By Ryan Benoit, DODOlogic
“There’s nothing else quite like it.” “You have to be there to understand.” That’s how this article probably would have started – until a certain yellow S14 decided to have a yard sale on the track at Final Bout Special Stage West 2016.
As soon as that wheel popped off and the battery was ejected from the trunk of the Team Tracker S14, you could hear the axes starting to grind. Every internet naysayer and Final Bout antagonist had finally found something to pounce on.
What started as a rather avoidable incident became an indictment of the entire event. A virtual dog pile was built around exploiting the misguided – and perhaps self-imposed – misfortunes of one individual. On Final Bout race days, the automotive realm of the internet is usually filled with amazing cars and good vibes, but on May 29th “salty” became the flavour of choice.
As a guy who loves to take pictures of cars sliding around on a track, it’s probably obvious why I like Final bout so much. At Final Bout, there are no “meh” cars. Everyone is photo worthy in their own right, and your memory card will floweth over with amazing content. However, like all good omelettes, the Final Bout experience can’t exist without cracking a few eggs. What I’m trying to say is there’s a sense of exclusivity around these events that make them worth the trip.
You can’t just show up at Final Bout and expect to drive – nor can you simply register for the event. No, if you want to floss with the best of the best in the grassroots community, you have to apply. And more importantly, you have to earn it. The checklist isn’t all that difficult: 1. Can you build a nice car? and 2. Can you drive it? If the answer is yes to both, then Final Bout may be the event for you.
It all sounds so simple and amazing, but if that were the case, why did pockets of the internet become so salty? The answer to that lies within the idea of building a “nice car.” You see, a “nice car” is subjective. So, when event organizers tell you to run real wheels, matching aero and team theme, it might seem like someone is taking a subjective idea and making it objective. Essentially they draw a line in the sand – and if you fall on the other side of the line, it could cause some hurt feelings or dig up some ideological differences in the drift community.
Those who vocalize their dismay for Final Bout are considered elitists and Instagram attention-seeking try-hards, which is followed by “Millennial” slander. This is an inevitable byproduct of Final Bout. The event can’t exist without some sense of exclusivity, and exclusivity can’t exist without crushing a few egos. It’s sort of like the day your parents started using Facebook… that was the day Facebook became way less cool. Something that’s accessible to everyone it becomes way less desirable – and that’s just the way the world works.
The other side of the coin is that Final Bout needs to exist and it needs to exist in its current format. The drift scene in North America had become a bit stagnate. The horsepower wars of Formula D made it unattainable for privateers and grassroots culture was being consumed by a drift missiles destruction derby vibe. There was no avenue for grassroots drift teams with a flair for style to pursue – until a couple of guys from Chicago stood up and made Final Bout a thing.
They created an event that gives all those “try-hards” an actual reason to try and inspired other drift enthusiasts to start trying as well. Over the last few years, I’ve talked to a lot of drift teams who aspire to be invited to Final Bout and they’ve started working towards that goal. So, in many regards Final Bout has brought on a renaissance of drifting in North America and pushed people to do exactly what originally drew me to the sport: drive cool cars.
Having nice cars makes drifting more enjoyable to watch and helps draw out bigger crowds. It brings a sense of gravity to the sport when the drivers have more to lose than another fender on a banged-up missile. It takes a certain level of commitment and passion to build a car like these folks do and then actually put it on the track.
Part of the reason I enjoy drifting is because of all the nice cars sliding around in team tandem (which should be the future of drifting, in my opinion). But what makes me like these events even more is the atmosphere: an amazing community of people coming together with no sense of arrogance.
It’s unfortunate that the Final Bout “haters” finally found something they can attack, and all the hard work put in by event organizers and drivers is being overlooked to some degree. The positive note is those who were there and are actually paying attention get that there’s more to Final Bout than just nice cars and unfortunate crashes.