Retrospective>> Drifting At Irwindale Since 2003, Pt.1

Right now as I write this, Formula D practice and unseeded qualifying is happening over at Irwindale. I want to shoot some photos today, so I'll keep this kinda short, and follow it up later. Rod thought it would be cool for us to do retrospectives on Irwindale in honor of the Formula D Irwindale happening this weekend, but honestly, I've been shooting drifting at Irwindale for so long, I didn't even know where to start. Some of these photos, you may recognize from my hardcover book, Drifting: Sideways from Japan to America. I have tons and tons of hard drives full of drifting photos, so it took me a long time to dig these ones up.

Here are some choice moments of the Irwindale Speedway that I remember, back when it all started in 2003…

Above is a photo from a Drift Day… as the sun went down over Irwindale, you could always see the iconic rock quarry in the background, and the In N Out Burger sign silhouetted as you heard cars revving and tires screeching. Ahh, Irwindale…

This photo is from the D1 Driver's Search, back in 2003. I remember this day very well… it was the turning point for a few lucky drivers – the first American drivers who were accepted into the ranks of the D1 Grand Prix, for their first event to be held on US soil. In this photo, Zaku the videographer is pointing his Video Option camera at Kenshiro Gushi and his mom, who broke down into joyful tears when she found out her underage son had made it into D1, even though he didn't even have a California driver's license yet. Also in the background (L-R), you can see Nobushige Kumakubo from Team Orange, Charlie Ongsingco (aka DRFTHVN, aka Dr Foot Heaven, aka founder of Just Drift), and Kazuhiro Tanaka, from Team Orange/Rough World/Drift Xtreme.

People who have been going to Southern Cali drift events for a long time will recognize this car. This brown bomber AE86 belonged to Andy Yen, who is now a Formula D judge. Andy's car originally started life a red 1985 GTS coupe (the first US drift car featured in a Japanese magazine, as seen in Kenta Ogawara's story in Drift Tengoku Magazine), then it became cream, then dark green, then rattlecan brown, the final evolution in colors.

The photo above shows it at an Irwindale drifting practice day… it must have been a Drift Day, but I don't remember which one..? The orange TE27 with RS Watanabes in the background is my car, my favorite car in the Cipher Garage collection.

Here's Andy trying to put his zipties to use, right after he and Alex Pfeiffer collided while practicing drifting in Irwindale's parking lot. These two spraypainted AE86s were very well known on Southern California mountain roads and drifting events. Both of these guys eventually became Formula D drivers, and then some years later, Formula D judges.

Speaking of Formula D, I think I better get out to the track now, check back with Speedhunters for more of my old school drifting photos, if you're interested in it. Think you want to see more of this stuff? Chime in and let me know.

-Antonio Alvendia

Drifting Book

Irwindale Speedway



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More!!!!! More!!!!


i'd love to see some more..good memories


more more more


give us some more!


what they said, more ;D

i really like the rims on the brown hachiroku


That lead shot is money my friend. Well done!


olllder stuff.


more of it.


haha i remember that day

i was probbaly a few feet behind you hahaha

good times those were. what a day too

oh thats lindsay in the red shirt dressed like a douchebag, btw



More! I really like the photos that capture the behind the scenes moments for drivers and their cars. Those are the times the drivers remember, fixing cars, dealing with issues, etc. Bring it!


Yaaa ! Epic shot ! I love this brown AE86 since ages ! But I didn't know it was owned by Andy Yen.

Btw, to Antonio, sweet Mango :) Hope you've more pictures of it, what's about a post about this TE27, these cars are so sweet !


gah, this makes me feel old. i still remember back when in 95 CYBER, Tony Fuchs, R-Version, RedLine, Kosoku and all the OG crews were out battling for the bragging rights in the drag racing scene not trophies. I never really thought about it but i have been around for almost all the historical events to happen in the import industry. Tony Fuchs all motor integ, First turbo civic/crx, first turboB series, Adam Saruwatari's 10sec RX7, then 9sec and then 8sec i remember at one point he was still driving the rx7 on the streets after running at the drag events....and now this...first D1GP,First JGTC event in the USA, D1GP drivers search, the opening of Formula D. awesome...whats next? =D


I was pretty sure that was Lindsay, with the trucker hat and puka shells...hahaha


"lol" at Lindsay rushing the Gushis.


LOL lindsay, that's awesome. i didnt even notice it until you pointed it out. we should bring back those puka shell necklaces hahaha. and the long socks with shorts! now lindsay is the man with crazy aggressive wheels, so he can rock puka shells all he wants...

Blueslug: i cant believe you like Supra stock wheels. LOL


lol come on they remind me of stock Starion wheels! :D





Ah man, Andy en's old car.... awesome. What ever happened to it? I think Drift & RWD sport did a feature on it in one of the last issues.


Let me add more to the Irwindale story. Back in 2000 when Moto and I had an idea of doing a drift event together, I started looking for a venue for us to do a little Drift clinic for the people on Club4ag. I started looking around Southern California until I Found Irwindale Speedway. I remember calling Irwindale Speedway in 2001 and I asked Chris Morgan (who was in charge of rentals at that time) if we can do a drift event on their parking lot. His first reaction was "What's Drifting?". I had to explain to him what drifting was and he decided to take a chance with us and allow us to host our first "official" event there. Remember, no one ever heard of drifting, including the insurance companies. It took us almost 8 months just to convince a company to supply us with an insurance certificate.

I remember the night before our first event, it was me (computer graphics designer), Moto (restaurant owner) and Taka (Medical student) setting up the night before the event till 1am. Since this was the first event of its kind, I remembered that is took us 6 hours just to set up the courses. I remember going home to get 2 hours of sleep and going back in the morning by 6 am. It was March 16, 2002 when everything changed at Irwindale Speedway with Drift Day 1.

Ahh.. memories....


AWESOME Naoki. Such a great story man!!! And I'm so glad you guys did it!


im in norcal and socal is where its at.... been going to d1 once the beginning and it jsut wont stop... from the BAY TO LA we does this shit