Before YouTube was the central hub of Internet videos, Chris Forsberg and his friends watched clips of Japanese drifters on something called Real Player at his parents’ home in Doylestown, Penn.
The 2009 Formula Drift champion was only 17 at the time and had become interested in mechanics and cars from his grandfather, who was involved in drag racing, and his cousin, who raced fast-track motorcycles. As an early teenager, Forsberg "got excited about anything fast with an engine." He was interested in the building and tuning of cars, which fed into the car-racing scene. But he still didn't have a car of his own (he learned to drive in a truck), and the drifting culture in Japan in the 2000s inspired him, and his friend Tony Angelo, to try it out in the States.
"I am entirely self-taught. There were no events then so we tried out what we saw on empty farm roads and in empty parking lots," says Forsberg, who remembers getting in trouble a few times for public practices in his 1988 Mazda RX-7. "It was a trial and error thing — it took me a year and a half to learn what I can teach in a day now."
Now, the 32-year-old is ranked No. 1 in the 2014 Formula Drift Pro Championship standings and is also the host of a new show on Network A, Garage Tours presented by Vavoline, which chronicles his travels around the country in search of everything from home-built garages to massive professional set-ups.
"I've always been interested in cars and garages, and with that comes the stories," says Forsberg, who has managed his own racing team, Chris Forsberg Racing, since 2007. In one episode of the show, he goes to Baltimore, Md. to see MA Motorsports, where projects include custom engines and missile car maintenance. Forsberg says he enjoys fabricating and making things that are a little unorthodox.
"The show is allowing us to see how people are designing cars in different forms of racing, so you get ideas that are outside of the box that we can mesh together," he says.
But while Garage Tours is now a big part of his life, drifting was always his foremost interest — and still is. Forsberg has seen the sport change drastically over his 13-year career: the Formula Drift championship is in it's 11th season, and the cars have evolved from stock cars with 200 to 400 horsepower, to expert-designed vehicles harnessing up to 1200 horsepower that are crafted by a five-person crew.
He says it's hard to explain what it's like in the moment when the car is cutting the corner and sending tire smoke into the air — "If you sit back and try to take it all in, that's when you start to make mistakes" — but he knows it's what he loves doing.
"Drifting is more of an action sport than a motor sport. It's a thrill ride and the last lap of every race," says Forsberg. "It's like being on a roller coaster without rails - you have to just see it for yourself."
Check out Forsberg on the newest episode of Garage Tours, as he takes a look at how Suicide Machine Company customizes Harley Davidson motorcycles in Long Beach, California. A new episode of "Garage Tours" airs every Tuesday on NetworkA.com.