By Mick Jensen
Ashburton drifter Sheldon Kneale is ripping up the track, angling through tight corners and steering his way to success on the competition circuit.
The 21 year-old, a carpenter, took out Round Four of the recent Drift South series at the Levels in Timaru and dreams of competing in the New Zealand series one day.
Sheldon began drift racing just three years ago mainly for fun.
In the five-round Drift South series, he has claimed fifth, fourth, third and now first place finishes. He sits second in the overall standings in his maiden year of racing and is gunning for a good result in the final race at Ruapuna on May 6.
A confessed lover of “going fast”, Sheldon was a decent downhill mountain biker in his younger days.
The former Ashburton College students said drifting had a similar “flow” element to downhill biking and was another big “adrenaline buzz”.
“With drifting you’re out of control, but in control at the same time.
“You don’t really think about it, you just get out there, put on some angles and smoke out the tyres,” he said
Tyres usually needed to be replaced after four laps and in a typical day he could get through 20 tyres.
Sheldon drives a 180SX Nissan Silvia, which he says has a “pretty basic set up”, but does have angle modifications.
He clocks around 300hp on the track, less than Drift South competition leader Dan Currie whose car produces 700hp and runs 265 tyres, compared with Sheldon’s narrower 215s.
Drifting battles are short and points are deducted for drivers drifting off the circuit.
Drivers use the angle of the car to slow it down and also both hand and foot brakes.
“It’s mentally rather than physically draining because you have to react quickly and also anticipate what is coming up,” said Sheldon.
Drifting was a more affordable option compared with other motorsports and his success at the Drift South series this year was beyond his expectations.
“I want to continue to learn and develop the car. I need to get faster and ‘grippier’ and also learn to drive more sideways.”
Sheldon Kneale will demonstrate his drifting skills to the public on day two of the Ashburton Street Sprints event on May 14.