The last time D1GP held an event at Tsukuba Circuit was way back in 2005. I don't know the exact reason for dropping Tsukuba from the schedule, but I'm assuming that D1 outgrew the relatively small facilities there. This year though, D1 announced it would be returning to Tsukuba not with D1GP, but with D1 Street Legal. I remember reading about this event back in January and thinking about how far away it was. Well now the event is in the books and I can't believe it's already been nearly been a year since I first got to Japan. Anyways, despite the cold and wet weather it was great to see D1 drifting at Tsukuba again.
First on the track in the morning were the "big league" D1 drivers who were doing practice laps for the day's "chiki-chiki" 5-lap grip race. If the weather were nicer it would have been interesting to see how today's D1 cars properly run at Tsukuba, but the wet track made it even harder for the drift cars (and drift drivers) to run without sliding all over the place. At least it was fun to watch.
The D1 drivers in the race included names like Koguchi, Kumakubo, Ueno, Imamura, and Takahashi, seen here flying down the home straight in his JZX100 Chaser.
After that, it was time for the D1SL field to take the to the track for practice. The fact that it was raining didn't stop the drivers putting down some great runs, and incidents were kept to a minimum. This was especially surprising to me given the fact that Tsukuba is not a track commonly used for drifting. In this photo we have Naoki Nakamura demonstrating his aggressive technique behind the wheel of the D-MAX S15. Moves have helped to make Nakamura one of the biggest upcoming drifters in Japan. He came into this event second place in points behind Naoto Suenaga.
Yukio Matsui in the Celica-faced JZA80 Supra is another one of the top drivers in D1 Street Legal. The already difficult task of transitioning from the S-corner into the first hairpin was made even more challenging by the slick course,but Matsui made it look easy . After this photo I think got a nice shower of water kicked up from his car.
All in the name of getting the shot right?
D1 Street Legal is heaven for fans of the Nissan S-chassis as they account for about 80% of the cars the series. This orange URAS GT-equipped S14 with Desmond Regamaster wheels had to be my favorite car at the event. The car is driven by Akihiko Hirashima who hails from Japan's southern island of Kyushu, AKA the land of Sekia Hills and URAS. Usually I'm not a fan of really aggressive kits, but this car looks downright sexy.
A few of the non-S-chassis cars in the D1SL field included this JZX100 Toyota Chaser (left) and JZX110 Mark II (right). The driver of the Chaser had some great runs with early entry and lots of angle, but he wasn't quite consistent enough to earn a spot in the Best 16 competition.
After D1SL practice, it was qualifying time for the D1 grip race. Hmm…I don't see much grip in this photo. The blue Supra was driven by none other than Manabu Orido, who actually came to drive in Option's Super Lap session which was canceled because of the weather. Instead he decided to drive his Supra in the D1 grip race. Him and Kumakubo did a couple laps of tandem drifting after the other cars had left the track.
Orido, Supra, D1, Tsukuba…
Did we travel back in time a few years?
During the "chiki chiki" race, Orido and his Supra pretty much wiped the floor with the competition. That's to be expected when you put a Super GT and WTCC pro driver against a bunch of crazed drifters. Of course the whole thing was primarily for entertainment and not a serious competition and it was really fun to watch.
When it was time for the tsuiso competition, it had finally stopped raining and the course was drying up. After advancing from the Best 16, Naoki Nakamura and Naoto Suenaga were matched against each other in the Best 8. This battle would essentially decide the 2008 D1SL championship. It would be a close match, but in the end Naoto was able to advance and clinch the season title.
In between each stage of the tournament, the Mitsubshi Minicab van would come out on the course and do stoppies much to the delight of the crowd. I am not sure on how they set the van up to do this, but it was hilarious to watch. Mana-P was laughing as the passenger hit his head on the windshield during each stoppie. You have to love the humorous nature of drift events in Japan.
The final match pitted Naoto against Masashi Yokoi in his purple S14. Yokoi had been driving great all day, but he came in a little too hot when chasing and tapped Naoto's car in a spin. Naoto was awarded the victory.
The day could not have been better for Naoto Suenaga. Not only did he take the championship, but he finished out the season with yet another win. That makes five victories in seven D1SL events for him this year. Big congrats go to Naoto for the championship and for an overall dominant season.
Lastly, a view of the dirt caked on to Tsuyoshi Tezuka's Skyline after a full day of drifting in the rain. The cold and rainy weather may have made the event a pain in the *** to photograph, but it sure was a lot of fun.
I'll post some more photos from D1SL at Tsukuba soon.