, it would be a natural fit for events held at Dover. I was elated when former JRDC President, Christopher ‘Teach’ McFarlane, introduced a dexterity/drifting exhibition during a race-meet at Dover and I am even more thrilled now that the current President, Charles Chen and his team have recognised the mass appeal that drifting has and as such it has been included in the 2014 events.
Alan Chen is one of those drivers who defies the typical driver profile. He is easy-going, quiet, humorous and sociable. These are not attributes you normally associate with a ‘name-brand’ driver! But, what Alan is known for and that which compels fans across the length and breadth of the ‘rock’ to appreciate what he brings to a motorsport event, is the elaborate repertoire of skills which he wields mercilessly!
We were told that a drifting demonstration was scheduled for race-day and the bevy of machines invited included those out of the cool hills of Mandeville, two of which would be driven by Alan Chen and Jeremy Groves. Both machines – Alan’s AE86 and Jeremy’s Starlet – were at the track on Sunday (April 20th). Alan was also present.
When qualifying ended, drivers and teams who were still in preparation mode, took their machines to the track for brief intervals. Alan was a part of the drift contingent and at some stage in the late-afternoon, on Sunday, he decided to introduce his machine – drift-style, to Dover’s 1.6 miles. So, Alan went out to practice, sharpen or rehearse his clutch-kick and hydraulic e-brake routine.
Like moths to a flame, fans in the paddock, when they heard the force-fed, 4AGE motor barking vociferous commands to the AE86′s drivetrain, motivated by delight, they all ran to various locations to get the best possible view. Dover was submerged in the usual, quiet atmosphere that normally dominates a rural existence, so the carefully selected combustion-based notes which escaped from the bowels of the frightened Toyota motor were available, without request, to each pair of ears that was present at the facility donated by Alan’s relative! I couldn’t help but wonder what the life-expectancy of his tires was – you could hear them squealing without pause like threatened pigs!
Alan had us trapped, victims of his sublime display. The AE86 slid without protest through the corner1-2 complex and with the steering input and the rear of the machine operating in unison exiting corner 2, the machine reorganized its bearings and with a menacing countenance it begged for the next corner. Throttle input can determine speed and as if fed by nitro-methane (which is prohibited at Dover) the AE86 adopted dragster-like qualities and teleported to corner 3. The waves of pleasure which hit the fans were tangible. They found it difficult to restrain their glee! Doug Gore was absent but we were not being allowed to remember!
But, adrenalin has a dark, evil, mysterious,brutal and unforgiving side. My foreparents would often warn – chicken merry – hawk deh near! At times when we are ‘in the zone’ we become as confident as Hercules, but, that same confidence has a distasteful habit of distorting our judgement and rendering us, like Ray Charles, visually impaired!
Somewhere between corner 3, Pinky’s Bluff and several meters beyond, the laws of Physics threw a tantrum and led a rebellion. Alan Chen, unfortunately, is human and his inherent imperfection revealed itself in the shape and form of a rare mistake. Alan Chen, if asked, will be more than willing to explain, in super-slow motion, exactly what happened. In an area that is notorious for strangling bold,hopeful ambition (Pinky’s Bluff), Alan’s AE86 decided to commence an intimate relationship with the track. The wedding was brief and the marriage ended before nightfall!
When the AE86 returned to the paddock, it had all the disheartening signs of an abrupt encounter with elements associated with a racetrack. It had damage at both ends – front and rear. We collected our thoughts, expressed our gratitude that Alan was ok and we were already looking forward to what Jeremy Groves had to offer. His Starlet was still in the paddock!
As stated earlier Doug Gore was absent but we had enough to keep us all entertained and occupied.
Cecil Munroe Gleaner On-Line Writer