Sliding sideways at full steering lock.
A thunder cloud of smoke streaming off the rear tires.
The howl of a straight-pipe monster screaming under the hood.
RPMs held at the limiter like a Doberman snapping at the end of his chain.
Such an aggressive sport, and yet it requires finesse. Fine-tuned control. Precision coordination.
Motorsports engineering and technology meets the ultimate in adrenaline-filled beauty.
We’re talking about drifting. If you’ve never seen the sport, look it up. You will find things done with cars that don’t seem possible.
In this series, we’ll be talking with Rob Parsons A.K.A. the “Chairslayer.” To make a long story short, Rob was injured five years ago in a dirt bike accident which left him without the use of his legs. For someone with Rob’s sense of adventure, this could have been a devastating loss; however, his sense of adventure seems to be matched with a capacity for perseverance. He wasted no time, and in the past few years Rob has hand-built a pro-quality drift car from the ground up, all from the seat of his wheelchair. He used SOLIDWORKS to pioneer a hand drive system which he claims allows him to drift even better than before the accident. If that wasn’t incredible enough, Rob is using his vehicle as an adaptive clinic to allow others in similar positions a chance to do something they never thought possible.
“When I was sitting in the hospital busted up, I came to terms with the quick realization I wasn’t going to walk again. I really wanted to get back into some type of sport where I could maybe hurt myself – those seem to be the sports I like best! I raced cars before my accident, and I said to myself, ‘I’m going to build the car.’ I started looking for ideas for hand controls and there was nothing available that would fit my needs. I literally came up with a plan and an idea and a concept of how I was going to make this car perform and do what I wanted it to do sitting in a hospital bed.”
“Drifting is an action packed sport where two drivers are pitted against each other and they focus on flying around the track as fast as they can. It’s a sport scored by judges to find the winner. It’s exhilarating for people who are watching, and even more so for the people driving. It takes a lot of high level of control, quick thinking, and quick decision making to change direction and put the car where you want it when you’re sliding around at 60-100mph. Being the driver and the mechanic of the car, I’m able to get in-depth working with my hands – there’s so much technology and engineering that go into a car to make it do what it has to do to perform a specific function and be good on the track. I picked drifting to work with my hands, the exhilaration, and the fast pace of it.”
Was there ever a moment or a day where you thought that this just wasn’t going to happen?
“Every day. Every week. I don’t understand how I pulled the motivation to keep pushing forward. Every week there were days where I would think, ‘This isn’t going to work. This is stupid. This is taking forever. I’m not sure I’m doing the right thing. Why am I spending my money on this?’ I look back at what kept me going and it was definitely thinking in terms of the bigger picture – especially thinking of others who were dealt a really crappy card of not being able to walk, suffering some injury, or who were born with an injury. I can help so many more people feel the exhilaration and feel the empowerment of being able to drive a car like that again. I continually reminded myself of how many more people I could help.”
The Chairslayer Foundation – What is a Chairslayer?
“A Chairslayer is somebody who overcomes adversity. Somebody who takes life by the horns and slays it at whatever they’re trying to do. It can be as simple as getting out of bed and actually doing something with your day. Creating a fully built car or whatever it may be. Just someone who is excelling at what they’re doing from the seat of a wheelchair. Chairslayer isn’t about the car. It can be anything.”
Through the Chairslayer Foundation, Rob connected with teenaged Ben Conolly. Ben was just around driving age and an aspiring drifter when he was left paralyzed after a routine medical procedure. Rob took his Chairslayer attitude and willingness to give back to the next level. He invited Ben out to drive his completed car and experience drifting first-hand.
You built this car from ground-up – it’s your passion in physical form. How did it feel being a passenger?
“I’m the worst passenger ever! It especially sucks when you’re not sure if the person is going to be a good driver or not! It’s a completely different aspect of being in a car. With Ben, we were on a big, open track where safety was the first concern. Other places I want to transition my skills are off-road and rally stuff. I’m going to co-pilot for trophy trucks and that right there – we’re going 130mph down a dirt road and hitting jumps. I have no control over anything. I’m just telling him hard left and telling him where to go and he’s listening to me. We can’t see a single thing. I’m looking at GPS. It’s definitely hard being a passenger, but it’s another great skill to have.”
You didn’t only hand Ben the keys, you changed his entire perspective of what he was capable of. It must be incredible to share.
“Just having you talk about it sends chills down my back. It’s insane because it was such a life changing experience for him when he got to drive the car. He was literally at the point of giving up his life. All he wanted to do was drive a racecar no matter how it may happen. What we did for him at Chairslayer Foundation was save his life through motorsports and technology. Even having me talk about it…it’s ridiculously hard because Ben’s story is so powerful. It’s even hard for me to watch the video now because I think back to that day and I’m like, ‘Holy sh*t,’ Since, Ben has begun working on his own car, and currently, we’re working on outfitting it with my updated hand control system.”
Where do you see the Chairslayer movement heading?
“I don’t see it stopping. It’s going to spread like wildfire. There are a lot of young guys, and older people too, in the wheelchair community and even now, people getting injured. They don’t know where to turn and all they need is a helping hand. They just need that little kick in the butt to take it to the next level. That’s what we’re trying to do. ‘Pass the torch’ is a good way to explain this. We started it here, now let’s keep this thing going and see what ideas you can come up with and see what else we can make by putting our brains together. Let’s get this huge community of people to create new, adaptive products for people in chairs who actually do stuff. It doesn’t have to be race cars. It can be something to make your life easier, anything to make your life more meaningful again.”
How can our readers get involved?
“The best way for people to get involved is go to chairslayer.org and just send us a message. There’s also a place where people can donate, but we’d love to talk to everybody first before they think of donating to us. We want to know who’s helping us out and see if they can even be involved in one of the events. We’re doing a cross country thing this year and hitting a bunch of grass roots drifting events with me and my teammate. At each one of those events, we’ll be giving people ride-alongs on open track days, and a select few people will be able to learn how to drive the car on a private track day.”
|FinalBout West||May 29th||Canby, Oregon|
|Grid Life #1||June 10th-12th||South Haven, Michigan|
|HAN||August 3rd-7th||Sparks, Nevada|
|Grid Life #2||August 26th-28th||Atlanta, Georgia|
|Freedom Moves||Steptember 10th-11th||Englishtown, New Jersey|
|Street Drive Tour||September 24th-25th||Las Vegas, Nevada|
Stay tuned for Part II! In the meantime, be sure to follow Rob on Facebook and Instagram! And if you’re looking to get lost in some amazing videos, head on over to YouTube! As always, thanks for reading! And an extra special thank you to CADimensions, Inc. Senior Application Engineer Jesse Sprague for introducing me to Rob and writing the fantastic series opening. If you or someone you know has an amazing SOLIDWORKS story to tell, please reach out to me at SOLIDWORKS.Social@3DS.com and we’ll get to work!