Corey Hosford decided he wanted to drift. In one season he went from attending his first XDC event to being a fully licensed Formulad D driver, and is currently fulfilling one of his all time dreams of shredding tires at “The House of Drift,” Toyota Speedway at Irwindale, in round 7 this weekend.
Saying that he’s only been drifting for 2 seasons is somewhat inaccurate however, as he has been behind the wheel of some form of hoon device since he was old enough to reach the pedals. Corey currently teaches high performance driving at Bondurant Driving School in Phoenix, AZ, when he’s not training to take down the old guard in the K-Sport 350Z. I met up with him and his spotter Dustin at the Bondurant track a few weeks ago and had the opportunity to find out what he’s all about and what he has to say to all of the drifting noobs out there.
DI: I understand you’ve been focused on professional driving for the last decade of your life. When and how did you get started?
CH: I was actually pretty fortunate that I started racing at a very young age. I was lucky enough to be raised in a family of motorsport enthusiasts. My father grew up racing motorcycles and he ended up getting a pro career running AMA flat-track and supercross. When I popped out, that was the direction he really wanted to push me in. When I was 5 or 6 years old he put me in cadet go-karts and from there I just progressively worked through the ranks.
DI: After all of these years of training others while at the same time advancing your own skills while working as an instructor at Bondurant, you could have seemingly chosen to pursue any form of racing. Why did you choose drifting?
CH: I feel like drifting is one of those sports that can relate to a lot of people. Even if they are not fans of any other motor sports, drifting is exciting enough to bring in a lot of other fans that wouldn’t watch anything else. It’s exciting, constantly evolving and high speed. It really represents every aspect of driving.
DI: Drifting is hard. Especially if you are new and have no idea what you’re doing. Many beginners have no idea how to even initiate a drift let alone how to maintain one. And many novice drifters have no idea how to take it to the next level. What one piece of advice would you give to a driver who wants to improve?
CH: Hands down, being committed is the most important skill. A lot of people that get in to this sport get easily frustrated because they don’t feel themselves progressing. People completely stop, back out of the sport and sell their car – and I get it. If you actually want to keep progressing in the sport, you have to be committed. You need to have the dedication to want to keep going and getting better. If you get to a point where you feel like you’re plateauing or falling off, know that nearly everybody in this sport has gone through something similar to that. If you’re not a pro mechanic or can’t afford a new car it’s common for your car not to function correctly even after you’ve put a lot of work into it. And it’s equally easy to become upset at your own ability. Even if you have those frustrations, just keep doing it, stay committed, and if you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way to actually make it happen. If you stay frustrated, you already know what your result is going to be. If you have that goal of becoming a professional driver and running in Formula Drift or if you just want to advance yourself a little further – the only way you are going to do it is if you just stay committed. Don’t let failure get in your way. Don’t let people stop you. If you want to do it, do it. You are the one who ultimately makes the decision.
DI: What sort of skills does a driver need outside of the car to bridge that wide gap from amateur to pro?
CH: I think that any amateur driver that wants to break into the professional ranks needs more than just being a skilled driver – they need to market themselves, and they need to know how to market their sponsoring companies. If you are not out there promoting the brand or promoting yourself it’s going to be difficult to get and maintain that sponsorship. I see a lot of people having difficulty bringing the funding in or trying to grow themselves, when really it’s all about putting in the work. You need to go to people’s shops and say “This is what I can bring to the table” rather than just sending an email and hoping that you get a response back. A lot of people like putting a face to the name, and not just a name in an email box next to a thousand others. It’s more than just “what can I do beyond driving,” it’s going out there and communicating well, relating with others, and looking to promote yourself and the brand. If you can’t do that it is going to be very difficult to find a company that wants to use you to endorse their product.
DI: You quickly advanced through the pro-am league and got your Formula D license in just one season. What has been you and your team’s biggest challenge going into the big leagues with relatively little seat time dedicated to drifting?
CH: The most difficult thing in going from an amateur to a pro is just the level of the competition and the level of their cars. It’s on a completely different scale than any other drifting I’ve been involved with in the amateur ranks. The best thing you can do your first season is just to go in there and learn. You can learn from these guys, see what they’re doing and then use that to grow, and then progressively keep growing until you get to the top. It was definitely a rude awakening running with these guys. It’s not just a street 240 going out, putting stickers on and competing – these are racecars. Purpose-built drift cars that are made to do one thing.
DI: How do you and K-sport Z plan on being more competitive in the seasons to come?
CH: We learned a lot this year. Going into next year we are going to be making a ton of changes. Possibly the motor, but the biggest thing is that we are going to be dumping a lot of weight. We are one of the heaviest cars competing in the series (3275 pds) and I feel if we can keep the same horsepower range but shed 400-500+ pounds it is going to make a huge difference in how competitive we can be. Ultimately, we just want to keep getting better. That’s our main focus. In our rookie year our main focus was just to make it to each round, and then go out there, drive, and learn. One of the biggest things we’ve got out of this season is learning the tracks. It’s difficult to show up to a track with zero previous information.
DI: Once you pull into the track for a Formula D event, how much practice time to you usually get in before your qualifying runs?
CH: Well there’s Thursday practice, and usually most of the teams will register for that. You can probably get about 12 runs in that 4-hour window. Those Thursday runs are to try to get your car’s baseline set up, and then when Friday rolls around you have only a 1-hour practice. In that time you have 40 cars show up and they will split the field in half so each group of twenty gets a full hour. In that time you can get maybe 8 runs in. And in this practice session you have the option to be a lead driver or a chase driver. Usually people are pretty conservative on that day because they are still chasing that set-up for the car or are trying to get a better feel for the track. So we get about 20 laps total before qualifying. Coming in as a rookie, you have almost no knowledge of the track and then you get only those 20 runs to set up your car for qualifying. Now that we’ve gone through this season, we have a lot more information so when we go to the track again we can start with where we left off the previous year.
DI: It seems like Formula D announcer Jared Deanda has a nickname for just about everyone. Have you had the honor of being graced with a trademark nickname from “The Voice of Formula D?”
CH: Jared fortunately gave me the nickname “The Boss,” or “Like a Boss.” I don’t know how he comes up with his nicknames, but he can be super witty. He’s been using that all year and it’s been sticking. As I walk around the paddock people come up to me and actually refer to me as “The Boss” now.
(ioxBossxoi is the alias of a fan who designed a 1:1 version of the K-Sport Z in Forza on Xbox. He asked Corey if he could sign the bumper while he was competing in Seattle earlier this year. Thinking that the bumper was going to be trashed after a mishap with the Evergreen wall, Corey happily obliged, but they later decided that the bumper wasn’t so bad. Now they rock the sharpie as an homage to a dedicated fan.)
DI: With your teacher status at Bondurant, I imagine you get the opportunity to practice quite a bit with some of the Bondurant cars. Which is more fun to drift, the Cadillac CTS or the Corvette?
CH: Personally, I would have to go with the Corvette. The car is set up so well with a good balance and tons of grip. Another Formula D driver (name redacted) and I were actually out here a few weeks ago driving the Corvettes and we were both actually really impressed with how capable the car is at drifting.
DI: I am a guy with a brand new (old) 95 240SX with 160 HP, and of course at my first drift event I got out there and couldn’t keep the car from flying off of the track. After 4 hours and maybe 30 runs, I was finally able to fully link the course. It was awesome. But I still suck. What would you say to some one like me, who is brand new to the sport, still sucks, has the heart to keep going, but still has no idea how to get better?
CH: If you don’t want to suck at a sport, the only way to get better is by constantly doing it. Go to every track day, every amateur drift event and keep driving. Keep wanting to work on those skills. If you set a goal, like linking each corner this event, and have the dedication to follow though and keep doing it, you’ll progressively get better with seat time. Keep working on those basic skills.
DI: Inside the car, what should some one as new as me be focusing on?
CH: If you were to pick one specific thing, it’s committing to the corner. Once the car is at angle – stay on the gas. With such low horsepower, if your foot is not on the gas the car is going to straighten up and you’ll lose drift. Once you get the car on angle, stay on the throttle. Throttle control is and essential skill to learn if you don’t want to suck.
DI: One thing I’ve noticed starting out in a low powered car and is that I was initially entering corners way too slow because I was afraid. It would be impossible to make up that speed deficit mid-corner. I’ve learned that proper entry speed is essential for me.
CH: Yeah a lot of people say that if you hit a corner and aren’t drifting already then you need to go faster. And it’s hard to tell somebody who is not doing so well already to just go faster and keep your foot on the throttle.
DI: When you’re not at Bondurant teaching cops how to catch robbers and teaching new Corvette ZR1 owners how to not put them into walls, what can we find you doing?
CH: I’m an avid gamer. I’m a big fan of World of Warcraft. I play that game all of the time.
DI: How many characters do you have?
CH: I currently have 3 level 85s. I have a Tauren warrior, a Tauren druid, and a Troll hunter.
DI: Which do you like playing the most?
CH: Right now I’m grinding on my hunter. Getting’ down on that thing. Haha.
DI: What kind of car do you drive on the streets?
CH: My personal car is a Cadillac CTS. It’s a fun car. I’ve put C6 brakes on it all the way around, a Borla exhaust, it’s lowered on K-sport coilovers, and I actually just got the heads machined so I’m running a little more compression.
DI: Before Formula D Vegas, I read on Twitter that you were giving away mustaches to people at the event.
CH: It’s funny, the mustache actually started growing on me… haha. I started growing it out as a joke to be weird I guess? Then a lot of people actually started complimenting me on it and talking about it so I figured I would let this thing hang around for a little bit. Then going in to Vegas I was thinking I wanted to have some fun with this, so I ended up buying around 1000 mustaches. During the driver signing I had a box of mustaches and people kept grabbing them. By the end of the night, it was hilarious watching a bunch of kids walking through the pits with fake mustaches. It didn’t really start out as something cool I wanted to do, I just wanted to have fun with it and it eventually turned into this thing… now I’m the mustache guy.
DI: Do you think it will stay with you for a while?
CH: I’m trying to think of a competition or something I can do with myself. Like if I don’t do well, I’ll cut it off. That, or I might let it keep going until I get a top 8. Maybe in the off season I’ll figure it out.
DI: My vote is to grow it out.
CH: If I do it I’m going full handlebars. I’ll be Hulk Hogan in 20 years.
DI: Do you have any extra advice for the new guys?
CH: Do it right the first time. If you are going to build a car, make sure you build it right the first time. I’ve seen a lot of people build a car not the way they should or take short cuts and they later end up having many more problems and actually spend more time off track fixing those problems. Make sure you are investing your hard earned money into proper parts and spend more time maintaining them so they last. If you have a car that actually works and lasts longer, it’s going to get you more seat time and make you a better driver. If you are driving something that’s being hard parked half the event because you broke some cheap product or a part that never worked right, the end result is that you’re going to be sitting on the sidelines. Do it right – get it done.
DI: I ended up experiencing that on my WRX. I was young and couldn’t afford expensive parts, so I ended up buying a cheap exhaust and cheap coilovers and then ended having to spend even more buying the right parts later. I would have saved more money in the long run if I just had patience and I bought the right part first.
CH: If you go on eBay and buy a cheaper part or take a hand-me-down part that some one has had on their car for 20 years, it can potentially cause you problems. The cheaper product may get you out there for a lap or two or may find you a temporary fix, but it will be just that – temporary. Get something that will be durable and build it right. You’re going to keep on spending more money if you don’t.
DI: You’re going to keep on spending money no matter what. Haha.
CH: Hah yeah you’re going to keep on spending money either way you do it, but try to do it right the first time. The most important thing is to have fun with it. Drifting started as a fun sport. If you lose that enjoyment, you should probably not be out there. You have to make sure that any time you hop in that driver’s seat you enjoy it. That’s one way of improving your skills. Enjoy it, drive with your friends, and get better.
– Thanks for reading! Please check back soon for the video portion of this interview where Corey focuses on teaching you how to “Suck Less” at drifting and then calls his mom to get her take on the matter.
Sam Nalven firstname.lastname@example.org
All photos © Sam Nalven