The name James Dean holds an iconic place in automotive history, as the late actor’s passion for auto racing holds a permanent place in his legacy.
Likewise, the name James Deane already holds an iconic place in drifting history, as the Irish driver’s dominance over the past decade has given him a permanent place in the sport’s legacy.
They may not be related—hell, they don’t even spell their names the same way—but Deane the professional racing driver may be just as important to the legacy of drifting across the globe as Dean the actor is to both car and counter culture. The Worthouse Drift Team driver stormed onto the FD scene last year in his Nissan Silvia S15, having already dominated on his home continent, and scored a championship in his first full season. Now, with three races to go in his second, he’s got an 85-point lead on Fredric Aasbo to try and become the first driver to win back-to-back titles since Tanner Foust in 2007 and 2008.
Deane’s father, uncle, and brother made their names racing rally cars, but James found his calling in a different kind of sideways driving. He started his professional career at the age of 16, and earned numerous titles in his teenage years and early 20s, including five European Drift Championships—three of which came back-to-back from 2014 through 2016.
Having already taken on a limited 2010 FD program that saw him make it to two quarterfinals in three attempts, Deane needed a new challenge for 2017. In response, he came stateside with a car mostly built in his family’s shop in Ireland.
The result? An immediate victory in the Long Beach season opener.
That wasn’t the end of it, though. In eight events, Deane took six podiums, including four victories. The latter two, at Texas Motor Speedway and Evergreen Speedway, both came after Deane qualified atop the elimination bracket. He won 29 of his 32 matches in the season, and ran away with the championship by 113 points over Aasbo.
2018 didn’t start out quite the same way, as mechanical troubles robbed the fans of a head-to-head matchup with Forrest Wang in another S15 in Long Beach. But he got back onto the podium in Orlando, finished sixth in Atlanta, and finally broke through to become the fourth different winner in four races in New Jersey. After successfully defending his victory at Evergreen, he comes into this weekend’s inaugural event at Gateway Motorsports Park aiming for his seventh win in the past 14 rounds.
Whether or not Deane pulls that feat off, there’s no way to discredit his exceptional performance across the globe for the past decade. And since it doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere else anytime soon, his FD competitors might see themselves needing to settle for second a bit more often—just like their European counterparts did for the better part of Deane’s career.