Is Gridlife The New Gatebil?

Chapter One: Drive All Day

I guess you could say that I’ve just been on a Speedhunters world tour.

I jumped straight from Formula Drift New Jersey to Gridlife Midwest; joined the Hot Rod Power Tour and then hit up Pikes Peak; jetted over to the UK for the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and then onto Continental Europe for the Gumball 3000. The weekend past I was in Montreal for Formula Drift Canada.

I met up with many old friends and made new ones along the way, but more important was the chance I had to hang out with a few of the Speedhunters crew. Paddy McGrath, Jordan Butters, and Mark Riccioni were all at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. It’s been so long since a large group of us were shooting together, and it was beyond fun.

I’ve attended so many motoring festivals and racing gatherings all over the world, but looking back at the past couple of months got me thinking about what makes an event ‘fun’ for me nowadays.

The answer is fairly simple: my favorite events are the ones that my friends attend.

Today I want to talk about Gridlife Midwest, which I attended last month. If you caught my stories from last year’s event, you might remember me comparing Gridlife to Gatebil. This time around I wanted to find out whether the American festival has become more relevant in the car culture world than the Scandinavian original.


I set out to put together this event story plus shoot three completely different cars for features. Stay tuned for these!

I hit the ground running, as did the Donut Media guys who came out in force to capture what Gridlife is all about by video. At the far right of this line-up is Chris Forsberg’s VK56-powered Infiniti sedan, while the two Mercedes-Benzes were drafted in for chase car duties.

I was not at the event for five minutes before I strapped myself into the passenger seat of Mr. Toad’s wild ride.

I’d never actually ridden in this car before, but I had been looking forward to it since I featured it all those years ago.

Insane does not really describe this drift shuttle. Gatebil had a similar program with stock BMW M5 drift taxis, but this Infiniti can do full course drifting like you’ve never seen before.

This truly was the real Mr. Toad’s wild ride. I feel like the drift shuttle needs to become a movement.

Along with Chris Forsberg, Vaughn Gittin Jr. brought out one of his many demo cars.

We were initiating inches away from Vaughn going into the first corner, and at one point I even had to pull my camera in so it would not get crushed by a Mustang body panel. It was my highlight of the event.

The war stories that we traded afterwards will last for a lifetime.

One of the chase car wheel-men was James Kirkham from Donut Media. He used to be a racing driver so he is not afraid to get close to the action.

It was fun to see him on track getting those perfect stacked drift shots.

I went for a few rides with him as well and mounted my camera in front of the Mercedes to capture some chase shots.

Team Drift Alliance was not the only one scheming to get stacked drift trains; Team Falken Tire were out in force too.

While some drivers like Justin Pawlak brought out their current FD cars, the others put their previous competition drift machines to good use once more.

For Daijiro Yoshihara, Gridlife offered a chance for him to get behind the wheel of his 2011 championship-winning Nissan S13. It was so cool to be able to shoot this legendary car again, especially as it’s still in the original livery.

I don’t know about you guys, but I really want historic drifting to become a thing. We cover so many historic race cars on Speedhunters, and I feel like in a few more years old drift cars will become cooler than ever.

One of the reasons I think Gridlife is becoming so big is because of how the owner, Chris Stewart, talks one on one with the teams about what he can do to ensure the best time is had by all.

On top of that, Gridlife invites the right influencers from all over to compete and have a good time on and off track.

This becomes very evident as you walk the paddock through the hot pits and the car show areas.

The variety of cars that turn up is awesome, plus the quality and style of the builds surpasses all expectations.

Quite simply, Gridlife has become a staple event of midwest car culture. If you needed proof, the line just to get in was over a mile long.

I don’t know what the small town where GingerMan Raceway is located thinks about it, but I’m sure they don’t mind the area doubling or even tripling in population for the weekend.

The Hoonigan gang came out in numbers with their female driver search program.

These Fiat 124 Spiders are such cool builds. There needs to be more new rear-wheel drive rally cars.


Even the kids who attend show up with modified cars.

Just check out this scale Hoonicorn with working all-wheel drive and an e-brake.

Chapter Two: Party All Night

Without a doubt, one of the biggest draws of Gridlife is the party scene, and this year the after hours atmosphere did not disappoint.

Not only did our good friend Rob ‘Chairslayer’ Parsons crowd surf, but Chris Forsberg also found himself being carried away.

After the lights went out and the concert was over, the pro and amateur drivers went from pit to pit hanging out with all the people who made it along for the crazy weekend.

Where else can you party with your drifting idols?

Even Gandalf The Drunk made an appearance again, although this year there were no unregulated burnouts.

Gridlife after hours is an absolute blast, and it’s made even better by all the characters you love to hate.

So the question is, has Gridlife replaced Gatebil? The answer is that there is room for both events to exist. The reason why Gridlife is becoming so popular with the pro teams is because it’s much more accessible than Gatebil. Before Norway and Sweden had the biggest and best festivals surrounding drifting, awesome car builds and music; but now that there is a similar type of event in North America, and I’m pretty happy about that.

The next Gridlife event will be held at Road Atlanta in around a month’s time, so if you’re within driving distance it’ll definitely be worth checking out.

Larry Chen
Instagram: larry_chen_foto

Chapter Three: Cutting Room Floor