Time flies. Everything changed in 10 years: back then I was just finishing university, James Deane was 17 years old, James Deen was 22 and James Dean would be 54. Drifting in all European countries was on a very grassroots level. Even Formula D was held only for two years.
Estonian drag racing was on a rise before, but was declining, rally as well – drifting came between the Markko Märtin and Ott Tänak eras. We did have a vibrant street car culture: plenty of BMWs were roaring the streets and few guys turned their attention at drifting.
I had my first proper camera (Canon 400D) for few years, I was already interested in photography for quite some time, but never photographed anything as accredited media. First time I saw drifting was actually during a burnout competition where Eduard Vahemets was drawing perfect figures of eights. His car had that “Sponsor?” sticker, remember?
Spoiler alert!! I have pics from all 10 years.
2009 – 2010 – The Beginning
Drift community formed quickly and sport was attracting fans and sponsors. Estonia is small, but still has a lot of race circuits, be it mostly for karting. Back then it was Audru Circuit, the main race circuit in Estonia, totally outdated and not renovated for years. Organisers got some judging training from Finnish colleagues and started the series. Already in 2010 we were able to experience some close tandems and foreign drivers: Russian champ Felix Chitipakhovyan brought his RX-7 to Parnu, Gatis Lapans drove the hell out of his E30 as well as some Finns with their JDM builds.
2011 – First drift in Tallinn and NEZ Riga
Tallinn saw drift for the first time in 2011. Ulemiste center was kind enough to provide the area for competition. Sadly it was a rainy weekend, so spectators didn’t see much of the tyre-burning action. It was the first time we saw Kristjan Klemets’s S15, as well as few more mutated cars, like the Sierra and E30 pickup. Highlight of the year was in Riga, where Scandinavian drivers showed locals how to properly drift during the NEZ Drift event. It was also the year Wisefab started getting some press after Taavi Toomara drove at Gatebil.
Estonian Championship Top 3: Taavi Toomara, Eduard Vahemets, Gert Roosipõld.
2012 – Strong Roots
This year was a development year for something really big to come. Everyone were excited, drivers were improving, new cars were built, young Harold Valdma appeared on the scene. First time Laitse rallycross track was used and local fans saw flying drift cars. It was also the first time I saw letters HGK on a drift car. Wisefab had that crazy BMW E46 given to Henri Puhmas.
Estonian Championship Top 3: Eduard Vahemets, Taavi Toomara, Henri Puhmas.
2013 – Team Spirit
Year when suddenly everybody had a team. Smokehunters, Team Ghost and NRR were the main ones. Proper matching liveries, decent cars and rivalry. Don’t forget the massive AL Drift Team as well. Also the year Eduard Vahemets turned his BMW on the roof at Tabasalu.
Estonian Championship Top 3: Taavi Toomara, Eduard Vahemets, Märt Kuvvas.
2014 – Estonian Express
This was another big year for Estonian drifting. New drift location in the capital – Filtri tee. New Estonian champion – Harold Valdma. New cars for Kuvvas and Vahemets: Toyota Supra and Ford Mustang. New Breisladd World Champion at Gatebil – Taavi Toomara.
Estonian Championship Top 3: Harold Valdma,Taavi Toomara, Henri Puhmas.
2015 – Drift Allstars
Year when European Championship – Drift Allstars made a stop in Estonia. Bringing Fredric Aasbo and Odi Bakchis for a Wisefab + Feal Suspension workshop. Locals really wanted to show their best skills and provide a healthy competition to the invaders. Year when a quiet guy Kert-Eigo Kulla became the champ. Proper classes were formed: street, pro-am, pro.
Estonian Championship Top 3: Kert-Eigo Kulla, Mihkel-Normal Tults, Jako Pino
2016 – More Allstars
2015 rolled into 2016 with same force, doubling on the Drift Allstars event and on another championship title for Kert-Eigo Kulla. Harold Valdma competed only in the Baltic Championship, claiming second place. HGK Racing hosts the first HGK Drift Challenge event in Riga.
Estonian Championship Top 3: Kert-Eigo Kulla, Jarmo Luht, Mihkel-Normal Tults.
2017 – Harold Valdma beats Daigo Saito
In recent years I did concentrate more on international events, but I always loved to visit at least the season opener. Sadly it was the year when Sallu had a big crash in his BMW. Well, car is #surmatu, so it was rebuilt. For locals, the highlight was definitely the HGK Challenge: Harold Valdma met with Daigo Saito in the final and won. Yes, there was a error from the Japanese star, but it was enough to get the win home.
Estonian Championship Top 3: Mihkel-Normal Tults, Henri Kivimägi, Karl-Sander Lebbin.
2018 – Rollercoaster
We’re only half-way in the season, but the whole world knows that there is drifting culture in Estonia. Few pictures and videos got viral, showing locals playing around at Kehala Rally Cross track during a round of NEZ Championship. Long Live Estonian Drift!