It’s the Tuesday after a busy, busy Ultrace 2023. I’m sitting at Wrocław Airport waiting for my flight back to London, grinning from ear to ear as I enjoy my comedown after an amazing weekend in Poland.
I knew what I was getting myself into, but no amount of Instagram hype could properly prepare me for the madness of Ultrace. It was total sensory overload brought on through two action-packed days of live drifting paired with a sunny car show that spiralled around the massive Wrocław Stadium.
Ultrace is an event I’ve been virtually spectating for a few years. This is partly down to my Polish roots and partly down to the simple fact that the Poles, undisputedly, have the best attitude to car culture of any European nation. This is something they prove to us year in and year out through Ultrace and its surrounding events, leaving foreigners like me to sit back and spectate through our little phone screens, wishing we could be there to experience it first hand.
The attention to detail and overall styling of Polish-built cars is one thing, but their ability to run with their skills and turn them into a welcoming, inviting community is the magic dust on the whole ecosystem that surrounds Ultrace.
The first thing I think of when I look back at the weekend’s show is the pure theatrical experience of it all. I’m leaving Poland feeling inspired to do more; to build another project car; to get take more photos and to see everyone again.
Ultrace does this to you. You leave the event feeling a thousand friends richer, whom you inevitably meet along the way.
I got the impression that years of internet friendships were finally realised at Ultrace. I know it was definitely the case for me as well as everyone I spoke to, giving the event a social buzz which you’d usually experience at a family wedding or Christmas.
I’ve already written about the calm before the Ultrace 2023 storm, teeing you up for what was to come. Now, let’s buckle up and tuck into what this year’s event was all about.
For this specific article, Vlad took care of the photos. He’s also already covered Mariusz Michalski’s Pontiac Fiero GT, which took home Ultrace 2023’s top trophy.
The awards ceremony itself was a spectacle, with five judges voting live in a knock-out style battle. Prize-giving can always be hit and miss at events, as there’s a fine line between turning something that’s supposed to be fun into a bureaucratic procedure. Not here though. The MC was working the crowd and before you knew it there were thousands of people counting down to reveal the winner.
The runners up were all incredible too, with a bagged Rolls-Royce Silver Spur on custom split OEM wheels taking second spot.
My personal favourite? It has to be the one and only ‘Kebin’ built by Nightride. An incredible engineering exercise has seen the group turn a little Daihatsu Hijet van into, well… just look a it! The Frankenstein-esque creation uses an actual motorcycle as the running gear. I highly encourage you to do some digging around in the internet to see some videos of this thing on the move. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
A lot of people in the crowd were cheering for Kebin to win the main award, but the competition was tough and well armed.
One of the judges was a familiar face: Wataru Kato of Liberty Walk. Kato-san brought a couple of cars over for the event, with his own Super Silhouette-inspired R34 Skyline placing in the Top 16. Cheekily, Kato voted for himself when this one popped up to be judged for the top prize.
But, the Top 16 cars were just scratching the surface of everything on show.
Euro, JDM, American – Ultrace 2023 had over 1,400 cars on display, providing something for everyone.
One brand definitely stood out to me though, and very soon I’ll be bringing you a story spotlighting the trend. Any guesses as to what it could be? Here’s a tip – it’s close to my heart. If you’ve seen my stories before, it won’t be hard to guess.
As it was my first time at Ultrace, I’m unable to compare the 2023 event to prior ones, but I noticed an attention to detail in keeping cars clean and classy. The trends of stickers getting plastered all over windows is on its way out. Minimalism is in right now, and interestingly it’s not taking away from the builds at all. If anything, it’s making them more appealing to look at. Even when hen liveries are involved, they’re orchestrated and organised.
I can tell that thought and care went into every build here, and the Poles were keen to point out to me that most of modifications are home- and hand-made. Bolt-on parts aren’t as common and celebrated here as they are in other parts of Europe; custom fabrication is king, and it shows. A by-product of this is people’s care and attention to their builds. It’s an absolute joy to see and makes the show so much more engaging both for the spectators and those exhibiting their cars.
The thing that brought me the most joy over the whole weekend though was the drift display put on by the Next Level Drift group. Throughout the whole weekend, there was a crowd of 2,000+ people stretching above the track looking down at an event made up of 80 or so cars. But here’s the important bit: these were show-quality drift cars displaying their sport to the audience.
Drifting is king in Poland, and Polish grassroots drift cars have a huge influence on the sport across the rest of Europe.
Perhaps you’d like to see a gallery of my time with the Next Level Drift guys over the weekend? Let us know in the comments section below.
I started off writing this event story with a huge grin on my face, and I can confirm to you now that, over 1,000 words later, the smile is still there.
The whole Ultrace experience was unforgettable, and it gives me genuine pride to have a Polish surname. A unique feeling from an experience I look forward to experiencing again. See you next year, Ultrace.
Photography by Vladimir Ljadov