Travis Reeder took a big leap forward in many ways this past season of drift car racing.
The 26-year-old Vancouver resident, a graduate of Columbia River High School, went from Pro 2 to Pro class and was awarded rookie of the year honors last month.
Drifting is described as a high-skill, high-powered motor sport with an emphasis on car control. In the Formula Drift series, drivers compete in knockout heats on a closed course, sliding sideways in trials judged on speed and style.
Reeder drove his Nissan S13 drift chassis for the season that ran from April through October.
But in what was really the leap forward, Reeder also competed in the Chevy Camaro EL1 built by Napoleon Motorsports of Houston.
EL — as in electric.
Yes, an electric race car.
“I was pretty pumped on the idea,” Reeder said about driving an electric car in competition. “It was a ground-breaker and new and I liked the idea of changing the norm.”
Reeder received the opportunity after having won the Pro 2 series a year ago and was looking to take the step up. He said Napoleon Motorsports was building a new program and found him.
“It is revolutionary,” he said. “Not many get to drive something as different as that.”
The Camaro EL1 really isn’t like any other car.
For starters, it doesn’t make any typical racing engine noise. As Reeder points out, the advantages are “a ton of throttle and torque, minimum maintenance, never change a spark plug, never fill with fuel, no clutch to replace, just charge the battery and go.”
The downside was Reeder wasn’t allowed to compete in the season’s first race at Long Beach, Calif., due to local safety concerns.
“It’s a first-of-its-kind,” Reeder said. “I’m Christopher Columbusing it a bit. You don’t really know how it will perform all of the time.”
Like any new technology, the car had its problems.
Reeder said that if he was able to “complete two laps in a row without breaking” down in the EL1 it was considered a victory.
However, he said, the problems were found quickly and a “2.0” version is being prepared for 2020.
“I never won a battle in it. All the wins were in the S13,” Reeder said.
For those wanting to get an up-close look at Reeder racing in the EL1, the drift tour has a stop in July at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe.