CarFest North 2019

Team Japspeed wows the crowds at CarFest North, performing jaw-dropping drift demos in sometimes tricky weather

The brainchild of TV presenter and radio DJ Chris Evans, CarFest is always a highlight on the annual events calendar. To date, the feel-good festival has raised over £13.5m for UK children’s charities, and it’s so popular there are northern and southern dates in the diary.

Carfest North took place on July 26th to 28th and, once again, Team Japspeed were invited to perform drift demos during the family-friendly festival and give the crowds something special to remember. Representing Team Japspeed at CarFest North this year was Drift Masters European Championship driver Paul ‘Smokey’ Smith, along with Ant Thompson and Rob Black from DriftCup.

As event venues go, Bolesworth Estate in Cheshire is extraordinary. Covering 6,000 acres and home to Bolesworth Castle, there is more than enough space for CarFest’s automotive displays, track route, music stages, pop-up food outlets, relaxation tents and children’s play areas. Organisation is always top notch and the atmosphere fun-filled, with 50,000 visitors attending CarFest each year.

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t always kind to this year’s event, with heavy rain falling on Saturday and Sunday. Spirits refused to be dampened, however, and Team Japspeed did their very best to entertain their drenched audience.

Conditions were treacherous as the weekend activities got under way, but our boys coped brilliantly.

Such is the scale of CarFest, our drivers couldn’t help but come away thrilled by the whole experience. “Driving at CarFest was an honour,” said Nissan S15 pilot Rob Black. “For me it was the largest event I’ve ever driven at. After attending and crewing for Paul Smokey Smith at CarFest over the last few years, I thought I knew what to expect, but I was wrong. Sitting in the paddock next to British Touring Car legend Jason Plato and one of Colin McRae’s iconic rally cars really brought the event’s status into focus.” 

CarFest may be a relaxed affair, with competition far from participants’ minds, but the designated drift route could easily catch out drivers not paying attention. “There wasn’t a lot of room to manoeuvre!” said Rob. “The drift circuit was tight, with a single-track road through a sweeping S-bend before it opened up to a donut pad.”

Speaking of the donut pad. This year, CarFest organisers invited British construction equipment manufacturer JCB to provide two diggers for Japspeed drivers to drift underneath. “The whole thing was surreal,” remarked Lexus IS pilot Ant Thompson. “I’m still trying to take it all in!” The situation demanded precise application of throttle and steering, and the Japspeed boys pulled off the stunt without a hitch.

Watch Team Japspeed drivers Paul Smith, Ant Thompson and Rob Black in action from the 3-minute mark.

“Drifting under the JCBs was definitely a first, and quite daunting initially as we really didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t take any measurements of the gap beforehand!” remarked Paul Smith. “The stunt worked well and brought a fresh new element to the drift demos. It got a huge response from the crowd and other drivers.

“Every year the organisers try and step things up, and they definitely had a larger influence on the ‘Car’ in ‘CarFest’ this time around, with a good number of machines from the world of Formula 1, NASCAR and Rallying,” Smokey continued. When can you next see his Toyota GT86 in action? “I’m trying to make Round 5 of Drift Masters in Germany on August 16th, as I really want to get back out to mainland Europe.”

CarFest South is scheduled for August 23rd to 25th at Laverstoke Park Farm in Hampshire. If this year’s North event is anything to go by, the southern leg of CarFest 2019 will be another spectacular show.

Photo credit: CarFest & Enbarr Images (Rob Wright Photography)

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