Jodie and Drew Donovan
With a shared passion for cars it was inevitable Drew and Jodie Donovan’s paths would cross and now they are New Zealand’s and, they believe, the world’s, only couple who are both involved in drifting as athletes. They also have a purpose-built tuition drift car which we are able to utilise to create competitions between co-hosts, journalists or celebrities and for small corporate team building.
Jodie looks like any young female but looks can be deceiving. Behind her huge grin is New Zealand’s highest ranked female in the sport of drifting (D1NZ), and one of only a handful of women competing internationally as a pro. Drifting is a sport best described as a combination of motorsport, figure skating and a boxing match! It’s not a race but a controlled ballet of lightweight vehicles, where two athletes deliberately slide to make a stylised turn or, as it’s known, a ‘drift’. The higher scorer of each heat advances to the next round based on being judged on form using a point system. Jodie is hardworking and driven whilst known for her strong morals and loyalty.
Drew didn’t get the easiest start in life but his determination to achieve goals, coupled with the support of Jodie, has seen Drew effectively turn his life around.
The oldest of three boys, for a good part of his life growing up Drew was the oldest male in the house as his father spent long periods away and stints in prison. In addition, his father was an addict ensuing life out of prison had no limits. It was a childhood full of aggression, isolation, police raids, escaped prison convictions, theft, armed defender callouts, gang affiliation and ‘Once Were Warriors’ style parties. His father would cycle from alcohol to intravenous drug use which ultimately was to be his demise, dying of multiple organ failure in July 2017. Drew and his brothers lived in a house which was a relocated building plonked on land with no power and no flushing toilet. Despite all of this Drew knew his father loved them. Part of that love was a passion for cars which was passed on to the boys, particularly Drew. Highly competitive and always chasing the win, Drew is currently ranked eighth in the country.
Known for his kindness and willingness to share knowledge, Drew has been working on a side project to introduce people with lower limb disabilities to Drifting. Now a shared dream, the long-term goal is to have two purpose-built cars to enable Drew and Jodie to work with disabled athletes, building confidence and self-esteem through the exhilaration of Drifting.
- Drifting demonstrations
- Team building using drifting cars
- Driving instruction
- Endorsements where appropriate
Here’s your chance to learn more about New Zealand’s champion drifters:
You’ve always loved cars, where did that love originate from?
My older brother Michael and I have a year between us in age, so we pretty much did everything together. With Michael not having a brother to play with I became the substitute and in turn had no chance in hell of becoming anything but a petrolhead. I had an early appreciation for motorbikes, starting from as young as two years old on my first electric quad, this then flowed into cars at about the age of 10.
Growing up on a farm we were always inventing new ways of creating fun using the machinery around us, it was great from developing the problem-solving mindset but often lead to rushed trips to the hospital down the road after it went wrong, much to mum’s disproval. Michael played a huge part in the go-getter attitude I have today, he gave me a lot of confidence and was always my biggest cheerleader egging me on. I am so appreciative of that and can see the importance of instilling that in your kids from a young age so they have the confidence later on in life.
What’s one of the hardest things about drifting?
Drifting is such a cut-throat sport with wins being hard to come by due to it being an elimination sport. One foot wrong and you’re out of the running. Sometimes it can be challenging when you don’t come away with the results you expected for yourself and the team, but it also makes you really appreciate the journey. We are lucky to have a team that really makes it fun despite whats going on out on the track.
How do you relax and cut off from the tensions of competing at an elite level?
Our friends and family are our backbone. When we are not in the thick of racing, we are trying to hang out with them as much as possible. Drifting tends to be all-consuming, especially with two racers in the family, which can leave little time for the family and friends which can be tricky to balance…. We are getting better with age.
Is having Drew involved in the sport of drifting a godsend or a curse?
Godsend for sure. Drew has always been my best mate and we have been through a lot together. Sharing the passion for drifting enables us to enjoy the ups and downs of the support. He is an amazing support especially when the car is not behaving itself. I am so lucky to have a partner that is secure in himself to have his wife in the same ring of competition.
Does sexism exist in drifting and if yes, how to you deal with that?
We are a rare and exciting species in this male-dominated industry and, for the most part, the comments are innocent. I’m very lucky in that most of the men I work with don’t treat me any different than they do their male colleagues. I like it, but I need to step up my banter game. To be honest I have experienced a lot of positives mostly, guys tend to enjoy having a women out there and really rally behind me and my driving. I have come across people during competition where being a women has its advantages; guys tend to put a bit of pressure on themselves to not lose to the girl which can be interesting. I know this is not always the case in most motorsports but I have been lucky to be around great people in my career.
How did you get into drifting?
Cars are basically part of who I am, from the day I could push around a matchbox car, to drawing them, to dreaming of owning cars like my dad’s. The only love affair I’ve had longer than with Jodie is with cars. My mate Shar and I didn’t actually know it was called drifting but we would go out for what we called ‘power sliding’ sessions on ‘private roads’ near where I grew up. In 2007 I wanted to make a start in motorsport of some description properly, it was a toss up between rally and drifting. Drifting came out on top for the freedoms and flare you can put into your car. I also thought it might be cheaper… not actually so sure now though!
Has drifting helped you be a better driver on the road?
Drifting has 100% made me a better driver. All too easily a car can lose traction and the driver’s control of it but even a small amount of drifting experience can redesign your destiny in those critical milliseconds as you and your vehicle start to loose control. You can never know when you will unsuspectingly drive onto a diesel spill from a negligent truck driver or hit an icy patch on a cold winter morning and it’s all about not going into a state of panic. Only drifting can really take all the panic out of a seemingly out of control environment.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give a young person growing up in a tough situation like you did?
Plenty have had it a lot harder than me but my childhood certainly didn’t lean towards a career in motorsport. The message I want to send to any young person growing up in a situation where certain goals may seem out of reach or people around you think it is ridiculous, or maybe you don’t have a goal in mind, is that we truly live in a world overflowing with opportunity. Make a decision on a goal no matter how big, decide to have belief in yourself, decide each day to take another step towards it and push through because you can and will succeed if you decide to.
Is having Jodie involved in the sport of drifting a godsend or a curse?
Jodie is definitely a godsend. In my opinion motorsport (particularly drifting) is the best fun you can have outside but make no mistake, it’s a lot of hard work and late nights behind the scenes. It gets stressful and at certain times it would be easy to give up which takes a lot of commitment to keep plugging away. In those moments of weakness you need someone to pick you up, put you on the horse and slap it! For me, Jodie has been that person plenty of times and it goes both ways, but sharing a common goal is what enables us to keep charging even when the going gets tough.
What’s your tip for controlling your nerves when drifting?
Drifting is a particularly psychological sport and is often compared to ballet (for a different reason entirely) but an equally good comparison is boxing… From a drawn out build up period leading up to a performance, an all-eyes-on-you short moment for greatness, to scrutiny by a panel of judges who are inherently looking for any mistake. Drifting has all this plus some! Nerves are natural, everyone has them. Some people are better at hiding them but it’s really about knowing how to channel all those nerves and adrenaline to come out guns blazing when it counts.