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ATJ Drift: Northland’s finest Silvia duo

22 October 2015


The Ed sits down with Tom and Joe Marshall to find out who exactly makes up ATJ Drift, and how they get it done from their far-north base

There is no denying that one of the most underrated teams doing big things in the Demon Energy D1NZ National Drifting championship is made up of far-north brothers Tom and Joe Marshall, of ATJ Drift. Running a pair of RB-powered Silvias, these two UK natives have basically come from nowhere, and risen up the ranks at a great rate of knots, and along the way they’ve taken a few big scalps. But we really didn’t know much about them, so we figured it was time to head to Kerikeri to find out who the hell ATJ Drift are.

NZ Performance Car: Tell us a little about your background

Tom Marshall: We moved over about seven years ago with our family, and started this business [ATJ]. I was 16 and Joe was 14.

From the UK?

Tom: Yeah

How did you get involved in motorsport?

Tom: We were always involved with racing motocross back home, but it’s a bit quiet up here for the motocross scene.

Joe Marshall: Yeah, there are only two tracks up here.

Tom: It just wasn’t enough to compete — back home we competed almost each weekend.

Joe: We brought our bikes over as they were quite well set-up, but you kinda need to be in Auckland or Taupo to compete.

So the cars, how did they come about?

Tom: I lost my licence twice on the road for skids, so then I decided to get a track car. I took that to a drift day, Andrew Redward took me for a drive in his car, and I was hooked straight away.

Joe: We had done a few track days in front-wheel drive cars at venues like Pukekohe. I had a road car, did one track day and enjoyed it, so I sold my car and purchased the 180 as a dedicated track car.

How long ago are we talking?

Joe: About two or three years ago.

Tom: It was about eight months before we did D1, but we were just messing around with shit cars, really.

When did you decide to step into Pro-Am?

Joe: We had completed about six or seven track days and sort of got a handle on things, so we thought we would give it a crack. [In] our first event Tom qualified first and I qualified in the top 16, and then I came through to third. Tom was knocked out in the top 16.

You obviously enjoyed the competition side of things then?

Tom: Yeah, yeah it was fun, we just got a little bored with the track days. I had never even watched a full D1 event before we started, so we turned up and we didn’t even know what to do. We didn’t know you scrub your tyres or anything. We had never really fully followed it or had been wanting to do it for ages, we just sort of came into it.

Joe: We did a practice day and asked Zak Pole if he would do a training day for us, and that was the only time we had used new tyres before D1, every other day was just trying to do it on the cheap.

Was Zak giving you a hand in those early days?

Tom: He sort of gave us one training session, and told us the D1 line and how to enter, which helped heaps. We should have probably got a bit more help, or at least gone to an event and seen how it all worked. We were running around like headless chickens. When I went up for my first battle I didn’t know what to do, it was real awkward. But we picked it up.

That Pro-Am season must have been quite a learning curve for you guys. Did you manage to do any track days in-between the rounds?

Joe: We did one or two. That one at Hamptons where you [Tom] managed to smash the Laurel.

Tom: Because of the money we were committed to just doing the full season, mainly because you have to travel. Especially because of the Christchurch round. We missed that out this year, but last year we did it.

You only stayed in Pro-Am for a single season; was there a reason for only doing the one before making the step up?

Tom: Well Brendon [D1NZ CEO] said the top three moved up, and I got third that season so I moved up, and Joe just asked and was given the OK, as long as we presented ourselves a little better and made our cars more Pro-spec–looking. So yeah — no matte black was pretty much what he was hinting at, I reckon.

Joe: We wanted more track time because of the cost and the travel, so having that full day of practice on the Saturday, we didn’t mind if we were near the back of the field. It was more about the seat time, because in Pro-Am you only have minimal seat time, and you’re not going to get much better if you’re only doing 10 minutes of driving each round.

Tom: And we never didn’t qualify. I won one event and you [Joe] came third a couple of times, so for a first season we were up there already.

How did you find the step going from Pro-Am to Pro?

Tom: You just have to commit a lot more.

Joe: It’s a lot faster.

Tom: But you have more grip with the bigger tyres so you can go faster, you know, and not slide off the track. We upped the power of our cars, I did straight away, then Joe did after two events.

Joe: I built a new motor for more power and torque, it had an RB25 before — that was still good power (about 380kW), but it just wasn’t torquey enough against the V8s.

Are you enjoying the judged side of the sport, as there have been calls involving you guys this season that people are calling controversial, with you guys on the worse-off side of that?

Tom: I think the judging needs looking at so there is more … you know, it should be whoever wins, wins, not because his car looks better or whatever. It just seems a little like that, you know. I have never been a judge and never been in that position, so I don’t know what they see.

How hard is it coming off a battle, and there are people saying you should have won (whether those people are right or not).

Tom: Sometimes you get the odd person come up to you, but the last time it was all over Facebook, everyone came up to me and said the crowd was booing, etc. Obviously that is not a good look for D1. Like some drivers said to me, you know you won that. So you just leave it at that.

So as a driver how do you come back from that?

Joe: Make sure you beat him next time.

Tom: Yeah, you definitely make sure you beat him next time. This season I will build a new engine so I have more power, so you know, more of a chance.

Have you been running on semi-slicks or street tyres this season?

Joe: Just a street tyre.

Tom: We ran 265 ATRs at the beginning, and now we run a 245 Evergreen and they have more grip, but next season we are running on semis. Well, if the D1 rules don’t change.

If they do change and they go to a split class, with Pros running a semi and another class on street tyres, will you guys go to the Pro class?

Tom: Yeah, the best class we can be in is where we will be. It’s the best coverage for our sponsors, and we have now built the cars. All Joe needs is the gearbox, and all I need is a gruntier motor, both of which will happen for this season, then our cars are built for semis.

In terms of setting the cars up, have you guys got a team around you that knows that stuff, or have you just learned as you go?

Joe: We have our pit crew to help us out, but we mainly do it ourselves.

So it’s all just been through learning?

Tom: Yeah, we work on the car here [at ATJ], and if there is anything we are stuck on we will ring someone like Charlie or Keto. We try and do everything ourselves on the cheap, really. We can do everything apart from building the engines.

So the mechanical side of your skill set, was it just picked up along the way?

Joe: None of us are qualified mechanics or anything, we just sort of learned from experience.

Tom: Yeah that’s right, just having it there in front of you and giving it a go. Like if someone gave me a V8 to build, I’d give it a go, it would just take longer, only because we have been working with RBs for years. Even before we were drifting we had them on the road, maybe a little rougher back then, but still. And now that we have built so many engines for us and mates, bolt-ons and conversions, etc., it’s just growing from there.

Tom, the new car for this season is the ex Sam Smith / Shane Poulton S15, run us through what you plan to do to that one?

Tom: So it’s going to be an RB30 with a PPG dogbox, and Holset turbo. I want to make around 450kW. It’s got big Wilwood brakes, all the good bits. We will probably also go with TDP loco kits on both cars.

So what do the cars run at the moment?

Joe: 555 knuckles, C’s garage

Tom: Which is good, but that TDP should add a bit more.

So you will still be with the RB and won’t join the V8 camp?

Tom: Nah. I was going to go V8 but changed my mind, and will stick with RB.

Is that because you know it?

Tom: Yeah, because I know it, and to build a decent V8 you still have to spend a lot of money. I was going to keep my S13 and V8 that, but when the S15 came up it already had an RB30 in it. All I need to do is change a few things and spend a bit on the bottom end to make decent power, so I will stick with that.

Will both cars be set up basically the same?

Tom: Yip, the S15 suspension is a little different, but they will have the same steering, similar power, etc.

Joe: Say someone breaks their car, we can just jump in the other one and still get points on the board. When I used the S13 in Pro-Am at Mt Smart I was given one test lap, and I was pretty comfortable straight away. It’s pretty much the same car. It’s not like jumping into a Skyline or anything.

How competitive are you two against each other?

Tom: We are not really, it’s more of a team thing.

Joe: As long as one of us does alright.

How many times have you battled?

Joe: We did Pro-Am Tauranga, it’s the only time in the series.

Is it a different mindset, or is it just like facing any other competitor?

Tom: We sort of know how each other drives, well, we used to know.

Joe: We used to drive together a lot.

Tom: But not so much these days, we do every now and then, but nothing too extreme.

Joe: We definitely don’t want to take both cars out at once.

What would happen if it came down to a final that had championship implications, would you have some sort of team orders?

Tom: Well not really, but if, say, Joe was going to win and I was coming 10th or something, then that might be a bit different. But really you just do what you can.

So a new look for the 2015–’16 season?

Joe: Yip, we are doing all-new graphics. We have Bling Company coming on board with naming rights. So we are not sure on the colour scheme as yet. But we will be going away from the black and orange, because those are the ATJ colours.

1990 Nissan Silvia 180SX


  • Engine: RB30DET, six cylinder, 3000cc
  • Block: Forged pistons, H-beam rods, Tomei head gasket, HKS oil pump
  • Head: RB26DET head, port and polish, Tomei cams, HKS cam gears
  • Intake: RB26DET manifold, four-inch intake pipe
  • Exhaust: Three-inch straight through
  • Turbo: Holset HRC40, Sinco manifold
  • Wastegate: TiAL 60mm
  • Fuel: Bosch 044, six ID1000 injectors, Aeroflow fuel rail
  • Ignition: Spitfire coils
  • ECU: Link G4+ Xtreme
  • Cooling: Fenix radiator, 10-row Fenix oil cooler
  • Extra: Custom baffled catch can


  • Gearbox: RB25DET
  • Clutch: Auto Clutch six-puck
  • Flywheel: Factory
  • Diff: R200 (4.1 ratio)


  • Struts: BC Gold coilovers
  • Brakes: (F)R33 GTS25T (R) Factory
  • Other: 555 knuckles


  • Wheels: 18×10.5 Advanti
  • Tyres: 265/40R18 Evergreen


  • Paint: Gloss black, graphics by Rej Graphics
  • Enhancements: Luxury Sports Works 9 kit, modified front bumper by Keri Composites


  • Seats: (F) NZKW bucket seats
  • Steering wheel: OMP
  • Instrumentation: Tablet
  • Power: 474kW (636hp) at the rear wheels

Driver profile

  • Driver/owner: Joe Marshall
  • Age: 22
  • Location: Kerikeri
  • Occupation: Parts manager
  • Build time: Ongoing
  • Length of ownership: Two years

1991 Nissan Silvia S13


  • Engine: Nissan RB30DET, six cylinder, 3000cc
  • Block: CP pistons, Eagle rods, Tomei head gaskets,
  • Head: RB25DET head
  • Intake: Front-facing plenum, 80mm throttle body, four-inch intake pipe
  • Exhaust: Three-inch straight through
  • Turbo: Holset HX35, Sinco manifold
  • Wastegate: 44m TiAL
  • BOV: Blitz
  • Fuel: Two Bosch 044, Tomei fuel reg, 875cc injectors, billet fuel rail
  • Ignition: Spitfire coils
  • ECU: Link G4
  • Cooling: Fenix radiator, Fenix 10-row oil cooler
  • Extra: Three-litre catch can


  • Gearbox: RB25DET, five-speed, Speedtek 1-3 gearset
  • Clutch: Auto Clutch
  • Flywheel: Factory
  • Diff: R32 GT-R


  • Struts: Tein Super Drift coilovers
  • Brakes: (F) GT-R calipers and rotors (R) GT-R calipers and rotors
  • Other: 555 knuckles


  • Wheels: 18×10.5 Advanti
  • Tyres: 265/40R18 Evergreen


  • Paint: Gloss black, graphics by Rej graphics
  • Enhancements: Luxury Sports 75mm BN Sports blister kit


  • Seats: (F) Racepro
  • Steering wheel: OMP
  • Instrumentation: None
  • Power: 393kW (527hp) at the rear wheels

Driver profile

  • Driver/owner: Tom Marshall
  • Age: 24
  • Location: Kerikeri
  • Occupation: ATJ
  • Build time: Ongoing
  • Length of ownership: Two years
  • Thanks: ATJ Autoparts, Fenix Radiators, Motorcycle Lab, Online Logistics, The Bling Company, YHI NZ (Achilles), Allday Street Wear, Rej Graphics, Henderson Automotive

This article was originally published in NZ Performance Car Issue No. 224. You can pick up a print copy or a digital copy of the magazine below: