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The Fast and Furious

Sep 24, 2013
by Tom Iacuzio, '06

Alumnus johan Schwartz drifts his way into record books

Fans of “The Fast and the Furious” films are well aware of the concept of drifting, a driving technique where the driver intentionally oversteers, causing a loss of traction in the rear wheels while driving. Johan Schwartz, ’93, is a bit familiar with it, as well.

On May 11, Schwartz, a BMW Performance Center driving instructor, shattered the world record in drifting, completing 322.5 laps for 51.278 miles, besting the previous record of 6.95 miles and earning a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Born and raised in Denmark, Schwartz began his racing career as a child on the family farm, and in 2001 he made it his full-time career when he started Endurance Karting, an arrive-and-drive karting program, which holds events up and down the East Coast.

He has raced Sports Car Club of America, Grand Am and this year will be driving in the World Challenge support series for Indy Car. Schwartz has been a driving instructor at the BMW Performance Center since 2011.

Flagler Magazine stole a few minutes off the track with the Flagler alumnus to discuss his record-breaking drive.

Q. First off, what does a BMW Performance Center driving instructor do?

A. Well, BMW has a factory in South Carolina and right next to that is a performance center. It has a skid pad where I practiced drifting. It has off-roading.

Most of what we do regularly is train people how to drive better; from teens and car enthusiasts, all the way up to performance driving. We also will do special events, kind of show off our skills and give VIP ride-alongs. Things like that.

Q. How does someone get into this as a career?

A. Ever since I was a kid I’ve been around racing.

I’ll be honest: One of the reasons I picked Flagler College was to be close to Daytona. I started a business while I was at Flagler that provided race teams with an onboard stopwatch. It helped to add more uniformity to qualifying times because it was this system that was triggered by an infrared beam instead of a human with a stopwatch. So basically, school would get out, I’d head out to Daytona and install systems. I remember sitting in class and listening to kids talk about what they did over break and here I am saying, “Oh, I installed a system for Dale Earnhardt.”

I continued racing after I graduated all over the country. One of the people I met in my travels was the lead instructor of the BMW center. He invited me to come and do some training and I’ve been working there now for three years.

Q. What is Endurance Karting?

A. It’s an arrive-and-drive karting business. We basically have everything you need: the karts, helmets, suits, everything. All you have to do is show up. We do all kinds of events. Last year, we did an event for Microsoft where we set up a huge track inside the Georgia Dome.

Q. So where did the idea to break the drift record come from?

A. I’m always looking for challenges. Any time I get the chance when I’m working, I will head out on the tracks and practice my own skills. If it’s something that can be done on four wheels and someone else can do it, I want to be able to do it, too.

We were training some people on the skid pad, which is a pad that we wet and practice dealing with skids on. There was a student that asked me how many laps I could do and honestly I wasn’t sure. I wanted to be able to quantify it. I wound up looking up the record for drifting and thought, “OK, this is perfect.”

Q. When you saw that the record was 6.95 miles, how certain were you that you could break it?

A. Infinitely. There was no question in my mind. I was doing 40 laps in practice, which was almost the record as it was. I originally said I wanted to do 100 miles, but my crew and I decided we would do 40 miles. But then the day of, when I hit 40, I asked if I could go another 10 and that’s how we got to where we did.

Q. When many people drive long stretches, their mind begins to wander. When you’re 25 miles into a 50-mile drift, do you have the same problems?

A. It’s definitely not a cruise-control situation. I’m constantly having to move my hands and constantly adjusting the amount of power applied. While I was training, I was trying to take my concentration away from the drift. I would have my phone and I would call people and do stuff like that while I was practicing. I realized I could take my eyes off the road for about a second and half. I wanted to see if I could drift by feel, and there was really no safe way to do that.

Q. So what’s next?
A. Since the record, I’ve been so busy, honestly I’m not sure. But I’ll tell you that I’ve been looking into the record for the longest jump.

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