Hello and welcome to the second installment of Better Know A Driver, a weekly spotlight of pro-am drifters from the Midwest and beyond. This week’s installment brings you another Canadian driver, Chris Gonzalez, who has been regularly competing on both sides of the border for the last five years.
SMASHED: How did you get into drifting?
Gonzalez: I have been interested in the sport since I was a teenager and have always been amazed by the car control these guys have. About six years ago my wife and I made the decision to buy a stock S14 from Japan and build it into a drift car to start drifting in local events around Canada. I started out by doing a couple events at a go kart track in Regina, SK and in the same year went on to place 2nd in the DMCC Pro Am series and also drove my first PRO event with DMCC driving with some of the same guys I was watching on the internet the year before.
SMASHED: Do you look up to/get inspired by any of the Formula D or D1GP drivers? If so, who?
Gonzalez: There are actually two drivers that I look up to in Formula D. The first is my good friend Nick Thomas who drove three years in Midwest Drift Union a few years ago and the second is also a friend of mine Geoff Stoneback. I drove two seasons with Geoff and he shows each and every event what it takes to make it in this sport.
SMASHED: What achievements are you trying to reach in the sport?
Gonzalez: When I first started my only answer would have been Formula Drift Pro. After five years of doing this I have drifted in Pro and Pro Am series around Canada and the United States, developed a brand with Gonzo Drift that has one of the most supportive fan bases I have ever seen and I have made friends from all over the United States and Canada that I now consider like family to me. So If I stopped driving today, I honestly can say I have accomplished more than I ever dreamed of.
SMASHED: What’s been your biggest motivation in reaching these goals?
Gonzalez: My biggest motivation are all the comments I see posted from all the people when we are on the road on our way to a competition giving us good luck wishes, from friends back home in Winnipeg to random people who spot us on the interstate. This is the stuff I think about before qualifying, not wanting to let any of those people down. Every single “Good Luck this weekend” or “Go show them whats up Gonzo” comment I get is what keeps me motivated to be the best I can and keep a good image in this sport.
SMASHED: What is/are some of the biggest hurdles you’ve had to overcome to get where you are today?
Gonzalez: I could honestly write a book about this and tell you about countless blown motors, swapping motors halfway between getting to an event and endless breakdowns I have had in the past but honestly the biggest set back for me is where I live and the lack of seat time I actually get in my drift car. I live in Winnipeg where the closest track I can go drive at is about eight hours away, making it extremely hard to test and tune any issues with the car so usually I am stuck doing this 20 hours from home at my competition event which is not ideal when trying to be competitive.
SMASHED: Last year we saw you running black S14 with an LS swap, and now you’re back to “the basics” with an S15 and no V8 in sight. What’s the story there?
Gonzalez: This year I am running a Silvia S15 unlike years past you have seen me behind the wheel of my V8 powered S14. I am running a bone stock SR20DET and pretty much a rather stock S15 with a welded diff, suspension and knuckles. It was not by choice as the competition 2JZ S15 was not ready to start the season so we literally put this car together a couple weeks before so we had something to compete in. At round one of Midwest Drift Union this year we proved you don’t need 800HP and a fully built race car to be competitive and pulled off a first place qualifying run which put us in third place to start the season.
SMASHED: What advice do you have for those just starting out in the sport?
Gonzalez: Get seat time and drive as much as you can. Don’t assume you are ready to drive pro just because you drove at four events and didn’t crash. Don’t pretend to know everything and be humble. If someone offers up advice, take it because they probably know more than you. Most of all have fun and enjoy the sport we all grew up wishing we could do ourselves.