NICHOLAS "Tazz" Barnes was crowned Jamaica's first national Red Bull Car Park Drift Competition champion after outmanoeuvring 19 other local drifters at Catherine Hall Sports Complex, Montego Bay, on Saturday.
His victory on the weekend powers him to represent his country on the global track at the 2022 Red Bull Car Park Drift Finals set to take place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on December 7 and 8.
The local competition was judged by a panel consisting of motor sport aficionados Doug Gore, Asafa Powell, and Richard Rerrie. Also, Red Bull Car Park Drift representatives Yussif Basel and Johannes Hountondji, a member of the Red Bull Driftbrothers Team, and one of the best known drifters in Europe, were in attendance to oversee the competition.
Making its debut in the Western Hemisphere, the Red Bull Car Park Drift Competition gave local contestants the opportunity to showcase their skill and talent on an obstacle-filled course. Opening its gates at 5:00 pm, the Catherine Hall Sports Complex was filled with eager spectators who were rewarded with the history-making feat of Barnes.
Each drifter boasting their best through a show of smoke, car sounds, precision and skill provided great entertainment for the fired-up crowd.
In an effort to achieve the maximum 300 points, drifters skilfully navigated the nine-obstacle course set by National Motorsports champion from Lebanon, three-time rally champion, and Guinness world record holder for the longest drift, Abdo Feghali.
Obstacles included box runs, pendulums and spirals; and points were lost if contestants spun the car, hit obstacles, or drifted in the wrong direction.
In the three rounds, Barnes scored 265, 270 and 270, consecutively; Cleve Ottey posted 269, 255, and 270; while Sheldon Johnson scored 222, 264 and 207 — rounding out the top three positions for the night.
Twenty-three-year-old Barnes, a Montego Bay native, said the experience and the victory were nothing short of mind-blowing.
"Adrenaline is still pumping... my goal is always to win — and I never settle for mediocrity. It's such an honour to be named winner, [and] I would like to thank Red Bull for this opportunity and best believe I plan to give a good show in Saudi Arabia," he beamed.
One of the largest drifting competitions and now in its 14th year, the Red Bull Car Park Drift was first conceptualised in 2005 following a Red Bull manager's discovery of drifting fever in a car park in Hong Kong, China.
Drift legend Hountondji described the sport as "something special".
"It's very different than regular drifting...we don't have high-speed sections or battles but what we do have is a lot of technicality. It's not about having a $5-million car, it's about precision and getting the best out of the equipment you have.
"It's more about being in tune and enjoying it. I haven't seen any region where people enjoy driving the way I have seen it here [as] you really see them doing it with a full body and they're all in. Now, I did not know about the culture here, the car culture, the motorsports scene; it's amazing. And I'm so inspired by how passionate the people are, how passionate the drivers are," he said.
With a great community and interest in motorsports, Jamaica has fostered a clear avenue for drifting to grow. "We were so amazed and humbled by the turnout. I mean, we had a packed crowd," said judge Gore.
"In talking to Joe [Johannes Hountondji], he was saying that he really had no idea there was such a big motorsport following here in Jamaica and that he was blown away. I think it was really great that he was able to come and see that Jamaica is here, and is here to stay," the Jamaican driving legend added.