A Father’s Day to Remember

- James Deakin () - June 18, 2008 - 12:00am

I’ll never forget the first time I learned how to drive. It ranks up there with my first date, my first kiss, and my first, umm, well, I think you get the picture. I was eight years old when my father first let me loose in his 1978 model Toyota Corona. I took it around the block of our subdivision and ended up making friends with a lamp post on my first lap. It should have been the end of the world, I know, but while most dads would have packed it up right there and bought me a sewing kit or a “color by numbers” painting set, my dad asked me to go around again and again until I got the hang of it.

Over the next few years, I would routinely drive my dad from our house to the gate of the village, changing gears myself, following basic road rules and using the signal lights and everything. It was a fairly long drive – around three kilometers or so – and a very challenging one, as anyone who has ever been to Merville subdivision in Parañaque will tell you; the place has more humps, holes, twists and turns than a Senate inquiry. But more than the mechanical joy I got from operating a full size vehicle, it was the trust and bond that I shared with my dad that I really cherished. It is by far the happiest childhood memories I have with him.

Now it’s my turn. After more than five years of sitting on my lap and steering through the same tight and twisty streets of Merville, it was finally time to pay it forward and let my eight year old boy experience the same pants-wetting excitement of driving alone. The village is more densely populated now so I decided to take him out to the open car park of Expo Filipino in Clark where I would be attending a private drift clinic set up by the boys of DMF.

Unbeknownst to them, Subaru sponsored the milestone with a 2-liter, manual transmission, all-wheel-drive Impreza. On the drive up, I asked my son to change gears for me so he knew where each one was located. By the time I got him behind the wheel, he just needed to master the delicate balance between clutch and gas. His first attempt was absolutely flawless and he managed to get as high as fourth gear.

Nothing beats the feeling of freedom that comes from learning to drive. And seeing the look on my son’s face once he realized that he was indeed doing it all on his own was priceless, and one that will remain tattooed on my mind for the rest of my life. It’s like riding a bike without training wheels for the first time, but just a whole lot cooler. He must have used a quarter of a tank of gas just going around the car park. His face started to hurt from smiling.

After a full morning of gear-swapping and braking exercises, it was now dad’s turn – albeit in a different type of driving lesson. The boys and girls of DMF drifting school set me up with one of their drift cars and taught me the basics of going sideways. I’ve always been fascinated by drifting, but because this was one of those things you need a lot of money for before you can get it right, I would only be able to get my fill on the odd occasion during an advanced driving clinic abroad.

But this was different. This is a dedicated drifting school. Undefeated lateral D drifting champion, Alex Perez, as well as Pau Feliciano, allowed me to get the feel of the car by practicing 180 degree turns and 360 degree turns using only the throttle and steering. No handbrake turns allowed. This is all part of a basic course that DMF offers to anyone that wants to learn to drift, and for 12 thousand pesos, it is the cheapest way to scratch the itch. You will probably burn up more than that in rubber.

Once I got the hang of 360 and 180 turns, it was time for the full sweeping corner. I line up at the entry of the J turn that they set up with big foam barriers. It feels like leaping off a cliff or getting ready to try out a rodeo. I pile on the revs, drop the clutch and turn the wheel into the corner. As soon as I feel the rear break out, I dial in a couple of armfuls of opposite lock and feather the throttle to sustain the drift.

The rear wheels are spinning at twice the road speed of the car and pouring out thick, white smoke. My side window is now my windscreen and as strange as it may sound, I’m turning left but my front wheels are pointing right.

Nailing it for the first time felt incredible. Magical. Surreal. Its like hitting a golf ball right on the sweet spot, or riding a wave all the way to the shore, or opening up a sail and catching a mouthful of God’s breath as it fills the mast and carries you effortlessly across the deep blue sea. Everything slows right down all of a sudden and you feel like you’re floating across the searing tarmac, completely weightless, mesmerized by the fact that you’re in total control of something so out of control. Sort of like taming a wild beast.

Unlike circuit or advanced driving courses, which teach you excellent driving habits and how to extract as much speed as possible out of a car, drifting is the black sheep of motor sports. Basically, everything JP Tuason told you not to do, you can do it right here. And that, you have to admit, is a huge part of the appeal. It’s like eating forbidden fruit. It is also the most instantly gratifying form of motor sports that I have tried, which is why it is so addicting. Once you sustain your first drift, that’s it – it’s like the opening, the climax and the encore all rolled into one euphoric moment that may last less than ten seconds, but the feeling you get from it lasts a lifetime.

Plus, let’s be honest here, you just feel so pogi doing it.

After a full day of mechanical bonding and tire shredding fun, the two Deakin boys went home thankful and feeling so much better about life. One felt like a grown up, while the other like a kid all over again.

You couldn’t ask for a happier Father’s Day than that.

Editor’s note: Just this once, I’ll forego the Backseat Driver reactions and indulge my columnist by giving you readers a suggestion. To further appreciate the article above, you’d do well to view the Deakins doing their thing. To view the video for this, log on to youtube and type in the keyword “jdeakin72”. Because sometimes, even our words aren’t enough…

Speak out, be heard and keep those text messages coming in. To say your piece and become a “Backseat Driver”, text PHILSTAR<space>FB<space>MOTORING<space>YOUR MESSAGE and send to 2840 if you’re a Globe or Touch Mobile subscriber or 334 if you’re a Smart or Talk ’n Text subscriber or 2840 if you’re a Sun Cellular subscriber. Please keep your messages down to a manageable 160 characters. You may send a series of comments using the same parameters.)

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