VegasProAm 2013 Champion Spike ChenVd – We are here with VegasProAm 2013 season champion Spike Chen. Spike is a southern California driver and has battled in multiple Pro-Am series this year. He is showing promise of being a contender for Formula Drift’s Rookie of the Year 2014. We would like to congratulate you again on your successful season! Tell us about yourself Spike. How long have you been in the game? Any other motorsports?

SC – Hello everyone! I know everyone is very busy and I appreciate your time in reading this check-up! Um…where do I start? Well, not too many people know this, but I do everything on my own car. I take pride in the work and enjoy the challenge. I love learning and can never get enough knowledge! Roll cage, tubing the front and rear end, engine build, alignment, suspension, all wiring, tuning and the nick-nacks on my car… it has been a labor of frustration and passion. I didn’t have much experience with fabrication before this vehicle but hey… the fastest way to swim is to jump in the deep-end. After swimming for 2 years, I am getting pretty good. I have had people who helped me along the way with advice and knowledge and I am always hungry and thankful for more.Photo by Jason Maletsky

I’m very new to drifting and racing in general. For the last 10 years, I’ve been keeping my nose to the grind stone building a business and paying the bills. I didn’t take any time off to enjoy life. Only recently have I learned to enjoy life and relax / let loose. My first time drifting was maybe October or November of 2010. After standing on the sidelines at Adams Motorsports Park and watching Odi and Riley tandem at the local competition, I decided to give it a shot. Overall, I’ve been in the game for less than 3 years, but I have made all efforts to drive as much as I can. In 2012, I drove a minimum of 3 hours a week for 45 weeks out of the year on top of 8 rounds of competition, 1 practice event at willow and 1 round of ASB.

So far, this year I have attended 9 pro-am events and drove 30 weeks at Adams. I try my best to make a showing every week at the local track. For me, it’s about doing the most with as little time as possible.

Vd – What are your goals now that you’ve obtained a Formula Drift license?

SC – Ok bare with me. Kind of a round-about answer but it makes sense in the end.

I’m actually a little disappointed when I got my FD license… sad and disappointed. For me… I was expecting the conclusion of a journey and a sense of completion. However, with the license came the sobering insight that… I am a man.. walking through a mountain range. Standing on top of the first peak that I thought was the pinnacle of physical, financial and mental challenge was only the gateway to the a range of peaks one taller than the previous leading up into the clouds. I was expecting a moment’s pause… but disappointed to find that there will be no breather, no down time, no moment of peace… just more struggle and challenges as far as the eye can see.

Cyrus Martinez vs. Spike ChenThe sad part comes from the feeling that for me, drifting has been about a partnership between my car and myself. As I improved, so did my car. When I would hurt it hitting a k-rail or driving beyond my limits, I would take the time to upgrade and improve. I feel right now…. just when I have it perfected for me….I am going to a place my current pro-am car cannot follow. Best way I can describe it is to have a companion whom has been with you through the pain, struggle, joy and jubilation..only to lose them in their prime. That saddens me beyond words.

Currently, I do not have a finished vehicle to compete in next year. This is where i need to dedicated all of my time and efforts. To first build a car that is up to my standards of reliability and performance, then to get acquainted with that vehicle. Finally to get as much seat-time behind the wheel as possible. I need to be as comfortable with my new partner as I am with my old one. My goals right now are to build a drop dead gorgeous FD car that exceeds rule book specifications while having more than enough power to stay competitive. For my first formula drift season, my goals are to shoot for rookie of the year in 2014 and also at least one podium finish with consistent entry to “top 16” and beyond. This will not be an easy task. I am up for the challenge.Jason Beatty vs Spike Chen
Vd – Tell us about your s13 “The Dolphin”

SC – Well… I purchased a ls1 swapped mint condition maroon s13 at the start of 2011. I knew nothing about ls motors. I heard that was the “IT” car from Jeff and the first time I sat in it and revved the motor with out even going anywhere, sold!!. Drove that car for about 4 month till spun a rod bearing and cracked the block. Having zero knowledge about ls motors, I hit the forums with a vengeance. I read up all the builds and reliability threads and with in 2 month I was up to date.

For the current motor in my vehicle. I tore down a stock ls1, replaced bearings, changed rod bolts, push rods, lifters, springs, high flow oil pump. It has been the same motor I been running for 2 years of competition. The rest of the car was tubed out of necessity. I hit the k-rail at Vegas multiple times and had to repair the rear end. The front end was tubed because I wanted to try my hand at learning the process. I went online, used Dai’s car as inspiration and did the best I could and it came out good.

Spike Chen's S13 TruckI trucked a coupe out of pure idiocy. I always thought 240sx truck was an interesting concept. Typically people trucked their hatch back since it was easy….but I had a coupe and made due. We where looking at the car one day… I ran the idea by my friend Doug… and before I knew it… his fist went through the rear quarter window, I pulled out the plasma cutter and rest of history. It took 100 hours to do the truck conversion and rear end tubing and bracing, I would highly recommend against it as the body flexed more than an Olympic gymnast.

The supercharger went on the car between round 2 Vegas and round 3 just drift. I had two motivations.

  • First, everyone was doing some crazy builds for 2013. I saw Bravomotorsports turbo LS setup and that was the last jpeg that got me off the couch. I didn’t want to get left behind. Also, I just won VegasProAm round 2 and felt like at that point my car and I where both ready for something more.
  • The second and more important motivation is the need for a reliable base tune for engine break in on the new motor I’m building.Spike's Supercharger and Battle Version Parts

Since I’m running e85 and a bunch of mix match parts, I needed to make sure I had a tune specific for my engine. With the tune I currently have in the AEM, I’ll be able to WOT the engine right after assembly for the best break-in result… with minimal tweaks to the tune. Radiator in the rear because it just would not fit in the front. This car has been my anything goes car. Nothing is held back and every idea I had has been tried.

Vd – We hear that you also have a Supra project in the works, any updates?

SC – I am planning on running a 1994 Toyota Supra MK4 for 2014. Currently, the car is gutted and is just a rolling chassis. I’m shooting for a 30-day build from “gutted condition” to “stance” by All Star Bash. I still need to build a motor. I believe if I apply myself, I can get it done.

Vd – What was the best or most memorable tandem battle of the VegasProAm season?
SC – Most memorable tandem in the VD season was with Mike Fulkerson during round 2 for the first place podium position.
Mike Fulerson vs. Spike ChenMost memorable tandem in the VD season is with Mike Fulkerson round 2 for the first place podium position. My lead run was pretty solid. On the follow run, I made sure to leave a gap. My car is a little bit faster with sticky tires. I knew that if I caught up to him before the last two sweepers, I was in for some fancy foot work. Coming down the long straight-away initiation going into the right hand turn leading to a long straight away, I made sure to leave 3-4 car length. Clutch kick entry and off the the races we go. I wait for the car to settle and get on the gas making sure to mimic Mike’s line.

What I wasn’t expecting and later found out, Mike was running on bald tires since he ran out. I was picking up speed much faster in the straight-away transition section than expected. Coming to the right-hand uphill sweeper right in front of the grand stands and the judges…. I miscalculated Mike’s line. Instead of going shallow to hit the inside clip he went wide… way wide. As I dive in, I see the nose of Mike’s car out behind my driver side window! At this point alarm bells are going on in my head!!! WHAT IS GOING ON! I cant pass him! I clutch in and hold the ebrake for everything I’m worth….. and I slide…. slide…. slide… for an eternity. Mike, being the champ that he is, lays on the throttle and the second his car emerges in front of mine, I mash on the gas!Mike Fulerson vs. Spike Chen 2

Now I am presented with a new problem… since I have sticky tires and Mike was running on glass I’m either going to pass him or need to throttle off. Due to the slow speed of both cars, throttling off will result in me straightening up. At this point I lay in the gas with my right and I command my left foot to massage the brakes and up the hill we go. I was able to stay close to Mike with out straightening out and finish the run.

That was the most exciting tandem run for me. It drew on all the knowledge I had and thoroughly enjoyed the challenge. The hours I spent behind the wheel learning and making left foot braking second nature has paid off this time.

Vd – Who do you think will be the Top 3 for Formula Drift this year?

SC – This year has been very interesting. With the changes in FD and new requirements by the judges its been interseting. Essa has been doing amazing this year. Really has the car dialed in. Its hard to find stupid drift angle while maintaining speed. I find that amazing. Chris is a force to be reckoned with and as far Aasbo is concerned you can throw the hammer out the window causes monsters don’t need them.

I enjoy watching all the drivers and I wish the best man and machine wins. Personally, I would like to see JTP, Diago and Odi end up on the podium. My driving style is a combination of these three drivers and victories for them would warm my heart.Spike Tandeming with Odi Bakchis_Photo by Jason Maletsky

 

Vd – What advice could you give to someone who wants to start drifting competitively?

SC – I have two articles of advice, the first would be seat time, seat time, seat time! If you want to be a NBA star, success won’t come if you only play ball 4 times a year. NBA stars practice everyday, day-in day-out, all day everyday. There are limitations to our sport, but to be successful we need seat time. There are no such thing as extraordinary or gifted drivers. Only drivers that have had more or less seat time. It doesn’t matter how people get their fill, just find a way… otherwise winning is probably not for that person. Driving needs to become muscle memory and muscle memory needs to become as effortless as breathing or the beating of the heart. Only when the heart beats in sync to the fires that burn within for this obsession called drifting will success come after a universe of failure.

Advice number two, always push your comfort zone. Never hit the track and drive in a way that you feel like …. “I got this” or “this is easy.” It doesn’t matter what track you are at, always drive where the internal dialogue is… ” I might crash” NOT “I will crash” but simply….”I might crash.”
I have had maybe close to a thousand laps at my home track, but everytime behind the wheel, I still try new techniques and push myself beyond my limits. As a driver who drives at a level of discomfort….. you can consistently push your comfort zone. Go a little faster, initiate a little earlier, throw more angle, get closer to the clip or the k-rail, tandem a little closer, PUSH YOUR LIMITS! Before you know it… the previous zone of comfort will be miles behind you and you shall emerge as a new animal. Now apply this principle to life… see where that takes you. When your presented with an opportunity… ask not why! But why not!VegasProam Round 4 Award CeremonywhsSparco
Vd – Well Spike, you killed it this season!! Are the any sponsors or friends you would like to thank or mention?

SC – There are many people I would like to thank. I am thankful to the wonderful staff of Vegasdrift, Just Drift and Evergreen Drift for putting on such great grass-roots events. Your professionalism is unparalleled. The attention to detail and keen eye for safety makes these events both fun and inclusive to people of all ages.

Big thanks to all the sponsors that supported these three distinguished drift series. It’s empowering to know that at the end of the day, when all is said and done, there are companies who will go forth with us to the next stage of progression.

A big thanks to my sponsors who believed when I dared not.

  • Battle Version, your suspension components gave me the confidence to push me and my car to the limit of adhesion.
  • Achilles Radial. Your amazing 123s tires is the final piece of the puzzle I lacked in 2012. Power without control is defeat. Your tires helped me harness victory.
  • DC power enterprises: Your amazing alternator kept my car running cool in the most rigorous of conditions.
  • A big shout out to the Adams family and everyone at AMP. Thank you for providing so-cal drivers with a place to rack up the seat time week after week. With out your facility and the seat time you have gracefully given me, I would not be the driver I am today.
  • Big thanks to all the photographers media staff! You toil under the sun and suffer the wrath of the elements like drivers but never receive the glory. Thank you for bring back moments in time I once thought was lost.
  • All the wonderful friends I have met in WA, OR, TX, AZ, NV, CA and on Facebook!
  • Although we parted ways, I wanted to thank my 2012 crew.
  • Mom and dad, thanks for getting together and making me.
  • Finally, thanks in advance for the great companies coming on board with me for the 2014 FD season. Your resources will not go unappreciated and without recognition.
  • Credit and glory always to the team.

I appreciate everyone reading this interview. See you at Long Beach!

Live life hard. Ask why not.
-Spike Chen

SeasonChampFB

Photo Credit:
  • Winding Highway Studios
  • Jason Maletsky
  • Thirsty Film
 

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