NICOfest at Carlisle Performance
Last year, NICOclub joined forces with Cars at Carlisle to participate in the Performance and Style event at the Carlisle Fairgrounds.The event was a huge success, and NICOclub bringing autocross and drifting to the venue just made the event all the better.Not wanting to rest on our laurels, we promised to make the second collaboration twice as awesome as the first.
The NICO staff (AZhitman, EZcheese and Bubba1) arrived in Carlisle Thursday night to prepare for a big weekend. We had no way of knowing this would be one of the most amazing NICOfest weekends in history!
The rain continued on and off all day Friday during setup, but that didn’t stop us from “testing out” the road course and drift track extensively.Cones were placed for autocross, and Joel (Bubba1) tested the “flow” of the course and made adjustments.Joel is NICOclub’s Motorsports Coordinator and an instructor with NASA who participates in the Audi track events in his area, so he knows how to put on an event.At Joel’s direction, we marked the cone locations to allow the track to be easily converted in between drift and autocross sessions.
In what has become a NICOclub tradition, a couple hapless rental cars were plucked from the relative safety of their duties at the airport and doomed to a weekend of abuse. The victims this year? Torry (EZcheese15) selected a bright yellow 2008 Corvette and Greg (AZhitman) chose a new Solstice… However, a last minute text from Torry (no convertibles on the track) resulted in a quick switch to the only other car left on the lot – An ’08 Suzuki SX4. Both cars were to see extensive track duty over the weekend.
As the crowd began to filter in on Friday, some old friends met up and caught up on the events of the past year, while new people introduced themselves and blended right into the mix… Dinner at Hoss’s that night gave us a chance to strategize for the mayhem to come.
Saturday morning came and the weather took a much-needed turn for the better.Chilly, but less cloudy, our prayers were answered – The rain held off all day and the sun dried out the venue.
Drift and autocross participants lined up all day for tech inspections and waiver signing, and Amy / Abby / Amanda registered so many people we had to get more waiver forms. Joel’s management of the track schedule was spot-on, and no one had to wait long between sessions. The autocross course proved to be fairly technical, with elevation changes, off-camber turns, and rapid switchbacks right in the midst of the straights. Greg’s underpowered Suzuki rental held the course record for most of the morning (1:03) until Torry hopped in the seat, shaving 2 seconds off Greg’s best time. The little rental took every bit of abuse we could throw at it, and came back begging for more!
The early drift sessions were devoid of any sponsored or purpose-built cars, so we got to witness some of the skills possessed by NICO members on the drift course – A lot of these guys can really drive! The crowd size increased throughout the day until the rest of the event venue was nearly vacant, and the roar of the crowd when someone pulled off an impressive maneuver (or drilled a trash can or cone) was amazing.
Torry and Greg took turns with the ‘vette on the drift course, and shared notes after each run. Since the car was an automatic (bleh), we had our hands full trying to execute anything resembling the full-sideways action of our manual-trans friends on the track. Dropping the transmission into Sport Shift mode eliminated the electronic shifting and activated the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.Pull to downshift, push to upshift – Got it.
Now that we had a handle on the shifting, we needed to figure out how to tell the ‘vette that YES, we do plan to molest you, and NO, all the electronic gizmos in the world won’t save you. Turning traction control OFF resulted in some weird behavior, most notably a power cut when yaw exceeded a certain angle. A couple runs later, Torry discovered the “Competition” mode, which put an end to our “electronic Grandma” and allowed us to boil the hides at will.
After several laps of grotesque fumbling, witnessed by hundreds of spectators, we finally had the combination, and the big fat yellow wench didn’t disappoint.The LS3 makes a metric ass-ton of power, and the poor Goodyears are simply overwhelmed.Lurid slides, billows of white smoke, and a decidedly torque-driven tail-happy demeanor gave us cause to giggle. A NICOclub banner got slapped on the hapless GM’s windshield and we gave the crowd a show.
Despite the fact that he drives a wrong-wheel drive car with one fifth the horsepower of the ‘vette, Torry hustled the Tweety-Bird colored rocket to the best lap times through the autocross course right away – Years of dodging cones has made him a damn fine grip driver. At the end of the weekend, he held the course record for all stock vehicles, and the only modified vehicles to best his times were professionally-built high-budget competition cars.
When Torry wasn’t threading GM’s best through the cones, Greg was figuring out this whole “drift” thing. No stranger to high-horsepower rear-drivers, but having never attempted to purposefully “drift”, the learning curve was steep. But lap after lap, the clues were committed to memory, and he began piecing together each segment of the track. The ‘vette’s interior layout doesn’t allow easy e-brake modulation, so this beast would have to go sideways the old-fashioned way – driven with the go-pedal. The threat of looking like a doof in front of hundreds of spectators, and being sandwiched between professional drifters, makes one pay attention to every little tip and helpful offering – The pro drift guys shared advice after each run, and each subsequent lap got better and better.Ready to build a drift car?Nope. But Greg’s hooked on the slide, and we’re anticipating his KA-T powered convertible will magically grow a roll bar in the coming months.
The guys from Drift Brigade arrived on the scene and promptly turned the fairgrounds into “Drift Central”. Given the difficult nature of the course, and the wet, muddy grass surrounding the track, a lot of the action looked more like an old episode of The Dukes Of Hazzard – Mud and sod flying, cars skating across the turf, and dirt spraying everywhere. Out-of-control drift machines went unscathed due to an absence of walls or obstacles, which gave everyone an added measure of confidence – They really let it all hang out!
We’d like to extend a special thanks to the Drift Brigade crew: Chachi Diaz (red S13 hatch); Damien Bagley (silver S14); Dennis Mertzanis (blue VQ35 S14); and Justin Pilling (blue S13 hatch). NICOclub would also like to give a shout out to our favorite non-Nissan drifter, Max Hellstern (’02 IS300). Max put on a phenomenal show and instantly befriended a ton of folks with his laid-back style and friendly demeanor.
Mikey and the Whiplash crew brought out the recently rebuilt fan-favorite Drift Truck, and Mark’s battle-scarred “DriftPeople” S14 made its second appearance on the Carlisle drift course.
The NICOclub staff has a tradition of providing food for the members who show up, and Grillmistress Amy whipped up a ton of burgers and dogs to make sure everyone got fed. Amanda and Abby were hawking t-shirts like they were going out of style, and everyone who showed up left with something (free limited-edition NICOclub posters!).
Jason Ellis was invited to the event as the “celebrity drifter” with his 2008 Mustang GT. Now, Jason’s probably better-known to those of you who spend more time on a skateboard than a car, but he’s decided to throw his hat in the drift arena. After watching some of the sponsored amateurs and even some of the more accomplished “weekend sliders”, Jason expressed a little trepidation about getting on-track in front of the fans. But hard-core guys like Jason don’t shy away from anything, and he made his Mustand wish it’d never been built. By Sunday morning, thanks to a lot of pointers and even more practice, he started looking good behind the wheel and got the crowd all riled up by being the only guy all weekend to hit an obstacle – Fence 1, Mustang 0.
The rest of the event venue was not as crowded as last year (likely due to the weather) but there was still some impressive iron on display. Walking through the show field, one gets the sense that the east coast scene is in a bit of a time-warp. The styles and trends of 5-10 years ago are in full effect, and if you’re from the west coast, it’ll bring back memories of what was “bitchin” a few years ago.
However, we’re not ones to knock anyone’s style, and the fact that these guys bust their tails all year long to put on a good showing at Carlisle makes them cool in our book. That’s what the weekend is all about – Lots of diverse and varied automotive enthusiasts, getting together to share and show off their handiwork.
Thanks to the Rich Dallas and the staff of Cars at Carlisle for their incredible hospitality, and thanks to all of YOU who showed up and made this years’ NICOfest Carlisle an event to remember.
See you next year!