We profiled the Seoul-born, self-made professional drift racer Joon Maeng in our Fall 2010 issue, in which we found intriguing his relative lack of concern for crashing into walls. Now we bring you an online exclusive Q&A with the quirky driver.
Audrey Magazine: Besides your crash, what was your worst experience in a car?
Joon Maeng: Last year in Vegas [at a drift meet] I had a tuna sub for lunch and I started vomiting.
AM: In the car?
JM: No, in the back near the restroom. When it was time to drive I put a doggie bag in the pocket of my racing suit. But when I started driving I felt better. Driving for me is comfort. Even though you’re in a suit and it’s hot, and you’re drenched in sweat, all that goes away when you’re in the car. It’s like “ahhhhh, I love every drop of sweat that my body is producing right now.”
AM: Ew. So categorize this feeling of happiness for me. Is it like how you feel after a really good meal?
JM: Ten times better. I’d rather be [driving] than doing anything else.
JM: I always had a dream to be a pro driver. Not specifically drifting, but just to be a pro driver, since I was a little boy growing up in Korea. My family wasn’t well off. All I had was toy cars and my bike, that’s all. When it snowed I used to drift around my bicycle. Then I would not be able to sleep because I would be so excited to ride my bike around in the snow the next day.
JM: I came to the States when I was 9. I’m 28 now. I actually started driving when I was 11 or 12, secretly [laughs].
AM: How did you manage that? Did you ever get caught?
JM: I snuck out [my parents'] car late at night. I didn’t get caught until way later. I got into big trouble for that.
AM: What did your parents do to you?
JM: Not much, they trust me and they know I’m responsible. They just gave me a lecture and said, “Hey, we know you’re a good driver and whatnot, but just wait until you get your license.”
AM: Did your mother have such a lenient response when you told her you wanted to be a professional drifter?
JM: She was like, “Are you crazy?” Korean parents are very against that stuff. Anything to do with racing and working on cars, they don’t want to see that because they see it as suffering. Whenever she saw me working on the car in the garage, working until 5 in the morning, she would be like, “Why are you working on this piece of junk car?” I got frustrated because she’d say things like that. I was already down as it is, even with the three jobs I had I was in debt. I didn’t know how long I’d go.
Eventually she understood, she saw my frustration and how much I wanted it. She really changed and became more supportive. Instead of complaining she would come out say “Oh, here’s some fruit. Eat at least.”