Youichi Imamura must be a very happy chap. He is now the only professional D1 Grand Prix driver to have won two championships, his first one back in 2003 when he was driving the Apex'i FD3S. His celebrations started early during the Best 16 after he beat Daigo Saito in a series of very close runs. He grabbed the 2009 Championship trophy at the end of the day along with a ¥1,000,000 prize.
Unlike Round 7 the day before, Sunday was warm, dry and sunny throughout allowing the drivers to go full out, taking advantage of that fast entry at Fuji…
…shown here by Kumakubo, as he blasts towards the hairpin at insane speed.
No this is not a picture from Saturday! Unbelievably Kawabata ended up going into the final against his teammate Kuroi. And again he grabbed first place allowing him to climb up to 6th place overall for this 2009 season.
Keiichi Tsuchiya, the head judge, had some pretty hard calls to make yesterday. He, along with the rest of the judges panel were far from impressed with the qualifying runs of…
…and Ken Nomura, here he is doing one of his usual entrances during the driver's presentation. Both were within reach of the 2009 Championship along with Hibino and Imamura but ended up not even making it into the Best 16. The crowds were surprised and for the first time in D1 I even heard some booing going on!
The level of drifting throughout the qualifying was simply awesome, so I can understand the tough calls that had to be made.
Takayama managed to make the cut by landing in 14th position with 98.7 points.
Takahashi was on fire, and so were his tires when he got back on the power on the exit of the main corner! Just look at that thick creamy smoke, yummy!
Drift Samurai was in great form too, but he screwed up the entrance during his first pass ending up on the grass, well, where there used to be grass!
His second pass was very clean and he nailed the exit with tons of power allowing him to make the cut for Best 16.
I walked through the pits as usual to get a closer look at the cars and check out the teams preparing for the Best 16.
Saito's car was lifted up at the front for some quick work.
Having tons of power obviously takes a toll on the driveline but the mechanics are always ready with spare gearboxes…
…and replacement diffs ready to go. Notice these have a different final drive so Saito can choose what works best at each track.
Suenaga's Evo didn't get to see much action, as he didn't make it through the first qualifying for Round 8 the day before. I'm sure he will have more luck next year!
The car that defies physics, the Team Toyo Tires RPS13 180SX.
The man behind those crazy rear-end-first entries, Masato Kawabata, as he paces around his car.
The sunny warm weather on Sunday brought twice the amount of people compared to Saturday, as well as additional cars on display in the paddock. This is RE-Amemiya's fully "itasha-ized" FD. Even the wheels got the treatment! The vinyl wrapping and design was taken care of by Art Factory.
Some people have asked to see more of the JUN Akira Supra so here it is, looking even better with the hood shut! Can't wait for December to see this car in action!
Spotted this kouki RPS13 180SX in front of the Nismo booth wearing the full GP Sports aero kit. Looked very nice and worked well with the carbon rear end.
Before the Best 16 tsuiso rounds got under way Nomura…
…and Tezuka came in front of the crowds and apologized for not having qualified. Both bowed, and began to cry. I have been covering D1 for a long time and I've never seen anything like this! They were both in with a chance to grab the championship and had a lot of fans giving support and they were very sorry for having let them down.
Next up a look at the Best 16 action, so make sure you check back for some seriously close battles like the one above between Tokita and Kumakubo!
-Dino Dalle Carbonare