Cornelius, NC (May 23, 2012) – Following on the heels of their Atlanta “adventure”, on May 19-20, Doug Van Den Brink and the D’Vanz Motorsports team headed further south to Orlando, Florida for the opening round of the Xtreme Drift Circuit Eastern division. This was the first time the DVM crew had visited the Central Florida Motorsports Complex and they where eager to get the series started off on the right foot.
The track in Orlando is a multi-use facility that’s similar to a really large parking lot, whereas the track is defined by cones and chalk-lines with heavy concrete walls lining the perimeter. After an 80+mph “entry” the drivers swept-right into a decreasing-radius turn. From there, most drivers clicked-down 1-gear and drove straight towards Wall #1 where judges had placed an Outside Clipping Zone where the drivers would attempt to get their read-bumpers as close as possible for the length of the zone. Next, with their tires billowing smoke, the cars would head towards Wall #2 and then on to the Finish line.
The Saturday practice session went fairly well for the team. Once the judges finalized the tracks configuration, Doug went about the task of getting his lines down pat. When asked about the track, Van Den Brink said, “I like it. It’s a bit hard to find reference points since the track is just a big flat lot but the judges have set it up to “flow” really well and as long as I get the entry angle and line right, I think we’ll be good.” Their Mustang was running well and everything seemed to be going as planned. Little did they know that in an instant, their weekend was about to be turned upside down…
At about 4:30pm the final practice of the day started. The team had just had their lunch, the car was ready to go and everything seemed to be right with the world… As the crew was taking one final look around the engine-bay before they put the hood on, someone noticed a small drop of oil on the ground. Calling Doug’s attention to it, they began searching for the source of the leak. They quickly determined that the offending drip had come from the Crankcase Breather Catch-can that has a drain-plug in the bottom of it. “No worries”, DV said. “We’ll just tighten it up and it’ll be good”. As Doug was saying these words, he grabbed a paper towel to simply wipe off the bottom of the can. He sat down on the ground so he could reach under the car and as he reached in and wiped his hand across the drain, he felt something “click” deep down in his lower back. As he stood up he mentioned, “Well, that felt strange.”
Knowing just a bit about anatomy, DV immediately lay down inside the hauler and began to stretch-out his back. Unfortunately, the more he stretched, the tighter his back became. As the crew finished their final preparations of the car, they noticed Doug had yet to change into his driver’s uniform. Team spotter Chris Orsini mentioned to Doug who was still laying flat on his back on the hauler floor, “You better get dressed or we’ll be late for the session.” Chris couldn’t believe his ears when DV replied, “I can’t”. “What do you mean you can’t?” Chris asked. “I can’t move. My back is locked-up”. Doug replied… As hard as it was (and still is) to believe, Van Den Brink was completely unable to pick himself up off the floor, let alone change into his driving suit. After a few frantic minutes of “What the heck do we do now?”, the crew literally picked Doug up and somehow got him changed into his overalls and driving boots with DV nearly passing out from the pain.
Once they got him dressed, the crew had to figure out how to get DV in the car and set his helmet down on his head. With a good bit of effort and a few deep-breaths, DV was lined-up and ready for the final practice of the day. The session went off without a hitch, the changes the team had made to the car seemed to work well and Doug was able to get through it, although the pain he was in could be heard in his voice over the radio. “This really is the craziest thing to ever happen to me at a racetrack.” DV said after the session. “Just steering the car and reaching for the hand-brake hurt so bad that tears welled-up in my eyes”.
Once all the team’s equipment was packed up for the night, they rushed Doug off to both a Message Therapist and an Acupuncturist to see if they could help get him straight. Though still really sore, DV was able to get some rest and hope for a better situation in the morning…
As the Florida morning came up, news was not good for DV and the team. While completely relaxed, Doug was no better off when it came time to get out of bed. None-the-less, off to the track he went searching for a plan that could get him through the day. It was clear to the entire team, DV was in no shape to stand, let alone drive a car. After a quick team meeting it was decided to have the team continue their pre-race plan while DV headed off in search of a Chiropractor to try and relieve his incapacitating pain. Naturally, finding an open doctor’s office at 9am on a Sunday morning would be a real “scavenger hunt”. “All I can say is, thank God for smart-phones.” DV said. “I must have called at least 20 numbers off the Internet but I finally found a guy that had his office phone connected to his cell phone. Luckily for me, he was a racing enthusiast because he agreed to meet me at his office and try to help me out”
So with an hour and a half before the morning practice session, Doug ran off to see if the local “Doc” could fix him up. After a few x-rays, the doctor concluded that DV had a pinched nerve in his lower back that was causing on the trouble. While not an immediate fix, the doctor made the “adjustments” to DV’s spine that he thought would do the most good. With only 15-minutes to spare, DV raced back to the track where the team had the Mustang all warmed-up and ready to go.
After again helping Doug back down into the car, they went out for the final practice session before Qualifying. “I will say, I feel a lot better now than I did 2-hours ago.” DV said as he climbed out of the car, this time under his own power. ”The team did a great job getting the car ready for me while I was gone and it felt pretty good those last few passes”.
Doug and the team’s Spotter, Chris Orsini had been working on Doug’s lines all through that final practice. Seems that DV was good on the first Clip but too far away from Wall #1 and it’s outer clipping zone. Once he got past Wall #1, he was real good on Wall #2’s outer zone. “If we can just get him a little closer to Wall #1, I think we’ll be in good shape” Chris said right before the Qualifying session started.
On DV’s Qualifying pass, he brought really nice angle into the first turn, scrubbed-off all the speed he needed, downshifted into 2nd and hammered the throttle, driving the car hard past the first inside-clip. “I really did well coming into Turn-1.” DV said, “I knew all I had to do was carry a little more speed towards Wall #1 and I’d be in a great position.” As he barreled his Mustang headlong towards Wall #1, he spun the back around and placed the rear bumper within inches of the concrete barrier. This was exactly what Doug and Chris had been aiming for the whole time. As he hammered the gas off the wall, Doug knew he had a good lap going and laid into the throttle will everything he had.
What DV hadn’t figured on was by going out closer to Wall #1, his position “in space” would be significantly different as he headed toward Wall #2 and of course, he used the gas-peddle the same as he had done the previous 20-passes (when he wasn’t as close to the wall). This combination proved not too good, because now the Mustang’s rear quarter-panel was heading straight towards the 12-inch thick concrete of Wall #2. “As I came off of Wall #1 I knew I was going to be close to Wall #2, so I added more throttle to try and shorten-up my radius.” Doug later said.
Unfortunately, sometimes things just don’t work out and this would be one-of-those-times. The Mustang’s right-rear quarter panel contacted the wall just hard enough to “carom” the right-front corner right into the wall. With the front wheels already turned to the right (to counter the slide), the wall did everything it could to rip the entire right-front corner off the car.
Once the car made it back to the pits on the back of a tow-truck, DV and the team made repairs to it as fast as they could, but it would prove to be to no avail. The allotted window in drifting is 5-minutes for repairs and try as they might, they rolled Doug back out onto the track in 7-frantic minutes. D’Vanz Motorsports Orlando XDC weekend was over…
“Well they say, there’s a first time for everything and that’s the first time I’ve crashed that car on my own.” Doug said as he sat there, dejectedly looking at his bruised drift car. “I really thought things were going to go our way after all we had been through in the last 24 hours. I have saved those kinds of slides so many times in the past, I guess they were bound to catch-up with me. All the guys did such a great job with everything, I couldn’t be happier with how we worked together as a team. I just wish we could have gotten in the show, as I think we really had something for them today,” he added.
Once they make the necessary repairs, the team will head back down to West Palm Beach for the Formula Drift/SWD Pro-Am next week. Please check back with us to see if DVM can make it 2-in-a row being defending Champions….