Heavy Metal Affliction -- Nissan S14 Drift Race Car
Many of us who have lived with a deep affection for cars and racing may have dreamed of being a race car driver. Some grew out of it, some realized it was just too impossible of a dream to pursue. Others may have even given it a shot, gotten a taste of life on the track, and just failed to reach the status of being a professional race car driver. Very few make it to the professional level.
This is the story of Rob Primozich — Gamertag SPONGE WORTHY -- fondly referred to as Rob Primo here in Washington, where he is a staple in the NW Drifting scene. He has been involved in drifting since 2003 and owns two drift cars, a Nissan 180X -- for playful events that he sometimes organizes -- and his Pro-Am drift car. This Heavy Metal Affliction focuses on his Pro-Am, soon to be Formula D race car-- a Nissan S14 powered by a Toyota 2JZ motor. The car is highly modified throughout, from its Garrett T04Z Turbocharger to the full Formula D legal roll cage.
I met with Primo at Garage Autohero, his main sponsor, a small but very serious JDM dream garage. This place is the stuff that classic JDM lovers would faint over. The shop is full of tricked-out pieces of Japanese history from every era. From 510’s so clean famous folks have offered tons of money for them — and been turned down — to R33’s that are fighting for their right to survive. This is an old -school shop that does fabrication, full builds, or custom suspension and also serves up some of the best darn coffee you will ever consume. Yes, the owner is not only a master of all things mechanical, he is a coffee connoisseur and world-class barista. The owner, Ray, and Primo became friends years ago and Garage Autohero has built and rebuilt almost all of Primo’s ride. The shop is the source of more automotive stories than we have room for in a hundred editions of Heavy Metal Affliction, and it enjoys its cult status locally. Needless to say, it was a very cool place to meet my first drift driver.
Drifting, like many up and coming motorsports, has somewhat of a stigma attached to it. As drifting has become more popular and recognized as a legitimate and exciting form of motorsport, drivers like Primo have increasingly grown in profile and popularity. He is well respected in the drift community, not only for his skill behind the wheel, but for being approachable, always willing to lend a hand and readily available to offer advice to new drivers.
This humility shouldn’t be a surprise, since Primo has spent 14 years in his youth and his adulthood as a commercial fisherman in Bristol Bay, Alaska. These are some of the most dangerous, rough, and fruitful waters in the world. Fishing boats like the one his father owns are generally around 32 feet long. In seas like Bristol Bay, to say spending time in those waters in a boat that size builds character would be an understatement. This hard work and commitment is also what provided the budget which allowed Primo to get into drifting and paid for his education. In his day job, Primo has his MBA and is currently a marketing wiz for Xbox.
Back in 2003 Primo competed in Washington’s first drift event. He liked what he saw and later travelled to Irwindale Speedway in California for the first Formula D event in the U.S. After sitting trackside for seven hours, breathing tire smoke and getting hit in the face with bits of tire, he was hooked.
As an organizer, Primo has worked with Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Washington for years, and is a familiar face among all the track staff. He also stepped up and set up drift invitational events at a local motorsport park. These “for fun” events take place on a tight 14-turn go-kart track and feature as many as 20 cars running at the same time. For a lot of folks, this is where they get their feet wet and dive into drift racing as a hobby.
Fortunately for Primo, his father used to be a mechanic and has been Primo’s biggest supporter both emotionally and… well, mechanically too. The mechanical knowhow passed on from father to son gave Primo the advantage of understanding how his car works, inside, outside, and on the track.
From his humble beginnings as a hobby drifter, Primo has worked his way to the grassroots level of drift racing, and on to Pro-Am. In 2010 he rebuilt his S14 to Formula D standards. This includes a custom roll-cage, fire suppression system, immense horsepower, handling upgrades, and lots of time in the garage. 2011 was a year for getting the car tuned just right and building his style and technique on the bigger tracks. 2012 has been his year to shine. Primo has done so by racking up points in the Pro-Am class, nailing the podium in Pro-Am at Formula D: Throwdown at Evergreen Speedway, and now, after the final Pro-Am points series event, earning his Formula Drift Pro license. Only the top four drivers qualify for this shot at drift stardom. That means next year he is eligible to compete at the professional level against the likes of Daigo Saito, Rhys Millen, and Vaughn Gitten Jr.
While many drivers end up swapping their JDM engines for higher powered, less expensive American V8’s, Primo is a purist and loves the high-revving turbo power of his Toyota 2JZ motor. If you remember the original “Fast and Furious” movie, this was the legendary import motor that Paul Walker matched up against Vin Diesel’s monster Hemi. So goes the world of drift racing—import versus V8. Would Primo trade out his 2JZ for a V8? In his words, “No way.” As he puts it, this engine is part of what he is recognized for and part of his following. However, if a new sponsor came along and offered him a new Lexus that he could drop his 2JZ into… this he could abide.
Beginning next Tuesday when the new Rivals modes are released you can compete against Rob Primo in a drift event called “Primo Drifter” focused on his S14 at Indianapolis. He will be driving an S14 with a livery created by V12 Coops, whose design won the Design Rob Primo’s drift car contest. Rob will be trying out tunes from the community throughout the event.
I will be giving out unicorns to random drifters in this Community Monthly Rivals event over the next couple weeks. You can also post comments, side-contests and smack-talk in this this Primo Drifter thread. This will also be a good place to capture that Mines R32, Top Secret Supra, or other hallowed unicorn you have been searching for.
Next week Heavy Metal Affliction will feature a full interview with Primo, footage of his drift runs and an in-car video of my ride along with him on the Evergreen Speedway drift course.
Here is the full spec list for Rob Primo’s S14 drift race car:
Here are some additional pictures of the S14:
Some last minute wrenching, before practice session and my ride along.
Drift driver's meeting at Evergreen Speedway, yes, Rob Primo is a tall guy.
Follow Rob Primo on his recently launched Facebook Fan page - www.facebook.com/robprimo21 There are lots more pictures and videos here.
And check out the awesome photos constantly shared at: Instagram - @robprimo
Rob Primo and the S14 are proudly sponsored by the following:
If you have a car you would like to see featured in Heavy Metal Affliction post about it in the request for community rides thread.
If you would like to discuss SPONGE WORTHY’s car do so in the HMA thread.