Driver Profiles: Joon Maeng


3. Questions

 - When was the first year you started drifting and your age?

The first year I started drifting was in 2001 when I was 19 years old.


– Who or what influenced you to start drifting?

I made good friends that loved cars and got into a racing crew called S-Empire in 1998. We would look forward to meeting up every weekend to watch drifting clips on-line and on VHS Option Video.  It was definitely my friends that influenced me to start drifting.


– Where did you learn to drift?

I started drifting in industrial areas and local canyons when there’s no one around usually 2 in the morning. I learned the hard way, getting countless amounts of tickets, fines and even rolling down Malibu Canyon from this type of activities. I didn’t know better and learned from my mistakes I’ve made in the past. Drifting at local track events is the way to go!


Country Roads and Mountain Passes may take you home, but not while drifting on them! Go to a Track!


 - What was your first drift car?

My first rwd platform drift car was a 1985 Corolla SR-5.


– Was your first experience drifting odd or was it a natural feeling?

My first drifting experience was thrilling and full of excitement! Once I felt the adrenaline rush of sliding the vehicle sideways I was hooked and kept thinking of ways to improve. It surprisingly came naturally.


– When and where was your first Professional drifting competition?

2007 Formula Drift Round 1 in Long Beach was my very first Professional drifting competition. That day was full of surprises!


– Did you use your first drift car or did you use another?

I used my 2nd drift car which was a 1989 Nissan 240sx coupe built in the backyard of my friend’s house, Lod Tongkul. After work we would spend all night long working on the car with a tiny budget. Without the support of my friends at S-Empire, it would have been difficult to get out there.


Joon Maeng


– Did you do well, as well as you expected, or not as well as you could have?

I knew we could have done better but unfortunately after qualifying I totaled the vehicle on turn 9 during the practice session. The T25 turbo has seized right at the wrong moment which caused the vehicle to lose a significant amount of hp, so the rear tires gripped up and went straight into the wall. I felt so bad because of all the hard work my friends put into the car just went down the drain. They still cheered me on and we starting building the S13.5 instantaneously to attend the next round in Road Atlanta.


Joon Maeng aftermath
See, Joon wasn’t always “Gentle Maeng!” 


– Who was your first major sponsor that helped you in your Professional Career?

It would have to be Road Race Engineering. They helped tuning, fabricating and even fixing the front end after a big hit at Irwindale Speedway. Without shop space to work out of it’s very difficult to maintain and bring out a competitive vehicle. My friends at R.R.E./S-Empire made it possible to keep the car up to par in the 2007 season.


– What made you want to be a Professional drifter instead of a grassroots, doing it only for fun drifter?

The competition is fierce out in the Formula Drift sanction. I wanted to improve as a driver and competing in a professional series helped me to push myself to improve that much faster. I still have a lot of fun drifting in the Nitto Tire Mazda RX-8!


– How has losing Full Tilt Poker at the beginning of this year affected you and your team? How have your current sponsors helped you for 2011?

My Team Manager Ron Bergenholtz is always optimistic and will do whatever it takes to get the team out there onto the track! I was utterly amazed how he transformed the team in only a week. This includes redesigning the exterior of the Mazda RX-8, team jerseys, awning, race suit, helmet and the list seemed to never end…  We are so grateful to have support from all of our partners! Everyone played a role in making it possible for us to compete at every Formula Drift Rounds.


Joon Maeng
Despite losing Full Tilt Poker for 2011, Ron and Ed Bergenholtz, Joon Maeng, and the team didn’t give up for the 2011 season!


 - How did you get in contact with Ron and Ed Bergenholtz?

Actually I encountered Ron and Ed Bergenholtz at Long Beach in 2007. They were pitted right across from me and their professionalism and passion for the sport of drifting caught my attention. Kevin Wells @ LS Auto actually helped me to get in contact with Bergenholtz Racing and played a big role in making my dreams come true!


Joon Maeng


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