With the start of another Formula Drift season, it was once again time to catch up with our friends from Team Falken for the first of several behind the scenes reports. Obviously, it was a solid weekend for the team, with a certain Vaughn Gittin Jr. taking the victory, but there was much more to the story than just JR's win.
With this being the first event of the year, we thought it'd be a good idea to start off with an introduction to the 2010 team.
Returning members include Tyler McQuarrie, who begins his second season driving the ASD-prepped 350Z Roadster. Tyler was eliminated in the Top 32 last weekend, but it'd be foolish to count this guy out of the race.
Darren McNamara also returns in the V8-powered Saturn Sky – now sporting the classic teal and blue scallops.
Ross Petty is also back for more, adding some flavor to the FD grid with his Garage Boso S15 Silvia.
He also added some flavor to the Team Falken pit area with his authentic boso style bike. This is how you get around the paddock in style…
Dai Yoshihara is also back in the Discount Tire V8-powered S13, which got a big makeover during the off season.
Personally, this was one of my favorite cars out there in Long Beach. It looks good, sounds good, and Dai drives the hell out of it. He also has fantastic hair.
The final returning member is Vaughn Gittin Jr., who's still in a Ford Mustang, although an all new one now sporting a Monster-Falken combo livery. Interesting to see this take on the old scallops.
Meanwhile, driving duties for JR's old Mustang have been taken over by Justin Pawlak, who makes the dramatic switch from driving rotary-powered cars in Formula Drift.
And finally we have the Irishman James Deane, who jumped behind the wheel of the Falken S15 in Long Beach.
Everyone I talked to at the track was just mesmerized by how this young man drove. His wing-shattering entries also earned him a lot of respect among the fans.
Here we Justin Pawlak's Mustang undergoing some last minute repairs on Friday afternoon. Because of these drivetrain problems, JTP was forced to sit out for most of the practice session.
Luckily, the car was fixed in time for him to get out there qualify in the Top 10. Not too shabby for as little practice as he had.
With this being the start of a new season, it kind of felt like being
reunited with classmates at the start of a new semester.
Whether it was the mechanics from ASD…
…or Falken umbrella girls such as the lovely Eri Moriyama.
One of the most exciting moments for the team came when Darren McNamara and and James Deane faced each other in the Top 16. Amazingly, it was the rookie Deane who took the victory here. Rumor has it James was a little shaken up after learning that he beat his mentor on the track. To Darren though, it was all in the spirit of good competition.
Deane was eventually eliminated by Tanner Foust in the Great Eight, but it was still an incredible run. Hopefully we will be seeing this fellow at the rest of the events on the
Yet at the end of the day, the man that nobody could beat was Vaughn Gittin Jr.
At the moment he defeated he Rhys Millen in the final battle, the feeling was electric. It's action like this that makes drifting one of the most entertaining motorsports on the planet.
Naturally, every member of the team was ecstatic. What better way to start off the season?
But there won't be a whole lot of time for celebrating, as the action will move across the country as Formula Drift makes its annual stop at Road Atlanta.
Will the team's success in Long Beach repeat itself? We'll find out in a few weeks.