In this week’s edition of Better Know A Driver, we catch up with 2013 Midwest Drift Union rookie of the year and 2014 second place overall finisher Rolando Alfaro to get some insight into his cars, his goals and what drives him to keep improving.
SMASHED: We’ve seen you alternate between your 350Z and S14 over the past couple years, and you’ve recently sold the S14. Why the constant back and forth, and what lead to the decision to axe the track car and hang onto the 350?
Alfaro: Basically I daily drove a 350Z from the time I was 15 to 18. I learned on it and loved it because I was constantly drifting it on the streets and even at events when my S14 was down. Then in 2013 I sold it to get a truck. That same year I had the worst luck ever and my S14 went through three engines and I called my season short after that last one. So I picked up this proven ProAm 350z from down in Texas as a backup car while I took my time rebuilding my S14 during the 2014 season. I made the car my own by going through it and painting it black, new aero, wheels, other minor stuff and it’s been the best drift car I’ve ever had. It’s never given me issues and I drive it SUPER hard. I can’t imagine anyone being able to drive it harder. This season I finished my S14 and it was gorgeous and everything I wanted but I realized its nowhere near what I wanted to go into Pro2 so I posted it up for sale and steadily waited for a buyer with cash to pick it up and luckily that happened. I love my 350Z and honestly I rather have it and a fat stack of cash to build something new than to have both my Z and my S14 sitting.
SMASHED: Last year you forged a bit of a rivalry early on with Brian Peter, who at the time was driving his fully built FC, and had himself competed at the Formula Drift level. You swapped podium positions at the first two rounds, despite your 350Z being down on power compared to his 2JZ. What do you feel attributed to being able to hang with “big dogs” while lacking in the power department?
Alfaro: I love BP, he’s a homie but during comp everyone’s a rival. I guess in my opinion my Z really made me drive to the fullest of my ability and I was able to learn a lot that whole season. Never lift. People nowadays build these crazy high horsepower drift cars and come out and maybe qualify, then more often than not, they end up messing up and losing first battle top 16. You can’t expect the car to make up for lack of driving skill in a competition situation. The Z had just enough power and paired with monster 265 tires it’s a rocket ship on tracks like Gateway and Iowa and it made me really drive the car instead of the car driving me if that makes sense. When you lose its better to know that you drove as well as you could and that the car holds you back rather than knowing that you’re holding the car back.
SMASHED: You live in Kansas, but it seems like you’ve become quite attached to the St. Louis drifting community. What is it about those guys that got you so involved with them?
Alfaro: I love Kansas City, I’ve got a few really good drift homies there and the drift scene although, really behind, is growing and getting better. But St. Louis is where 60% of my good friends are. They’re the homies. It’s always a party when I come into town and I know I’ve always have multiple places I could crash. I just gravitated to the good people there and the better drift community.
SMASHED: What achievements are you trying to reach in the sport?
Alfaro: Well I got Rookie of the Year in MDU in 2013, second place in MDU and my FD Pro2 license in 2014, I mean next stop is Rookie of the year in Pro2 and so on. But I didn’t go to Pro2 this season because as a full time student it’s really hard to make the time to make FD happen. I also didn’t have the support I wanted to hit it as hard as I would like. When I do something, I do it right, and I usually do well. But when I don’t feel prepared I feel like it’s better to wait than to step into the ring and get knocked out. I’ll probably run ProAm again next season too, and on the side build a pro car but really just trying to remain relevant in the sport while I focus on other aspects on my life. Then someday, go pro and do my very best.
SMASHED: What’s your biggest motivation to get help you reach those goals?
Alfaro: My biggest motivation for drifting, or anything for that matter are my parents. My father died when I was young and left me with the ability to do drifting and anything else I want to do so I feel like I owe him as well as my mom to do my very best in everything I want to do. That’s why my cars always look good, that’s why I drive my very best, that’s why I keep doing it and wanna keep doing it. I also love drifting. I love driving super rad cars with my friends and nothing gets me more stoked than that. When we’ve got a train of 3-5 of the homeboys running down a track, that’s the best thing ever.
SMASHED: What is/are some of the biggest hurdles you’ve had to overcome to get where you are now?
Alfaro: Aside from personal stuff, my biggest hurdle was the year of 2013. I swear the world was out to get me that year. I had seven blown motors, three in my S14, two in my tow rig, and two more in a street car I was building. Then endless blow outs on my trailer, and with a bunch of other terrible stuff, I spent so much money that year, I wish I go back and just take that year off that way I would have the funds to have gone to Pro2 this season. But you live and you learn. My motto is “nothing happened by accident” and that’s how I see it. I grew from it, literally got grey hairs, but mentally and emotionally grew as well. I still got Rookie of the year in MDU and ended the season with great support going into 2014 with the 350Z so I guess everything works out in the end.
SMASHED: What advice do you have for those just starting out in the sport?
Alfaro: Quit now, while you’re ahead. But no, honestly. Don’t overbuild your car, get a stock 350Z or some stupid 240, get a good diff, and go to events, only upgrade your car when it’s truly holding you back. If you’re going to compete in the future be ready to make your normal life suffer in the hopes to do well in competition, remember that drifting isn’t going anywhere and keep your priorities straight. Other than that, I can’t really help them much. People don’t listen, they gotta learn it themselves.
SMASHED: Anything else we should know about you?
Alfaro: I’ve been told I look like a dick. I’m actually a really cool dude and I want people to know that if they wanna say hi or whatever at events that they shouldn’t hesitate. I love shooting the shit and answering people questions about my car or whatever. So when ya see me, says what’s up!
Hometown: Kansas City, KS
Current city: Lawrence, KS
Car: 2005 Nissan 350Z
Engine: Stock VQ35DE drivetrain, dynoed ~255hp, basic bolt-ons (intake, exhaust, plenum spacer, retune)
Suspension: Fortune Auto 500 Coilovers, full SPL solid bushings all around, and PBM angle kit.
Wheels: Cosmis Racing USA XT206Rs 18×9.5 +10 Front and 18×11 +8 Rears
Tires: Achilles 123s 235/40/18 Front, Kenda Kaiser KR20 265/35/18 Rears
Sponsors: Cosmis Racing Wheels USA, Aeromotive, ChaseBays, EBC Brakes USA, Fortune Auto Performance Coilovers, and Import Image Racing.
Years drifting: 4
Day job: Full Time Engineering Student at University of Kansas
First drift car: S14
Favorite track: Gateway Motorsports Park