MP attempts wreck-less driving
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    Exclamation MP attempts wreck-less driving

    Don’t let this man’s duty persona fool you.

    He is a speed demon.

    During the workweek, you can find Cpl. Greg Fitts, training noncommissioned officer for the Provost Marshal’s Office here, sitting at a desk ensuring the air station’s military police are well versed in law and letter of the regulations that must be enforced here.

    This newly-wed, father-to be makes sure his Marines know what they’re talking about when it comes to law enforcement.

    If his Marines witness you driving faster than the posted speed limit, or driving in an unsafe manner, they will no doubt be on you in a heartbeat to ensure you are held accountable.

    But in a remote area outside of Kuga, Japan, you can find Fitts tearing across pavement at high speeds, turning hard to correct his vehicle’s momentum moments before nearly smashing sideways into a tire wall.

    Thank heavens it is on a racetrack.

    This one is known as Barefoot Heaven Circuit.

    It is a world much different from Fitts’ normal everyday duties.

    This ... is a world of eardrum bursting screeches, foul smell and adrenaline-rocked controlled chaos.

    If you’ve got a few thousand dollars, a healthy knowledge of engine mechanics and an overwhelming urge to make yourself very dizzy, you could try your hand at drift racing too.

    Drift racing is a motor sport in which the driver deliberately over steers while maintaining control of the vehicle. It originated in Japan over 30 years ago and has only recently become popular in the U.S. Training for a race involves different types of games racers play to hone their skills, such as tag, where drivers try to stay as close to the vehicle in front of them as they can.

    That’s how Cpl. Fitts has been spending much of his liberty for almost two years. Not as often as he would like though.

    “It’s something you can’t do every weekend,” says Fitts. “We haven’t been out here an hour yet and I’ve already spent $250,” he said.

    Fitts used to drag race in the U.S.

    He said drift racing is completely different.

    “There is a lot more involved in this type of racing,” said Fitts. “You have to shift a lot more, and the vocabulary is a lot different too.”

    Most people would probably have a hard time understanding Fitts if they heard him talk about drifting.

    The world of drifting has its own language and lingo that took him a long time to learn.

    One thing Cpl. Fitts has as a direct result of his racing — fans. On the side of the track are at least a dozen other Marines cheering their friend on.

    Sometimes his white knuckled spectators can be caught gaspingin fear as Fitts appears to right his vehicle amidst a cloud of dust in the last instant before nearly flying off the track.

    Some of them were racers before coming to Japan.

    “I didn’t used to be much of a track person as a civilian,” said Pfc. Sammy Anderson, a military policeman with PMO.

    “I used to do my racing on the streets,” said Anderson, who confessed his days of illegal races are over.

    “You get caught doing this stuff outside of here (a track) and you are going to jail. You’re losing your license, and where I’m from, they’ll probably take your car,” he said.

    For the curious who can front the dough, the skills required for the potential drift racer are not exactly taught, they are acquired from time spent getting dizzy.

    Wannabe drifters must spend most of their time behind the wheel of their highly modified vehicle going around in circles repeatedly. There is a cone new drivers must drift around without running it over.

    “You have to successfully negotiate the cone so many times before they’ll let you take the track,” Fitts said. “There really isn’t any teaching involved. You have to learn how to do it yourself because each car is different.”

    The barefoot track has many opportunities for a driver to get the hang of drift racing.

    “This track is great for beginners,” said Fitts. “They have the burnout circle here so you can learn how your car handles.” said Fitts.

    The language barrier isn’t very conducive to a great learning environment. Most of the skilled Japanese drift racers don’t speak much English, and most of the Americans don’t speak much Japanese. This doesn’t affect the racers’ camaraderie though.

    “The Japanese love us being out here. We are all a tight community,” said Fitts. “We may not understand each other’s words but when it comes to this we understand each other perfectly.”

    Though there aren’t very many long conversations between the Japanese and Americans, their teamwork is easily seen anytime someone needs help.

    “One of the nice things out here is if anything happens on the track, everyone stops what they’re doing and helps you,” said Fitts. “One time I broke a radiator hose and everyone scrambled to get me the parts I needed to get back in the race,” he said.

    Anytime Greg Fitts is out here, Mrs. Fitts isn’t far away.

    His wife Rebekah is 6-months pregnant and you can find her helping her husband change tires, turning a wrench, or preparing the car to hit the track.

    It is partly because of this hobby their relationship began. “She started coming out here and we both developed a love for this and kind of bonded from it,” said Fitts.

    If you compare Greg Fitts to his local national peers, there are several differences that you will find between him and his competition.

    Many of the Japanese racers have little to no safety equipment.

    Fitts not only has a roll cage built into his vehicle but also, wears a fireproof flight suit and a fully enclosed helmet. For him, safety is a huge priority.

    “Out here at the track there really is no regulation, but I wear the fire suit, the shoes, the helmet. I did my research before I started this,” Fitts said.

    “There’s no Marine Corps order for it but we did make an arrangement with the safety office,” said Fitts.

    Spending any time on the track with him makes one realize this man doesn’t take safety seriously because he is told to; he does it because he knows from experience.

    “I have wrecked a couple of times out here and it scared the crap out of me, so even if we didn’t have an arrangement I would still wear it,” said Fitts.

    So one of the biggest questionswith the expense, danger, smoke and noise is, why do it?

    “I love it,” Fitts said. “It’s like being in a roller coaster you can control.”

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