THE TT motorsport community is now mourning Kerry Philip – who many called the Drift King.
The 41-year-old drifter and Coast Guard member died in a motorcycle accident in Bon Air Gardens on Saturday evening.
After the news broke on social media, the drifting fraternity and its fans began to pay tribute to him.
Newsday spoke with three of his colleagues who shed some light on the type of man he was.
Rajive Suchit has been involved in the sport for five years. He told Newsday after seeing Philip compete at an event approximately ten years ago, he was inspired to begin his journey.
“I saw him drifting through a tent and from that day – that was it. I was always into cars and always dealt with cars but I had never tried drifting. It’s a nice sport and there’s an adrenaline rush.”
When he heard about Philip’s death, he said he was in serious denial.
“I had to call a million people to find out if it was really true because that was a huge shock to everybody. He was like family to us. All of us were one.”
He said they shared several memorable moments, adding that he was the pioneer of the sport in TT.
“I actually did a video in San Fernando Hill and he was the main character in the video. He was the original Drift King. He started drifting down here. I did a hill grind and I placed him in the video because he’s the person people looked up to, a real down-to-earth person, cool. He spoke and laughed with everybody.”
He said they are all still trying to come to terms with the news.
Devon Bartholomew told Newsday he and Philip started together in 2004 and have been close friends since then. But Philip had been getting into the sport since 2001. He described his friend as a “character.” “He had this demanding presence, like an alpha-male. He has a commanding presence…He had a dynamic character that made people want to know him, want to talk to him, want him to know them. And he always made time for a lot of people. He would always reach out. He was the type of person that would show up by you 1 am to hang out just because he’s in the area.
“I remember there were times where it would take us an hour to walk through Trincity mall – just walking, because everywhere he goes, it’s ‘Kerry, Kerry, Kerry.’”
He said he was on his way to class when he found out the tragic news.
“When I started hanging out with Kerry, his friends became my friends. One of the guys called me (and told me) and he is one of Kerry’s closest friends too.”
He said his friend was the best drifter in TT.
“He had an ability to adapt to whatever vehicle he stepped into,” he said.
There was a joke within the fraternity where they’d call him Irving, simply because “He looked like an Irving.” Philip, however, never warmed up to the nickname.
“He started to get vex and kept asking, ‘Why allyuh calling me Irving?’ thinking it was something bad. But it wasn’t like that. And when we didn’t tell him (why), he kept getting more and more annoyed. So to trip him off, we’d say, ‘Kerry Irving Philip, why yuh getting on like that?’ And Kerry would be like, ‘Yo, nah nah nah.’”
Bartholomew said it’s a difficult time since Philip was the last person he’d expect this to happen to.
“He has gotten into some really bad accidents but he always came out of it. And because he is such a character that you expect him to get through no matter what. Kerry was the best. He used to do the things people were afraid to do. He took the chances.
“I remember our first demonstration back in 2009, he drifted through a tent. Literally slid the car straight through a tent. Kerry decided to use it as an obstacle. And nobody at that time was doing that kind of thing. People were like, ‘This man mad?’ For us, we found it funny because we were all fans and associates at the same time. He was never afraid to push the boundaries and that’s what made Kerry, Kerry.”
Another close friend of his – Roger Hutcheon – said Philip was a thinker. Not only would they discuss drifting, but many times, they’d simply sit back and talk about life.
“We had a connection because we would go through scenarios in life. There would be instances where we talk about religion, race relations, drifting, life in general and just concepts and his ideologies. He loved history and research – he loved looking at History Channel. So, he had a wealth of knowledge not only about cars…He was always seeking knowledge.”
Hutcheon said Philip was always the “wild idea guy” and would always bring a unique spin to everything he did. He reminisced the early days where they could not afford to buy car parts yet, so they’d play video games.
“He was also into unique builds meaning he would want something exquisite, kind of different. So instead of going the easier way, he’d choose the harder or more unique way. In fact, his first drift car is what some would call the ideal Japanese drift (car) and that was a Toyota AE86. He was in love with that. And at the time it only had about seven in the country.”
Hutcheon was driving when he heard the news of his friend’s death via a call from Bartholomew. He, too, could not believe it at the time.
“In my head, if I have to hear that about him, car (accidents) and Kerry don’t mix. I know even in rel sketchy situations with driving, he could manage. But then when I heard it was a bike…”
He said Philip was truly a pioneer of the sport, locally, who helped it reach the level it is currently.
“Before this, (it was just) street drifting to a certain extent. Understand where we started from - there was no place for drifting in TT…It was brand new. And there was no real recognition for it because it was seen as a wild man sport and after trying car parks and thing, we came together and tried to legitimize it. It became almost like a racing after party.”
Hutcheon was actually the one to come up with his much-despised nickname – Irving. He said he took pride in his ability to annoy him.
“If you spelled his name with two Ls, he’d go ballistic but jokingly. He’d say, ‘My name is Philip with one L,’ and make sure you get it right. And that’s how he trained you too. If you made a mistake when we were training, he would not let you go through the whole course. He’d tell you to start again until you got it right. And he’d do the same.”
He said his friend was an accepting, loving and very emotional person and longed to see the sport of drifting thrive in TT.
Funeral arrangements are currently being made and the group plans to meet to have a wake sometime this week.