As if you all didn't already know, the Formula Drift series just gets bigger and bigger every year. 2008 was a pretty epic year for the series, with even more sponsors and even more drivers coming from other countries to compete in what started out as the first US drifting championship series. Now, Formula D is seen on the entire world stage, with tons of online, print, and televised media covering the events. Formula D drivers are considered to be top class now, and some of the top drivers could even be serious contenders in Japan's D1 Grand Prix series, which most people consider to have the cream of the crop driving talent.
2008 started out on the streets of Long Beach… with Formula Drift's "no room for errors" course consisting of concrete K-rails… the same course used in the annual Long Beach Grand Prix. The course is great for spectating (for the most part), but lousy for taking photos. Formula D should really negotiate this with the LBGP management for the next year… or bring in an outside consultant to help them plan the size and shape and number of photo holes cut into the chainlink fences. There are not enough photo holes surrounding the LB course, and they aren't cut into the right shapes. This really needs to be changed for next year.
The nice thing about the Formula D Long Beach event is the fact that the weather is usually beautiful – sunny and breezy, around 70 degrees. Also, the vendor area is always set up nicely… and from a sheer distance standpoint, most of the spectators can see the cars run pretty close up.
Long Beach especially has a good location for driver introductions for the Top 8. Everyone can see the drivers… as long as the spectators are viewing from an elevated place, that is. They can't take good photos by themselves though, as the chainlink prevents that.
Nevertheless, the lifestyle aspect at the Southern Cali Formula D events is really cool and unique. Lots of young drifting fans swarm the pit areas and buy merchandise and food… I was visually scanning the stands at this year's Long Beach event, and this guy said "Look, I have your book!" and held it up! He apparently used it to collect signatures from the drivers and phone numbers from the models… Super cool!
Formula D Round 2 was at Road Atlanta… featuring a fast downhill drifting initiation on one of the most famous road racing courses in the USA. It is also the site for the very first Formula Drift event EVERRR. Does anyone know the exact date of this event? I was there… were you?
Going back up the hill towards Road A's top-of-the-hill grid area, a lot of drivers (like my boy Robbie Nishida in the 350Z here) can build a lot of speed and a lot of smoke. If their cars have a lot of horsepower. This track (and judging team) definitely favors high horsepower cars. That's one reason that many lower horsepower cars like Corollas have such a hard time here, and high horsepower V8 (and V10) cars like Mustangs and Vipers and Corvettes have an easier time.
See? Here's an example of some of the big power vehicles being used at the event. It's classic American thinking… you got to go big or go home.
What never ceases to amaze me is how many people actually haul themselves out to Road Atlanta to watch Formula D. In my opinion, Road Atlanta isn't the greatest course for spectating! Fans have to walk farrrrrrrrrrrrrr down hill to walk the pits, then hike up a steep hill to walk towards the actual race track, then walk down the steep, unpaved dirt hill that serves as Road Atlanta's seating. People bring lawn chairs, tents, and even BBQ grills to the event! It must be part of Atlanta culture… I don't think I could motivate any of my Los Angeles friends to do anything like that.
From the top of the grid, Road Atlanta looks so cool at night. Here's a photo of Michihiro Takatori and the Super Autobacs R34 at Formula D Atlanta, getting ready for his turn to run the course at night.
The next round of Formula D was very cool! Due to the sudden closure of Wall Speedway, the site of the previous years' Formula D rounds in Jersey, the FD staff signed a deal with Old Bridge Township Raceway Park (hey E-town, you need to simplify that name for marketing reasons!) in Englishtown New Jersey. Everyone calls it E-town, and everyone from the east coast knows E-town is famous for drag racing, not drifting!
However, E-town is very interested in promoting their newly redone/repaved infield road course, which, in my opinion, is PERFECT for drifting or road racing with lower speed cars! I think it would be super fun to drive Corollas and Miatas here!
E-town is also cool because of the scenery. I just loved the fact that it was so easy to create cool and artsy photos no matter where you were on their track.
Also, I loved the grid location… back on the infield, race teams can enjoy the safety of not having drift fans around their tools and cars… while the stunning lush green background and elevation changes on the infield certainly made for some awesome looking photos.
The background scenery for photography at E-town was so nice, in fact, that it would bring a tear to the eye of some drift fans. LOL. On a completely unrelated note, I gotta say… man, Eri looks so gorgeous in this pic. Whew!
For drift teams and crew members, the pit area was also a very cool place to watch the start dash from the grid.
The banked turns at E-town also provided some cool views from the spectator perspective! Here's Dai Yoshihara, with an early initiation, accelerating hard on the beginning of the banking. (Hey Dai, here's a photo of you! I'll need to try harder to take more photos of Dai next year, cause last month when we were hanging out, he said "heyyy mannn…. I always read Speedhunters. But you don't put many photos of me (driving) on there!" Sorry Dai, I'll make sure to pay attention more next year! Moto ganbarimasu!
The very next round of Formula D was in Las Vegas. It was super ridiculous hot at the Vegas Formula D! I wish we could go to Vegas when the temperatures are a bit nicer, the heat kicks everyone's asses!
In fact, I even know a driver who collapsed from heat exhaustion after the event… *ahem* and in this photo, we have our favorite ex-G35 driver/ FD3S owner/ the car wasn't finished in time for me to become a 350Z driver, Calvin Wan. Everyone seems to like Calvin, I don't think he has any "enemies" in the FD series, since he's such a personable guy. In fact, maybe we should set up a special challenge between Calvin and the other nice guy in Formula D, Joon Maeng.
It would be Falken vs Hankook. Chinese guy vs Korean guy. Norcal vs Socal. Motorsport Dynamics vs Dynamic Autosports.
They could have a special contest that consists of tandem drifting, and being nice. They could see who would win in a tandem battle, and then compete to see who could sign the most autographs, see who would make time to have the highest amount of actual conversations with fans, take the most smiling photos, shake the most hands and kiss the most babies. However, if they had a competition to see who could approve the most friend requests on Myspace, Calvin would lose for sure, cause that guy never checks or updates his Myspace! Come on Calvin! Try going online every once in a while! haha Joon would totally beat him in that category!
Seriously, maybe we should make some of those "campaign buttons" with Calvin and Joon's faces on it. It would be like the t-shirts and posters and stickers you always see, bearing artwork of Obama's face. Who would you vote for? Wan or Joon?
Formula D Vegas didn't go so smoothly for all people. Ross Petty, who is depicted here safely grinding an engine part with the proper safety equipment, had the misfortune of having his engine blow. That's when the crew decided to live up to their Boso name. They worked all through the night, dismantled the engine, then found out the head was busted. Ross's Garage Boso business partner Frank (Chinese guy on the right) very intensely looked at Ross, and said "you know what? Check it out. We have a head back at the shop. I'll go get it right now. Frank and J-Brad from Falken pulled an all-nighter, driving all the way back to their shop in Carson CA, and got the SR20 head, then drove all the way back to Las Vegas in time to pick up Ross from Sapphire's so they could put the engine in the car before the event. Now THAT is dedication. That is why the Boso name fits them so perfectly.
Las Vegas Formula D also marked the first time Manabu Orido from Japan's D1 series would actually compete in a Formula D points event. There was a ton of hype surrounding Orido, and he drove really well, but not well enough to live up to the expectations and hype surrounding him.
Unpredictably, the Japanese underdog Toshiki Yoshioka actually won the event, due to his speed, line, and consistency in driving his AE86 Toyota Sprinter Trueno 2-door! This was amazing because it was the first time a driver of an AE86 ever won 1st Place at Formula D, and also because Yoshioka became the very first person in the history of drifting to win a Championship event (points event) in the D1 Series in Japan and in the Formula D Series in the USA. Crazy.
Here's the winner, Toshiki Yoshioka, celebrating as his former roommate Daijiro Yoshihara pours champagne all over him. Doesn't he look like a popular rapper? Let's just call him 50 Yen.
Unfortunately for Speedhunters readers and Formula D fans, we were unable to make it to the Formula D Seattle event this past August, due to some other scheduling conflicts with other events in our calendar. We'd like to attend the event next year for sure, but this year we opted to travel through Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK, and Japan instead. That's where we picked up our Nurburgring DTM, Porsche Leipzig, Nordschleife, Spa Francorchamps, D1 Ebisu, Super GT Suzuka, MSC Honjyo, Koguchi Power and Ebisu Natsumatsuri stories…
Just a few days after I returned to LA, I drove up to one of my favorite FD venues, Formula D in Sonoma, where I saw Ross Petty's S13 back in action with a super long side brake entry into the first turn!
Everyone's favorite Mustang cop car drifter, Dan Pina, hails from the Bay Area. He was tearing it up all weekend with big smoke! As he reads this now, he's in the cold of Chicago, looking at this photo. I'm sure he's going to ask me about sending him a high res copy of this pic too. Sorry Dan, haven't had a chance to email it to you yet. If you read SH, you know I've been busy! I know, I'm weak.
Just look at how many people showed up and packed the hillside grandstands of Sonoma's Infineon Raceway! Awesome! And check out this photo of Dai, hot on JR's tail!
Robbie Nishida drove extremely well at this event, with a super exciting tandem battle with Rhys Millen! After some extremely close tandem drifting, the Mad Skills advanced to the next round…
This image is nothing new. Tanner's on the podium again. However, it was the first time that Wild Bill Sherman (the artist formerly known as Hachi Bill) ever got a podium finish at Formula D! He's come a long way from those TerTech events at Hialeah, much to the pride of the No Ants drift crew.
The next event on the menu… Irwindale. Here's a very cool photo, shot by our good friend, the independently wealthy David Lister. Dave captured this amazing photo with his new D3 digital SLR, which is the cream of the crop sports camera from Nikon. He also used his gigantic 500mm lens… that combination of equipment alone costs more than some drift cars. It's small potatoes to Dave though, because he made a fortune from developing and bottling Listerine (the mouthwash). Dave admits that he just goes to these events because it's fun!
Oh… the photo? The incredible DOF blurred photo you see here is Ryuji Miki (aka Koala) and Justin Pawlak. FD vs FC. Very, very cool pic.
Ya know who else makes for a cool pic? Randyl Dawn. She's touring Europe right now, so lucky!
Some more FD Irwindale night action… JR had super bright HIDs that cut into the darkness at Irwindale.
This superior vison (and possibly superior visualization) helped JR win First Place at the Formula D finale, his very first Formula D podium. Apparently, this guy is very good at driving Irwindale. He tends to win events here!
Look how happy CJ looks to get sprayed with champagne…
All in all it was a great year for Formula D, and a great year for Speedhunters. However, there's just one more thing I want to mention before signing off…
If you love drifting, SUPPORT FORMULA D PRO AM! Pro Am is the future of the sport… in the USA at least! Happy New Year!