D-Pad 17/04/21

D-Pad is a brand new venue for drifting in Northamptonshire, built by ex Drift Allstars driver and Drift Outlaws founder Matt Chiappa.

To say that D-Pad is an exciting project would be somewhat of an understatement.

As it stands, the ‘pad’ is built on the infield of Northampton International Raceway’s shale oval track. Matt has completely ripped up the pre-existing infield and has completely resurfaced and reconfigured the area to suit it’s new purpose.

If you were to look at it from above it looks somewhat like a figure of 8. There are small islands at either end of the track with a huge open area in the middle. At either end are earthworks marking the inner line for the oval track and the outer boundaries of D-Pad.

As it stands, it’s a set up that can cater for all abilities. The centre of the track really wide and open which is great for beginners but the islands and walls at either end of the track add some interest for the more experienced driver.

It’s a great venue as it stands, but the site sits on 30 acres of land so there is lots of room for expansion. Matt both said to me, and said on the Driftworks forum that if the site takes off and works out that he would be happy to build a second track on the site. D-Pad is something that as a community, we can help build. The more people that go to watch, go to drive etc etc the more money and support can be drummed up and can be put back into the venue.

Obviously with Covid, the number on people on site was very limited. I believe there were 18 drivers present with a small amount of support and half a dozen media guys, including Andy King who I haven’t seen since Rayleigh RC, around the time I started this blog, and Aaron Hawes of MySquareWheel Photography, a man I’ve known on the internet for a long time and finally got to meet at this event!

It made for a really chill and easy day. The weather was nice which helped, but after months of just working and being at home, it was lovely to sit on the grass in the sun and watch the cars go round.

There were quite a range of cars too. Here we have Steven Rooke who was testing tyres for the upcoming Drift League GB.

For a lot of the day he was practising chase runs, following Jack Stevenson in his light blue E36 who was super consistant all day!

The E36/46Kings group also had a couple of drivers out. These two gents were going around together all day. I managed to embarrass myself too haha! As I drove onto site the guy with the black 36 touring was just closing the gate behind him and I thought he worked at the track. Thankfully he was friendly and didn’t mind me asking a couple of questions haha!

Northants MX5 had a number of cars on track. I really liked the Initial D style Mk1

I’m not sure that it was a part of the same group, but this little Mk2 MX5 not only looked superb, but ran really well all day.

I’ve still like the little E36 compacts.

There was also a 1 Series hatch. There was a 1 Series coupe at Lanier Raceplex in Georgia when I went in 2019, but I’ve never seen a hatch drifting. I think as they are getting older, they may become popular in the drift scene.

A little mixed gallery of the other cars present.

There were also a couple of learners there, and in my opinion D-Pad is really very learner friendly. Not only is there wide open areas on the track, but the cars are let out one by one and Matt was on the sidelines the whole day hyping the drivers up and giving advice as and when needed. It was so nice to see and is ultimately the best way to grow the sport. People will be put off of trying if they feel intimidated.

I was keeping my eye on this little Mk2 MX5 and he was really able to progress throughout the day. It was nice to see!

The more advanced drivers could also go out in pairs or groups if they wanted.

To round off the day there was a 3 minute silence to mark the passing from Prince Phillip. Check out MySquareWheel on Instagram for a lovely panoramic shot of the moment.

All in all, I really recommend a visit to D-Pad. Cool people, cool people, great chilled atmosphere with a lot of potential for growth. Another plus is that the villages around it are really really pretty, so you’ll have an enjoyable drive in too!

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By Richard Francis

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