The Blues Brothers, Carl Winslow, Oprah, Obama, Da Bears, Da Bulls and Pizza. That is pretty much all I knew about Chicago before I made the impromptu decision to attend ClubFR Jam with Canada’s Hotboyz drift team. If you’re anything like me, then you’re familiar with Chicago’s infamous drift scene. But internet familiarity can only get you so far. Deciphering hearsay from fact and trying to see through the veil of mystery that shrouds their scene can be difficult. I’m obviously being a little over dramatic, but what I can say is that every expectation I had of Chicago’s scene was quickly exceeded.
Chicago’s scene is a little bit like an alternate universe. It’s a place where V8’s never fully caught on and everyone kept pushing that hard-as-nails street style with heavily influences from Japan. Now take that life and apply driving hard, both on and off the track, and you have Chicago in a nutshell.
For those of you who are unaware, Club FR Jam was a two day drift event that took place at the USA International Raceway in Shawano, Wisconsin (4 hours from Chicago) . The track has a bit of a reputation for its many elevation changes and blind corners. It was unlike any other track I have ever shot at.
I think it’s fair to say that a large part of my life as an automotive enthusiast is measured by the pictures I get to take. Getting to shoot Josh’s car was a privilege. As a guy who used to drive a 180, I have a full understanding of just how influential “Revgasm” is in the S-chassis community. Getting to shoot the car in action was an added bonus; that dude could put the car anywhere he wanted on that track.
A large part of the time I spent with the Chicago crew was me trying to better understand what everything was and how it came to be. You’ll notice I haven’t referred to these guys by an actual team name, and there’s a good reason for that. But it’s not really for me to say why.
The one thing everyone does know for sure is the name Junkhouse and the cars that rock their stickers. It’s always strange knowing cars before you know the people, but Leigh Roto didn’t seem to really mind.
Seeing the infamous Chicago crew slay the USA International Raceway was one thing, but seeing them do it with Canada’s own Hotboyz was on a whole other level. Everyone was super hospitable and definitely made Canada feel welcome, whether it was giving us a place to crash or showing us around the city.
Handing out “Thank you’s” without mentioning Eric Corvera would be unforgivable. Eric went above and beyond what is expected of great host. Even better, he drives a 5-speed JZS and it is on point like nothing I have ever seen. This luxury sedan has been swapped to a 2JZ non-vvti. It also runs a big single opposed to the stock twins and rides on Stance coilovers. I made sure to take note of Eric was doing with his car because this sedan begs for people to get on his level. I could even take a few pages from his book for my JZS161.
Jordan returned the hospitality shown from Chicago by letting one of the guys drive the Miata. Now, before you think you can just approach Jordan at a drift event and expect to bag on his Miata, you should know there is a strict quota you must fill before you can get behind the wheel.
Simba Nyemba not only helped plan the event, but he drove his freshly completed Grip Gambler S13 in it. Simba’s car took a head-on hit after another driver spun, but he didn’t let that dampen his spirits. He continued to drive the rest of the event harder than when it started.
Other teams that made the trip to the track included the guys from Breaking. They managed all the way from Indiana without a trailer. Unfortunately, Derek Bianski ran into some clutch issues and had to make the drive home sans clutch.
At one point during the weekend, the Touge factory Tra Kyoto 6666 S13 seemed to magically appear and run the track. A trip to the “Midwest” wouldn’t be complete without seeing this car.
Paul Choi and his Miata earned a special place in my heart. First and foremost because it’s a good looking Miata, and second because Paul was one of the few people who asked for a DODOlogic sticker!
When Melvin del Rosario is not busy being Chicago’s greatest tour guide, he also drifts a mean BMW.
I’m pretty notorious for making impromptu decisions. I made the trip to Chicago with very little money in my pocket and I second guessed my decision to go the entire trip down. After spending the week with so many great people and shooting so many unreal things, I couldn’t imagine not going. I owe ma’dude Jordan Hall a huge thank you for dragging me along and an even bigger thank you to my wife for being so understanding and supportive. One thing that always rings true, no matter where I go, is the caliber of people involved in this community. And for that I’ll be forever grateful.