Goodnight, sweet prince: The End Of Rockingham Drift Days

Photos and words: James Cass

Right as Rockingham became synonymous with the term ‘grassroots drifting’ in the UK, the end was in sight. Remembrance Sunday 2018 saw the final run of the Meihan layout, alongside Lakeside and a tasty bit of Outer Paddock to make for one hell of a celebration. This was to be the penultimate event to be held by Mark ‘Sweeps’ Buckle and his team at Rockingham.

When the closure of Rockingham was announced, it felt like a huge loss for what was becoming THE venue to attend if you were a fan of drifting in England. Having only driven the venue once, I was devastated to learn I wouldn’t get another chance to do so. With the drift cars off the road and no chance to get tickets, it made sense to get the DSLR out and have a go at blending in with the other media folks. A fluster of emails and some insurance purchased and I was in!

Sunday rolls around and I’ve missed my alarm by an hour. Great start. Best hit the road.

On arrival, the track is still a bit wet and greasy. Drivers started off understandably hesitant as you see a mix of BDC drivers and first-timers tackling the various layouts together. However, it didn’t take long for everyone to begin pushing the limits of their cars and the track as they were gaining traction throughout the day.

I started with Outer Paddock, standing right in the middle of the action and getting a feel for camera settings and occasionally stopping to appreciate just how awesome this situation actually was. As much as I wanted to be out there driving, this was honestly equally great. Apart from a fuel cell catching fire, it seemed a relatively incident-free spot most of the day.

Onto Lakeside after lunch. I’ve only driven this track in reverse and it was insanely greasy in the wet, but this way round seemed to make more sense. It was one of those layouts that really let you drive it to your skill level as the in-field is nice and wide.

And now for Meihan. Wow, this track truly lives up to the hype. With the sun setting quickly, I was struggling to find a good place for photos. A quick dash across the track as some bumpers are recovered and I start to wonder if I made a poor choice as I was now shooting into the sun. Boy, was I wrong! Golden hour and mega fast entries, this is what photographing drifting is all about. If you think the U.K scene isn’t exciting then watch this compilation Dan put together of Tom Vanbeek to see what you’re missing.

Apart from an unfortunate incident for Mike Lewicki, it all seemed to go really well. Mike even got to get back out driving with help from a bunch of friends to get the car relatively straight again. Shooting through tyre smoke did prove to be a challenge but I think I made it work.

The final run of cars during the sunset saw sparks flying as people ran the wall, exhausts scraped and tyres popped off. With the wave of the red flag, the day was over. Back to the pits and everyone discussing what’s next. Who will step up and make a drift event suitable for those of us in the southwest and which tracks will manage to stay open with the constant pressure from councils and developers? With every closure, one has to hope for new opportunities to arise and someone to step up. Hopefully, Mark and his team have something planned and other Organisers are busy brainstorming.

Make sure to check the rest of the images out on the Destroy or Die Facebook to see if your car’s been featured!

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