This is the first of our series of articles published leading up to and during Toyota’s #Festivalof86!
Aasbo x Yates Interview
Fredric Aasbo’s NASCAR-powered Toyota 86 Drifter
Beau Yates’ Turbo Toyota 86 Drifter
#Festivalof86 Event Coverage
#Festivalof86 – Dave Vella’s 270kw 86

Courtesy of Toyota Australia, Downshift (DS) had the privilege of interviewing probably the most famous drifter in Australia Beau Yates (BY), and one of the most recognised drifters internationally, Fredric Aasbo (FA). We had a good chat with the guys about their careers and where they see the sport of drifting progressing, before heading out to the paddock and taking a few photos of their incredible Toyota 86s.

Aasbo x Yates

DS: Thanks so much for giving me your time guys much appreciated! Tell us about your experience moving from an enthusiast to professional drifter and what were the main tests or stumbling blocks where you kind of kicked it onto the next level.

Aasbo x Yates

FA: Right, well to me it’s all kind of come full circle now. I mean, 10 years ago I was sitting at home in Norway, which is obviously the other side of the world, and I was watching drifting, all these pictures and videos from the US and also from Australia. I remember when Drift Australia was up and running, and I was watching Beau here drifting in his 86 and I was just a kid, you know.

Aasbo x Yates

DS: How old were you?

FA: I’m 29 now, so I was 19, ten years ago, and I was studying in college. I spent my full scholarship buying and selling Skylines from Japan. I came from a family where my dad was into grass roots rally cross but in a very small scale, and I got an opportunity to race go-karts from the age of 12 til 15 until we ran out of money. I was always impressed by the guys that were in control and that could handle the cars in wet weather more so than necessarily the fastest guy, and that’s why I wanted to do drifting. So I graduated college, built a basic car with my buddies and started drifting. There hasn’t been one single event that has led to all this happen, but more of a big step every year where something has happened. But the one thing that I’ve always kept with me is the drive to throw myself out there doing something that I don’t really know how to do. I think that drive is why I’ve been allowed to go onto the next stage and try out these cars and now drive for some pretty solid race teams.

Aasbo x Yates

DS: So for people that are into grass roots drifting, how would you say they should proceed to make it? That is, get better and become more legitimate and be sponsored by Toyota for example? Especially considering most people don’t get an opportunity for a deal like that. What would you recommend to them?

Aasbo x Yates

Aasbo x Yates

FA: I think first and foremost it comes down to being honest about what you really REALLY want. There’s a lot of guys that ask me “How can I be sponsored?” or “How can I make it to the big leagues?” and I typically say it’s about seat time, actually driving and not building a car to crazy spec. It’s about driving cheap basic cars that you can afford, but it has dawned on me that a lot of these guys don’t always want to give it all that is required to drive professionally. And that’s fine, some people want to do it for a hobby, or maybe they like to just build cars, so being honest to what you actually want is key.

Aasbo x Yates

DS: Beau would you agree with that, has that been your experience?

BY: Well I guess for me, after hearing that from you Fredric, that you used to watch us on Drift Australia and I think I was competing in Drift Australia in 2003, I started off much like yourself. Very grass roots, a lot of street drifting at the start, late nights with the boys in the hills having a good thrash really, then along came the national series here in Australia which I entered in my road car. It was still a registered 86, which was really low budget. Put it together with a turbocharger on it and I think I won my first round in the privateer class. With that, it allowed me to go into the premiere class which was the elite of what we had here in Australia.. It’s been a pretty testing road since there. It’s 10 years on now and I’m still not quite there I guess. I’ve never gone international with it, but for the same reasons as Frederic I guess, I like the crowd, the crew that come to the track, the crowd that really supports our passion is the base for me. There’s nothing I enjoy more than hopping in my car and thrashing around the track sideways.

Aasbo x Yates

BY: My dad does karting and motorbikes, but drifting is truly something that just drew me in. It was very grass roots when I got into it and I knew it was something that I just wanted to push and be the best that I could be. I was spending as much time in the seat as possible and getting some results in the national series. With that came sponsorship, which comes with responsibilities as well. Locally I’ve been criticized a lot for being a sellout and going for commercial brands. Going forward, there’s obviously a financial side for running these cars and travelling the country doing it, so for me a commercial side was really the only way to continue doing a sport that I’m truly passionate about. Corporate backing is why I’ve been able to stay semi-professional in drifting in this country in the last 10 years. Doing these interviews with you guys and engaging with the crowd makes it truly possible.

Aasbo x Yates

DS: Frederic, would you agree? Do you feel like you have to be backed by a corporate sponsor to drift as much as you want to?

FA: It’s either that or a rich uncle, or an Arabian sheikh right? Sponsorships to me are not just about getting an opportunity to drive, it’s more about growing a family and helping people out. It was actually my college degree that taught me how these companies work, and if it wasn’t for me understanding a bit about what’s actually going on behind the scenes in motorsport, I wouldn’t have been able to survive as long as I have in this sport. The way I look at it is – you find someone that you really want to work with, who’ll give you the opportunity to drive as long as you help them reach their goals. That’s how I’ve worked with RS-R over the years, and with Scion, and Hankook and Toyota. It’s all building a team of people and fulfill their dreams in a way that also helps you fulfill yours.

DS: So a win-win scenario, but with a sponsor helping to take it to the next level?

FA: Yeah, I think the short version is, it’s not a sponsor, it’s a partner.

Aasbo x Yates

DS: In terms of Australian drifting, where do you think we’re heading, and where do you think we should be heading? I was recently at Drift Matsuri in QLD, and it seems like it’s maturing to an extent with more and more teams coming out and getting proper livery. Do you feel like that sort of thing will be important in growing drifting in Australia?

BY: Yeah I guess in a commercial sense it’s going to take drivers and teams to step up and bring their cars to a new level, so that when we get some television coverage behind us it’s going to build the profile of the sport. However I do feel that there are a few different groups who don’t really want to work together. It really should be a community trying to work towards the goal of lifting the profile of drifting in Australia, which is where we seem to be divided between the grassroots and competition drivers. I’m planning on moving back to grassroots and trying to engage that community, earn respect and try and bring everyone together. And when it comes to a televised national series, we can get it off the ground, fill the grid with more cars and build the profile of drifting.

Aasbo x Yates

DS: And definitely get a lot more spectators to the event?

BY: That’s definitely something we struggle with. We generally get a lot of cars, but dragging people out to the track and getting 10000 people to watch has always been difficult. I’ve come up through its highs and lows. The pinnacle for me was Drift Australia, even if it was a little primitive back then, but we were still engaging with the public and getting good spectator numbers. But between grassroots and competition levels everyone just seems to do a lot of bickering and pushing and pulling. There has to come a time where people step up, and start presenting their cars a little bit better and we can all unite to build the profile of the sport and get some people out to watch it.

DS: So would you say that is why we’re not getting the spectator numbers? Because of that division between grassroots and professional?

BY: Well, yeah, I guess. There’s been a line drawn in the sand and there needs to be better communication between the clubs, and I guess you probably see it as well Frederic, there’s a lot of egos in drifting as well.

Aasbo x Yates

FA: Yeah, like in any sort of racing, right? But there should be room for both. Just like snowboarding or skateboarding, there should be the free riders and at the same time, the die hard competitors being able to live together. So I agree that drifting is in a little bit of a funny state right now where you have the big fish and big companies using drifting to promote their activities and commercials and stuff, but at the same time drifting is not a household name. Is that because it’s hard to sell it as a green sport, or is it something else? I don’t know. But the fact of the matter is, that a well run top 16 drift competition is just amazing to watch, so I think that drifting has a strong future. It’s just working out the details. I think guys like you, Beau, who are well spoken with good intentions are the ones to raise the profile of the sport.

DS: Great! Thanks very much guys, and on behalf of Downshift, best of luck for the weekend!

Aasbo x Yates

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