It seems every time D1 hits Ebisu circuit the weather has something in store for the drift crazy crowds that flock to this, the temple of drift. For the 2009 season opener we were all pretty lucky as the day was mostly sunny but there was a constant reminder that winter is not quite over up in the Fukushima mountains, as snow fell down lightly at times and a bit heavier towards the the later part of the day as you can see from the opening picture above. Bet Tsuchiya-san & company were freezing, as I sure was! Saturday practice and qualify rounds had seen all of the top seeded drivers make it through and like I mentioned on my preview last night Orido was the man everyone was watching at Round 1.
There is no question the crowds love him as everyone gave him a great cheer during the driver introduction. His outfit was pretty cool, as ever, especially the NATS sponsored red cowboy hat! But unfortunately he seemed to be having a hard time getting to grips with his Aristo. He had a small impact with the barriers on Saturday where he lost the rear spoiler but managed to make it through to the final qualifying round on Sunday. But things weren't going too great yesterday either as the car looked like a handful to handle especially on the "drop down" onto the main straight where it seemed to bounce on its suspension rather than cleanly snap sideways on the aggressive clutch kick drivers do to initiate the drift.
On his second attempt he overcooked the entry and managed to spin, which was quite surprising as I've never seen anyone spin there before.
The Aristo spent the rest of the day in the dark pits and I just had to go and take a closer look. I'm loving the front intake to feed the big HKS T04Z plus the new Varis aero is simply stunning! Let's hope Orido will sort out the problems with the car for the next round in Autopolis.
Despite not making it through to the Best 16 the Drift Samurai was on full form with his now blue FC3S wearing a BN Sports wide body kit. Here he is locking the rear wheels as he slides and positions himself for the tight apex following the aggressive entrance into the judged corer. Tsuchiya-san was actually looking for a new approach and lines at Ebisu and told all the drivers he would be giving extra points if he saw some interesting techniques. This saw some stay really tight on the entrance to shoot out wide in order to clip the following corner with more angle, something that seemed to suit cars with lesser power a bit better.
Here is a car I really like seeing in action. Driven by Yamashita the Weld JZX100 can put out up to 900 PS when using nitrous thanks to a fully rebuilt 3.1L 2JZ and a Trust T8834D turbine. But it is actually the time that has gone into the build that impresses me the most. The engine now sits lower and a lot further back allowing for a much better weight balance and the extra space freed up in front of the motor has been used up to fit a V-mounted interncooler/radiator set-up. Hats off to Johnny at Weld for building such a crazy drifter! I really like the picture above as the white tire smoke is accompanied by a puff of black soot coming from the exhaust as the 2JZ bounces off the limiter.
Does pretty good on the smoke trails too and I really like the new graphics now the car is sponsored by the guys at HPI Racing. Better luck next time qualifying for the Best 16
There was lots of excitement during the tsuiso battles with cars getting so close to each other it had everyone cheering them on. I really can't remember cars getting this close when D1 got started years ago, especially at Ebisu. Here you can see Saito doing his best to stay close and parallel to Kuroi, any closer and their front tires would touch! Maybe something to shoot for in the future, drivers getting bonus points if they can touch their opponent's front tire and get a puff of smoke he he
But close is sometimes too close as Maeda's AE86 kisses Nomuken's ER34 as the little underpowered Toyota tries to hang on in there…
While Imamura escapes a close one when Koguchi looses control of his 180SX.
Ebisu owner and top Team Orange driver Kumakubo did a great job, considering this was the first time he used his new Evo X in anger at a D1 Round, but his luck run out when Tezuka got the better of him with the Bee-R R32 GT-R. Chatting to Imai-san in the pits I discovered the BNR32 is running a fresh new engine for this year which is probably why it sounded so different out on track. Probably one of the meanest sounds to come out of a drift car, explosive Bee-R limiter aside! Tezuka went on to meet Ken Nomura in the Best 4 and lost by a very close call by the judges.
The 2009 Round 1 finalists were Imamura, who beat Suenaga in the newly painted RE-Amemiya FD3S, and Nomuken. As they were announced Nomuken drove right in front to where I was shooting from and jumped on the wall to salute the crowds, at which point I snapped this shot.
As the final got under way so did the snowstorm which, interestingly enough, came down while the sun was still shining! With Imamura leading, the two cars entered the main corner but the red Auto Produce Boss S15 locked up, lost the drift and slowed down. From where I was standing it was hard to see if there was an impact but Nomuken did a good job of avoiding a big hit. As the cars came around the second corner the S15's engine died…
…and came to a dead stop. Imamura tried to crank the engine but it wouldn't catch. The car was quickly towed back to the mechanics where they had 5 minutes to try to fix it. Unfortunately it was just not going to happen.
Ken Nomura was announced the winner of the first 2009 Round. He apologetically accepted the cup saying it was not out of merit. Imamura was a great sport and even lifted the pocket-sized Blitz driver onto his shoulders! All in all it was a pretty good opening Round with things set to get even more exciting as newer cars join the action, as well as a few new drivers. More on this soon.
Next up a look at more action from Ebisu.
Dino Dalle Carbonare