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South Africa’s best on track – Otto Graven

21 June 2010 15 Comments

Last week we had the privilege of interviewing South African Drift Champion, Otto Graven in ‘South Africa’s best on track’. This is how the interview went down…

So Otto, we realise that you’re an extremely busy guy and we’ll try not steal too much of your time.

AM: Being in the Mining industry you must have seen some enormous rocks.
How big is the biggest rock you have ever held?

Otto:
235ct

AM: What ever happened to your R33 Skyline that you could get extremely
“sideways” with around the tracks?

Otto: I still have the R33; it’s parked at the Racetrack.

AM: What made you change from a car you are already well acquainted with
to a car that seems to be a little bit newer in the Monster Mob
stable?

Otto: The 350z was a new challenge for me, in Japan, it’s rumoured to be the most difficult car to drift.  I wanted to prove them wrong, and showcase the engineering skills our mechanical Team has.  Our Chief mechanic Wayne “Speedy” Webb and his team are stamping out these theories one by one and our Drift Team is really lucky to have them onboard here at Monstermob Raceway.  Equally, I enjoyed the challenge of a new car; it was a good decision, the car has a lot of fans.

AM: On that Note, what other “toys” do you have at your disposal?

Otto: A lot, I have an intense passion for cars & bikes, the classics and the newer models alike.
2 x 350z, 3 x R33 Skylines 1 x Toyota Supra 1 x Nissan 200sx, 1 x Ford Mustang 2008 1 BMW M3 the list goes on…

AM: What’s it like being known as SA’s most accomplished drifter and is it
as exciting as it sounds?

Otto: It’s hard work, I have been drifting for 4 years now, myself and couple of Gauteng based guys started drifting at Wesbank Raceway shortly before it closed down.  The amount of dedication has been immense, I have spent a better part of two years trying to develop the sport and promote it, the last two have been easier as a lot of tracks and companies have gotten involved.  You never get tired of the competition, exciting doesn’t begin to describe the rush of this sport.  The Fans also make it that much better, they have been great and I wanna thank them for their loyalty and support!

AM: We saw in one of the Speed ‘N Sound issues that you took part in a
drifting competition in Japan. How does that compare to what we
have locally?

Otto: You can’t compare it!  It’s like 150 Otto Graven’s battling it out. LOL
Look South Africa has a long way to go to get close to the level of drifting that you see in Japan, and it will take some time, but SA has some talent.

AM: What  does the average day of Otto Graven, go down? (We can’t picture
you sitting behind a desk all day long.)

Otto:I usually start at the Customs Shop and check up on the guys and what they are working on, I like to make sure that everything is up to scratch.  I might drive out to one of our Mines and oversee production, usually I can manage things on the phone but sometimes you need to go out and have a look around.  Mostly I am at the Monstermob Raceway, where we are currently extending our drift circuit.  I might have some drift students lined up for lessons on the day as I Head up the Drift School.  When the day winds down, I test all of our drift cars and discuss potential mod’s and upgrades with Speedy.  We have a lot of meetings, so I do sit behind a desk most day’s in-between my rounds.

AM: For all those aspiring drifters out there, what would you say the key
factors are to becoming a successful drifter?

Otto: Immense passion, without it you wouldn’t last long in this sport.  Most new guys on the drift scene, walk in there and think they know what it takes to become a drifter, after I obtained my D1 STREET LEGAL License in Japan and competed against the world’s best, let’s just say SA has not scratched the surface yet.

AM: Who is your drifting role model and what have you learned from him/her?

Otto: Nobushige Kumakubo the current owner of Japan’s top Drift Team (Team Orange) and owner of the Ebisu circuit in Japan.  I was trained personally by Kumakubo over a two week period at his home track.  Kumakubo is one of the world’s best drifters, a humble man with hectic skill & passion.  He has taught me a lot, I am grateful for the opportunity and being able to grow as a drifter.

AM: So Otto, you have basically built up Monster Mob from a vision you’ve
had. Has that vision been met yet since you started up?

Otto: Monstermob started back in 1998, at the time we were more focused on motorbikes.  The drift interest started as I said 4 years ago.  The last two years have been the best as far as the racetrack is concerned; we have done some major extensions and building in that time.

AM: How did you arrive at the name Monster Mob for a company that repairs cars?

Otto: Monstermob Raceway came before the Panel Shop, the name was meant for the racetrack, we have just expended over the years and the name currently has triple status. Monstermob Raceway, Monstermob Drift Team & Monstermob Panel Shop.  It was a collective process, everyone contributed to the name, although I might have referred to my team as the mob back in those days.

AM: Apart from that, how has business grown over the last 14months and do
you have any special projects that you want to tell us about?

Otto:
In the last 14 months, it’s grown 4 times over.  Yes, we are busy extending our Drift Track by 3km’s, it will be similar to the Ebisu Circuit affectionately known as “Driftland” and we are busy working on the second 350z…

AM: For those of you that aren’t aware, Monster Mob has their own drift
team. The team comprises of Otto Graven (of course), his brother Ronnie Graven and two other guys, Mark Weyers & Zunaid Mobara.
We heard that you have a drifting training program going at the
moment. Who are these mysterious drifters and how did you go about
choosing these four “drift nuts” for the training program?

Otto:
We went through a grueling community based search to find our drivers, the selection wasn’t based on passion alone, and we needed to see their potential at developing the skill needed through our training to drift on a competitive level.  We succeeded, the guys are doing really well, and are already competing in events around SA after only 2 months in training.

Our Drift course costs R10, 000 for a 3 day session, you will use our cars, and we provide tyres and fuel.  Alternatively you can opt to purchase a Drift car from us, this deal entitles you to one year’s free drift training, you automatically become part of the Monstermob Drift Team & travel with us to various events.

AM: We all have to eat once in a while, what is your favourite meal?
(Besides the good old, “chop en dop” of course.)

Otto:
Not fussy about food, when you’re hungry who cares. (Laughs)

AM: What kind of interview would this be without asking the run of the
mill question:
If you could have any super power in the universe, what would it be and why?

Otto:
I would like to be able to go back in time and then come back to the present.
Most of us wish we could go back in time and do things differently.

AM: Since we are in the midst of the FIFA World Cup, what team would you
support other than Bafana Bafana? Do you have any predictions as to
which team will take the title?

Otto:
Brazil seems to be popular, not much of a soccer fan.

AM:
What track do you enjoy the most and do you prefer to drift clockwise
or counter-clockwise around this track?

Otto:
Kyalami Racetrack, the mine shaft section.  I don’t have a preferred direction.

AM: Are you ever allowed to drift with a passenger?
If so have you had any wild experiences with people getting nauseous or screaming insanity?

Otto:
The rules & regulations are strict with this kind of thing, especially on event days, but yes I have taken many people with me.  No screams yet, but stunned silences which usually means I have to open the door for them as they can’t grab the door handle.

AM: One last question for the road (or should I say, track). If our
readers want to come out and catch you sideways where and when could
we find you?

Otto:
I am based in Kimberley; we have drift practice every Wednesday night, and have an event coming up on the 3 July in Johannesburg.  The next event in Kimberley at the Monstermob Raceway will be at the end of August, beginning of September.  Best check our website for updates, as we do travel around SA a lot with the various series’ at the moment.

AM: Otto, we really appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to
have a bit of a chat with us.

Otto:
It’s a pleasure.

Thanks so much and we’ll hopefully be seeing you around the track in the near future.

Auto Modified


15 Comments »

  • Henery Schaffer said:

    Hello. I was reading someone elses blog and saw you on their blogroll.
    very nice website

    [Reply]

  • Kreg said:

    Nicely done Blair. Very good first interview man, looking forward to the rest…

    PS: 235ct is one helluva MASSSIVE rock!

    [Reply]

  • Angelo said:

    should’ve asked how much one of the drift cars cost that one can buy!
    Nice interview AUTOMODIFIED…

    [Reply]

  • Monstermob said:

    We wanted to take this opportunity to congradulate you on the success of Automodified. We look forward to meeting you & the team at many more events in the future.

    [Reply]

  • Blair (author) said:

    Wow the interview turned out amazing, Special thanks to Otto and his trusty Helping hand Bianca, Thanks for giving AutoModified the opportunity to do the interview.

    @Kreg thanks for the support cuzzi, and yea bro that sounds like one hell of a bad ass rock!

    @Angelo hehe are you in the market to buy a drift car yet, Ask the question and im sure ill persuide somebody from the MonsterMob Team to answer that for you.

    @Monstermob No problem, I had a great time writing out the interview and yes we hope to see you at the next event down here.. Dont worry you will be seeing us very soon im sure! Thanks for the kind words :)

    [Reply]

  • jomacher said:

    What an awsome interview. Otto seems like an awsome guy. I’m gonna check out the site now. Hope I can catch them at the Rock raceway sometime.

    [Reply]

  • zunaid said:

    Contact me if you need further info on drift car prices and drift school info on zunaid@monstermob.co.za

    [Reply]

    Blair Reply:

    Hey Zunaid welcome to the party :)

    [Reply]

  • Garret said:

    this is one of the best interviews I have read in a while, who’s next on the agenda?

    [Reply]

  • Blair (author) said:

    Thanks Garret, we definitely enjoyed compiling the interview for Otto.. We cant wait till MonsterMob comes down to the cape and smokes up our kilarney play ground
    :D

    [Reply]

  • mpho matekane said:

    thumbs up MNR GRAVEN AYOBA U ROCK….

    [Reply]

  • Angelique said:

    Monstermob team is awesome! I Was one of the models, modelling along side their cars and they are amazing! I was also fortunate to be a passenger while Otto drifted, it was scary feeling but freaken amazing!! He is really skilful, i was scared for my life but at the same time was a ball! What a great weekend at their place!

    [Reply]

    Blair Reply:

    Thats so cool, which car was it.. the 350Z or one of the R33 Skylines?
    Must have been amazing drifting with Otto, seems like he has a lot of skill yes! :D
    Glad to see not only men enjoy going sideways though high speed corners..

    [Reply]

    Angelique Reply:

    Actually not sure :) But it was such an adrenaline rush hey. Great interview xx

    [Reply]

    Blair Reply:

    Ahh, thanks man.. Glad you enjoyed it! :D

    [Reply]

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