Lance Feliciano - 2006 Only Fil-Am Licensed Professional DRIFTING Champ
Lance Feliciano - On the Fast Track
An exclusive interview with the only Filipino-American Professional Licensed Drifting Champ
by Oliver Carnay
(Photo: Lance Feliciano being interviewed on LA Channel 18 by L.A. Kababayan's host, Jannelle So. See full video interview here: www.la18.tv
Making a History
Lance Feliciano made a history last October 2006 by being the only Fil-Am licensed professional Drifting racing champ among the only 38th U.S. professionals who are licensed across America. Currently, he is also one of the youngest professional racers in the world of Drifting. In a press release by top Drifting sports magazine, he was named as “one of the next superstars to watch in 2007.” Lance is fast becoming an icon in the Drifting arena.
(Photo: Lance Feliciano before competition last year)
“There are only 38 professional “drifting” racers and no one can join under the professionals division this year. You have to have a professional license in order to join, and I got mine last October when I was 19 (years old). Basically, right now, I’m one of the youngest professional to have a license, and the only Filipino-American contender, out of the 38th licensed professionals,” Lance Feliciano said during this exclusive interview at the Tribal Café in Hollywood.
“Somehow, I knew that in my whole life I was born to be a race driver. I feel so passionate about driving I can’t think of anything I’ll do in my life, but focus on car race driving. In 2005, I race in the World Championship and people are saying, “Who is this kid trying to prove something – he just came from nowhere?” And I was coming so strong that they wrote about me and mentioned in their press release saying “The Japanese champions need to watch out because if the U.S. pro drivers are not going to give a run for their money there’s going to be plenty of rookies giving 100 percent, like Casper Canul and Lance Feliciano. These guys are definitely going to be the next superstars of Drifting” --- They wrote this in 2005,” he said.
It is not surprising for this 20 year-old “drifting” champ to acquire such skills. At a younger age, he was brought up in an environment of speed cars. Lance Feliciano came from a bloodline of racing champions. His father, Larry Feliciano, who hails from Antipolo, used to be a rally champion in the Philippines in the 80’s. He used to race for Mitsubishi.
Lance’s uncle, David Murphy Feliciano, who is also his “ninong” (godfather), is the current Drift race champion in the Philippines. He owns the number one drifting sports series - DMF Drifting Series in the Philippines. Lance's grandfather (his dad's father) is Chito Feliciano from the then-famous television show “Dance Time with Chito."
Lance Feliciano is born at the Cardinal Santos Hospital in Manila, to both Filipino parents -- Larry Feliciano and Christina Gutierrez. The family came to the United States when he was almost two years old. They first lived in Eagle Rock, CA until they moved to Cerritos, California, where he finished his high school at Richard Gahr. It was this time that his parents got separated. His mother is remarried to an American, where he has a half-sister sibling.
“Bill Murphy is my dad’s cousin who lives here in California. He was also a big influence to me. He started me off with Southern California Car Association (SCCA). He was also a race car driver and I used to watch him. Just the fact that my dad and my “ninong” are race car champions, nothing less for me to do, but to be a car champion as well. I want to be the first Filipino car race champion in the United States. My dad and mom always support me. My dad always gives me pointers while my mom, always attends to all the events that I go to. Now, it’s not more of a dream to me but more of a goal. I want to be the champion of Drifting. After Drifting, I want to go to different kind of racing, like rally [Rally is a type of racing, a sport base on dirt which usually last for 2 days, not on tracks but is done on hills and mountains], I want to take my driving from one level to another,” Lance looking so determined just talking about it.
What was the greatest advice your dad has given you? “I’m very close to my dad. Although, he now lives in the Philippines, we always talk and give me pointers. He teaches me what kind of mentality I should have behind the wheels. He tells me that before I go out there, I should close my eyes and relax. And once I’m ready to commit myself on the wheels, that I’m going to make a perfect run – then go! But if I’m not ready, I shouldn’t leave that starting line! What I do every time I race --- I close my eyes and visualize my run, and perfectly clear my mind. And even the flag goes down for me to go -- I’m not going to leave until I’m ready. When I’m ready, it just flows. Yes, I need to be 100 percent determined and confident before I go.”
“Drifting is definitely a precise sport. You need to have a well-tuned car and perfectly conditioned rear-wheel with good suspension. Limited Slip Differential (LSD) – power with both rear-wheels --- it makes a lot easier the car to slide. In a rear-wheel car drive, normally, only one rear-wheel is spinning. You also need a reliable car. Make sure the car and motor is in best condition.”
“Any car can slide but a car that can be competitive in Drifting would be a rear-wheel drive where the power is in the rear vehicle rather than be at the front. Most of the cars nowadays are front-wheel car. The ones you need usually are cars like Nissan 240SX, Nissan 350 Zs, Toyota Corolla 1986 is a rear-wheel drive. It is also a popular car in the drifting series,” he explained.
“Toyota Corolla 1986 is a popular car used and it’s actually my favorite car. The way the body was made it was very light and it was rear-wheel drive and it is a perfect balance for Drifting. I kind of lack power as far as motor wise.”
“Now, I drive a Nissan 240 SXS14. (Then, why don’t you get it?) The reason why is because I am so competitive with what I have right now. The difference between the two cars is that it has power lock and more horsepower, and I’ve developed a driving style with it. Toyota Corolla doesn’t have that much horsepower.”
Is it costly to maintain a “drift” car? “Drifting is one of the most expensive sports out there (in a way). Not only because of the cost of the maintenance of the vehicle, but the cost of the tire is the most tremendous expense in drifting itself. One tire I burn up would cost about $180, and on a good day I normally burn 8 to 10 tires a day! The fastest I burn two tires would be 4 minutes.”
Tell me, how was the process before you were able to get your license? “When I was younger I really like watching Japanese Option videos, the popular “drifting” videos from Japan. And my dad used to teach me in the mountains in Antipolo, in the Philippines. In 2005, I started joining amateur events. And in October last year, I entered in the Pro-Am, the amateur events in which if you want to turn Pro, you have to win that event. There was a Pro-Am within the whole west coast region. We all battle from the Irwindale Speedway, 55 to 60 drivers, and I won first. I was the No. 1 in the west coast, so I represented the west coast. Then, they sent me to Las Vegas, in Laughlin, to represent the west coast region, and I won the 2nd over-all in the nationals. In Vegas, only four drivers were able to get their Professional license. I started becoming a Pro when I won that event. In November, I got my Professional license.
Where do you get all the money to support the tires of your car, then? “You know, I’ve sold almost everything I have, just to pay tires. But now that I became a professional driver, I can get sponsors to pay for the expenses. Before, I used to go to junk yards and get used tire. I’m sponsored now so it helps out with my expenses. I get free tires now from Dunlop. They give me tires for my practice and every event I go to. My tires burn up easily now because of the horsepower my car has now.”
How many cars did you have before this last one? "Drifting is a sport where you can’t be in control all the time because of the environment, whether the floor is wet. I did learn from every mistake I’ve done. I probably went to about 5 cars to where I am now. There was one time when I was practicing late at night in the mountains. I crashed into the mountain and it was raining. I flipped over and my car was all messed up. It didn’t stop me --- the following day I was again drifting!”
Was there ever any bad accident happened to you during practice or in an actual race? “There was a time I was going full out and my motor blew up. My car actually caught on fire with me inside, racing. After that event, about five months straight my car was not dialed in correctly like it was. And I was having the worst time I almost quit. I was coming in 15th place, then 13th, 12th place. But as soon as my car got tuned up correctly, I was back on top 3. I felt I was placing where I should be.”
(Photo: One of a 5 spread article from DRIFT & RWD SPORTS Magazine featuring Lance and his car in action)
How is drifting different from car racing and scoring points? There are only 38 pros across the United States. They go to the race track and they practice everyday. There are only about 32 who have made it, and another qualifying round is set up for the Top 16. The way they valid out the Top 16 is to go against each other – two cars at a time. The guy in the rear (called the “follower”) chases the guy in front to try as close as he can without hitting him. The guy in the “front” has to focus on having a good line. It goes down to the Top 8, then Top 4, from the Top 4 comes down to 1st, 2nd, and then 3rd. There is a Finish Line, but that doesn’t mean whoever passes the finish line first, wins. The way it is being judged --- is by speed, how you do your “sideways,” your style, your racing line- how much angle you have and how much smoke is coming out of your tires, and how fast you are coming into the “third.” You can tell the difference between a driver who’s committed and not committed to the race track. They even mark your points off for letting go of your pedal. The judges are “drifters” themselves, so they know exactly what the drivers are doing in their cars. If they see the driver is stepping on the breaks because they are scared, the points are marked-off. If the judges see the driver is letting go of the gas they get points marked-off.”
Whenever you have a race, when do you check your car if it is in perfect condition? Was it the night before? Usually, I try not to do it the night before. I usually change all my fluids, and make sure it’s in perfect condition and ready for racing at least before a week or two.”
Is Drifting also very popular in Manila? “Yes, it is. They have events all over. There’s a company called Burnts Rubber (or something like that). As I’ve said, my uncle owns the DMF shop, which is also a race car shop, and he organizes “drifting” in the Philippines.”
Formula D is the name of United States’ “drifting series (incidentally, is Japan’s equivalent championship in Japan, the D1 Grand Prix Series). The series is sponsored by the popular video game series, Need for Speed (official name is Need for Speed Formula Drift Presented by Circuit City. It was inaugurated in 2004, and is a division of the Sports Car Club of America.
The 2007 series schedule has six official rounds. The following are the locations: Streets of Long Beach, California (April 18); Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia (May 18); another one possibly dated in June to be announced); Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California (July 14); Evergreen Speedway near Seattle, Washington (August 11); Wall Speedway in Wall Township, New Jersey (September 8); and Irwindale Speedway in Irwindale, California (October 13).
Formula D has somewhat of a partnership with the Champ Car World Series, holding demonstraton events at Champ Car race weekends, most prominently, the Long Beach Grand Prix. In 2007, there will be five demonstration events, but they will count for something. 2007 is the first year of the Formula Drift Team Drift Championship, meaning the events will count for points in a championship separate from the one used for standalone events. The five events that will make up the inaugural Team Drift Championship are: Long Beach Grand Prix (April 15); Portland International Raceway (June 10); Grand Prix of Cleveland (June 24); San Jose Grand Prix (July 29); and Grand Prix of Denver (August 19).
There is going to be six Pro events around the United States before the Over-All Formula D Series Champion is announced. Last year the key States events were held in Seattle, New Jersey, Chicago, Sonoma, Long Beach, and Irwindale. This year, the first Formula D event is going to start-off at the Long Beach Grand Prix this April 2007. Every year, they close down the streets of Long Beach and set up a race tracks. This is also the first time ESPN, the No. 1 sports channel is going to cover it. Drifting is becoming to be the most popular and fast-becoming a major sports all-over, including the UK, Europe, Australia, and in Japan (where it originated more than 30 years ago).
“Formula D only started about three years ago. They are pulling more and more people every year. Last year was sold out. Drifting is growing so much because of Formula D. Drifting is the fastest-growing motorsport in racing history. There are legal practice venues all over, you can search online. You can pay a hundred dollars and you can burn tires as much as you like. You don’t need to be a pro, you can be a “newbie” or you can just watch. That’s where we all started.”
“Drifting in United States is drawing bigger and bigger every year, and now it’s a major sports being covered by ESPN. It’s definitely going to be a big year for drifting. It used to be just a hobby but it has opened a lot of doors for me.”
“I did pay my dues. I was offered to teach “Drifting” in a University. And since I became a pro, my family and I built up a race shop called Dori2Garage (see www.Dori2Garage.com) and it is in Gardena (115 East Gardena Blvd., Ste. 3, Gardena, CA 90248; We fix cars and assemble turbo-charge super cars. My mom serves as the President of the company (She is also a licensed Wedding Coordinator). My stepdad is in charge of the operation, while I act as the Marketing Manager. That’s where I’m making money right now. I help people who want to go into Drifting, set up their cars correctly so they can be in good shape.”
“Last year I also got picked up by Eric Goose’s SKYLINE to work for TIME ATTACK, which is racing on a track without drifting. This kind of racing is new and you don’t race with anybody but you compete with time on the race track, like how fast you can go around the track.”
Any best advice you can give to upcoming “drifting” car racers? “It’s very important that the driver has to be very confident because there’s no much time to react and be scared when you’re racing on the track, or practicing on the street. And one should think very fast and has to make a full commitment before you drift. It decides for you if you don’t first decide of what you want to do. I learned to be very confident and to be very smart on the decisions that I make. I just don’t look back. You have to have a determination and a full commitment when you decide something. I think that’s what got me so far when it comes to drifting.”
(Photo: Lance Feliciano in his racing suit & helmet)
Lance Feliciano’s first competition for this year is the Formula D – Round 1 at the Long Beach Grand Prix Race Track on April 18, 2007. He will be needing all the support from all his fans and supporters. For sponsorship package and other information, email International Artists PR & Marketing at firstname.lastname@example.org