It has seemed like so long since D1 was last in the United States.
There have been many fans (including myself) that have relished the
glory days of D1GP USA. Fans that have locked in their minds that those
events were the best drift events ever put on in the states. Those were
the days when the events actually counted as points towards the overall
D1GP season. Many Japanese drivers attended the state side events because it really did matter that they came! Who can
forget the hysterical screams from Mana-P, the slapstick comedy between
D1 judges Keiichi Tsuchiya and Manabu Orido, or the fantastic
translator and announcer Toshi Hayama? Who can forget the days when
the "one-more-time" actually had a sense of magical purpose? The
days when everything else (the car shows, the vendors' booths, import
models, etc.) at D1 was just a side dish or appetizers to the entree
that was the D1GP event. We came for drifting and nothing else.
A year has passed since D1 was last on US soil. Many of us
hardcore drifting fans were thrilled when we heard the news that it was
returning state side. Though, it was not returning to the familiar ground of
Irwindale Speedway but the parking lots of the Los Angeles Angels
stadium in Anaheim, California. The D1 brand is now under
new management, and the moment you stepped onto the event, you can feel
the difference in the regime change.
There were some D1 drivers from Japan. But there were also drivers from
the states (and one from Finland) from that came from the amateur
level and had been awarded D1 invites. There were no appearances from
the FormulaD drivers since they wereheading to the Road Atlanta.
There was no comical bantering from Tsuchyia, or Orido in the judging
box. No hysterical yelling from Mana-P. D1 did not feel like the D1
that we all fell
in love with over and over again from years past. But even if it D1 was
not the same,
it was still D1. It was still a treat to each the select few drivers
from Japan kill it. And a few of the amateurs really gave these D1 guys
a run for their money!
Here's a familiar face to D1, Ken
"Nomuken" Nomura. Is it wrong of me to say that I missed his old Blitz
livery with the blue underglow?
Sadly, Nomuken did not qualify for the top 16 because of the scores he
received from the new and computerized judge, the "Drift Box." More on
that in a little bit.
Ross Petty killed it in his Garage Boso Nissan S15 and qualified 6th.
The skill gap between the US drivers and the professional D1 drivers was extremely noticeable…
But even so, it did not take away from the action.
Takahiro Ueno, with his iconic Vertex Toyota Soarer, was a crowd
favorite with his insane turn 1 corner entry, constant wide open throttle, and the amount of tire
smoke that his car produced in the process.
Here are some local Southern California drift rockstars living it up
hardcore. The one in the zebra pants is none other than rising star,
Matt Powers. He is followed by his close San Diego buddies, Tommy
Roberts and Nate Deck. These guys walked around the event blasting
amazing butt rock and really rocking it out hardcore. What are those
signs that they're carrying? You'll find out soon enough…
Garage Boso vs. Drift speed.
Team Orange's Tanaka wowed the US audience with his insane first corner
entry. A few times he came in so hot that he spun out, but the crowd
did not complain!
Ueno working hard in his smoke factory.
Daigo Saito putting complete pressure on Ueno to take the win go on to the next round.
Forrest Wang in his FullRace S13 was on top of things the whole
He came out and surprised everyone with his consistancy and
absolute balls-out drifting.
The battle between Forrest Wang and Nobushige Kumakubo became an epic struggle of who will be the first to lose their concentration. One driver pushed hard and the other driver responded by pushing even harder. This resulted in a strung out battle where the judges were completely stumped and the crowd called for multiple one-more-times. The crowd was split with who they wanted to see win. Chants for in support for the local San Diego driver, Forrest Wang, and chants for D1GP driver, Kumakubo, errupted throughout the stands. In the end, the judges decided, with the help of the the "Drift Box," that Kumakubo had a slight advantage and so he took the win to advance to the finals.
By now you must be wondering what this "Drift Box" is. In a nut shell,
it is a computerized judging system which calculates corner entry,
speed, angle and g-forces. The computer then calculated how the driver
did and then gave a score. It is designed to make the judging of
drifting a bit easier. But as you can see in the photo above, the
rockstars from San Diego (and the rest of the crowd) was not pleased
with this system. Is it possible to let a computer judge the art of
The sun started to set as the final battle between Kumakubo and Saito
approached. Here were the two finalists as they parade around the track
before the start of their single practice runs.
Kumakubo was the first to start his single practice run…
…followed by Saito.
The resulting battle was a straight forward two round battle which ended with Saito taking the win.
at its essence, has always been about human drama. It may have the
cover of amazing engineering and masculine sex appeal over it, but even
the engineering behind motorsport is driven (no pun intended!) by
people. It's hard to find reasons to dehumanize a sport where the human
drama unfolds in front of the audiences' eyes. The reasoning behind the
Drift Box makes sense, but I'd like to see a future where we are not
controlled by robots who only use us to make batteries! In all
seriousness though, I find it impossible to judge something that is so
The change in the D1 brand's ownership in the United States made for a
different D1 experience. There may have been many hallmarks that were
missing. But in the end, it was a D1 experience none the less. We got
to, again, witness the drifting prowess of the pro drivers from Japan.
And we also had the chance to witness the that the skill level, from
drivers at the more amateur level, were becoming increasingly
competitive. The days of the old D1GP events are still sweet memories
in our mind. But if the rapidly melting ice caps or the roller coaster
stock market are of any indication, these are changing times –and D1
has changed for sure.
Let's keep those nostaglic memories warm, but let's also be thankful that we again have the opportunity to experience that D1 magic.