I can beat that, I thought to myself, and before I could fully register the scale of the project I was embarking on, I had sent an official application to Guinness’ headquarters in London challenging the current record. The process took no more than 10 minutes, and I did it all from my cellphone.
I didn’t know if Guinness would take my proposal seriously. I doubted they’d even respond. But they did. It took around four months, but eventually the people from the best-selling copyrighted book of all time (that’s a fact) got back to me with an attempt approval. Only it wasn’t just an approval. Along with the correspondence came a long list of stipulations, requirements, checklists and record guidelines. This is probably their way of scaring off crazy people who apply to break records willy-nilly from cellphones in hotel rooms.
I’m guessing most applicants chicken out after getting a Guinness green light, and I must admit I considered it. It’s easy to submit a plan, but following through is much more difficult. Especially after discovering I’d need a surveyor’s report, four independent witnesses, two official timekeepers, a film crew and a ton of budget. Also especially after realising I’d need to drift a car for more than 144.126km continuously.
That’s the current record set by Harald Müller in a Toyota 86 on a Turkish skidpan in 2014. Let me reiterate that. One hundred and forty four kilometres and change. Sideways. Nonstop. No rest periods. No pee breaks.
I know what you’re thinking. How could tyres possibly last that long in these gruelling circumstances? Well, normally they wouldn’t, but because Guinness doesn’t specify a dry surface, Müller did his enormous deed on a soaking wet track with very little friction and I will too.
I can hear all the die-hard okes in the proper drifting scene sighing here, but hey, these are the rules and I must play by them. Drifting for 145km on a dry course is impossible.
For the record (no pun intended), Guinness defines a drift as “a condition in which there is a speed differential between the driven wheels of the vehicle and the ground”. This means that loss of control is allowed, as long as wheels don’t stop spinning and the drift continues either in the same or opposite direction afterwards.
Toyota South Africa has partnered with us for the project, which has been over a year in the planning, and for the attempt I’ll use a brand-new, stock standard and recently facelifted 86. With its compact, rear drive layout and limited-slip differential, it’s the perfect car for this. Okay, it’s not exactly stock standard. We’ll fit a second petrol tank in the boot to ensure we don’t run out of juice with the target in sight. But other than that it’s straight off the showroom floor.
So far we’ve made two practice runs on the concrete skidpan at the Gerotek test facility near Pretoria, and after numerous trials with different course configurations we’ve opted for a perfect circle with a 100m circumference. This means I need to drift for a minimum of 1450 laps, and by our calculations this should take between five and seven hours.
Am I nervous? Yes, I am. I know I have the car control to hold a drift, but I don’t know if I can do it for seven hours. What if I get distracted and duff it up at 100km? What if I get hungry? What if I need to pee?
I do know that if Harald Müller can do it, I can too. And with any luck, I can replace his name in the Guinness Book of World Records with mine.
* The official attempt date should be in next few weeks, but we’ll keep you posted with final plans.
In the meantime you can follow the project’s progress using the #86DriftRecord hashtag.