The Motorhood: Hey Stewy, could you give us a bit of background about yourself and InertiaMS?
Stewy Bryant: I have been into drifting since the early 2000s. As a young teen, I bought my R32 four-door in 2005, which was my first car, and was drifting it almost straight away. It started as a clean street car, but I had too much fun pushing it hard at the track, and the police weren't stoked about tyre marks on my doors and dents all over it, so eventually it was made for track use only.
As a student, and being broke, what little money I did have all went to track time, reliability, and chassis modification. I couldn't really afford to keep fixing the looks of it, and the more I progressed, the more dents it got. So it slowly got the reputation as a basher, along with my driving, well before there was much support around for that style of aggressive driving in Australia. It was generally looked down upon by almost everyone.
Thankfully, especially in South Australia, there's a lot more support for it now, and most people understand it's not just about bashing your car into people — it's about driving at the limit, testing and progressing yourself while having a ton of fun doing it, without a lot of the stress. When the inevitable happens and the panels get a little scrappy, rather than spending your time on fixing it to keep it looking good for others, you simply spend that same time and money on getting back out and driving as much as possible. The Japanese have been doing this since before drift even existed as a sport in most other countries, and it has produced the world's best drivers. But, for certain reasons, since being adapted to western cultures with western egos, it had some issues gaining respect.
InertiaMS is about showing off the more aggressive, high-skill, and high-risk driving. But there's also a lot of respect and coverage of all styles. It's basically about keeping people entertained, excited, and stoked about drift — without any of the hang-ups of feeling the need to conform to any particular standard some like to set for drivers and cars.
How did you find out about Dori Combat Challenge?
My mate, Pernell Callaghan, contacted me pretty early on and said they were looking to do this grass-roots–style event, which had some sweet regulations to keep the driving close. I've always wanted to drive over in Kiwiland, as there's some sick talent over there and awesome tracks, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to get some skid marks down on the tarmac there.
When did you make the commitment to head over to New Zealand to take part?
It wasn't that much longer after he [Pernell] first hit me up. I had to sort out Euro dates, as it was cutting it very close to events I was already locked into over there. But once I figured out I could make it work, I was keen as it really interested me what they were trying to do. And he told me there were walls, and I like walls, so that was a selling point too.
I think when you see there are some people trying to do something good for the sport, you owe it to [them to] try and help out where you can. There definitely seems like there is room for a series in New Zealand that promotes driving above all else, and I think Dori Combat Challenge is on the right track. If nothing else, it helps the raw talent float to the top instead of just buying your way in. But honestly, for a lot of people, they just like to compete without all the drama that comes with it sometimes when you add big wallets and big egos.
What car did you spend most of your time driving, and how did you like it?
It was fairly even over the two days actually. The RB25DE R32 and the 20DET R32 I probably got the most seat time in. The ’25DE R32 was the most challenging of the bunch, with the lack of handbrake and the least power, so was great to kick myself in the arse and drive around it. Chassis-wise, all three felt great though, with the Keto front ends giving them plenty of lock and feel. The NA 2J felt amazing with its crisp response, the RB20DET was the powerhouse of them all — and my soft spot, as I love them.
What were your thoughts on the track layout?
Yeah, I thought it was the best use of the track there. The entry was mint with the mid-entry switch on the brakes, finishing with the tight corner along the concrete for some hectic wall rides. Really good competition layout, especially for the spectators, as everything is kept right up close and personal for them.
What do you drift back home, and do you have a practice car too?
At home I have three Laurels; an RB20 R32 sedan, an RB30 R31, and a FJ20 910 Bluebird — all going through some sort of development. All different uses, ranging from street, battle/practice, competition, style, and the R31 even doubles as a drift/tow car.
Was it your first time drifting Hampton Downs on Sunday? How did you find the circuit?
Yes, it's a beautiful track, facilities are mint and the track itself is really fun. The elevation changes are awesome for bringing up your lunch — something we don't have enough of in Australia, and we usually have to go to Japan for, as it adds so much to the character of any track. Elevation changes have even been a big part of the design with the new dedicated drift track being built at Tailem Bend in South Australia, so we're really stoked about that.
What do you think of the level of cars in New Zealand?
I think it's hard to say based on a few events, but from what I've seen, there tends to be more style even at a competitive level. Our competition cars in Australia can often be very cookie cutter, whereas the Kiwis seem to put a bit more thought into making their cars not only perform, but stand out, which I really like.
Will you be returning to New Zealand for more drift competition in the future?
Definitely. The people there are great, the tracks are sick. But I think I might try and get there for summer next time, as there's only so much frost an Aussie can take.
What was it like banging doors with Shane van Gisbergen?
Yeah, he's a champ. Nicest guy going around, and is just an amazingly talented driver. Was great watching him throw Pingu around, right on the walls and on others’ doors. Would love to get some more time driving with him, and with his racing background it gives him a fairly unique skill set within drifting you don't often see, which is cool to watch and drive with.
It's great to see him so involved with drift, even at such a grass-roots level. I think he's one of the best ambassadors for the sport down south of the equator.
What's your favourite type of motorsport other than drifting?
That's a hard one, but i'm definitely leaning towards Rally-X at the moment. The trophy trucks look awesome too. I think both are showing a shift in motorsport, where so much of the focus is entertainment. Now even a non-committed spectator can go and have a great time watching a genuine spectacle, without having to be a dedicated fan knowing the ins and outs of the sport.
Who's your favourite international drifter, and why?
Naoki Nakamura for me. I've seen and driven with a lot of guys I consider good up there, but I've never seen someone ooze raw skill like Naoki. He is a freak, and he doesn't need much of a car to blow your mind.
Thanks for chatting to us Stewy, and good luck challenging Europe's best!