The coverage from Ebisu continues with a move onto the third round of the impressively successful G1 "Gaijin" Grand Prix. The first event was held exactly a year ago, during the Saturday afternoon of the 2009 Autumn Drift Matsuri. Since then things have progressed into nothing short of a proper small series that is now being held on the Friday before each of the three Matsuri events in spring, summer and autumn.
Casey got to the track before everyone last Friday, ready to capture this breathtaking view looking down at the circuits within Ebisu and the surrounding foggy mountains.
There is a lot of drift action coming up in the three posts we will be dedicating to the event, but before that I think it would be fitting to take time to check out the atmosphere behind the G1 and walk through the paddock to see some of the cars and just who showed up.
After each driver signed up and paid the entry fee it was on to the big meeting room on top of the Nishi Course restaurant…
…where Kumakubo, Suenaga, Sleepy and Mana-P addressed all the foreigners that had made the trip over to Japan to take part in the event. Things didn't exactly kick off on the right foot however, as out of the 72 people that had signed up before hand only 45 were actually present with cars and ready to compete. This didn't please the Team Orange guys too much as they had spent lots of time coordinating the event, bringing in sponsors and setting up the way the competition would be held. Changes had to be made to how the qualifications would be run, and participants were split into novice and pro groups to make the best out of the day.
As people began to get ready for the morning practice Casey and I walked through the paddock taking a look at who was driving what.
Andy from Powervehicles, who was responsible for helping organize the G1 and supplying cars to a lot of the entrants, started off the day driving this S15-faced RPS13, but after the practice run decided to change over to his trusty red JZX90.
Stewy Bryant was back at the G1 behind the wheel of yet another BNR32, easily recognizable via the same Australian flag he used on his RB26-powered and T78-boosted R32 back in spring.
The RB20DET in his car was fitted with a "custom" intercooler set-up, not sure how to classify it? Top-mount? Incline-mount? My-intercooler-piping-was-too-short-so-that's-why-it's-there-mount?
Big surprise of the day was yet another RPS13 with S15 front conversion, this time based on a US-spec 240SX that has recently been imported into Japan.
The car was attracting a lot of attention; that is Mike Pollard taking a closer look.
There were a lot of familiar faces hanging around the blue 240, like Robbie Nishida who had been called in to take care of the commentary and communicating with the drivers during the event.
Once someone popped the hood it immediately became obvious why so many seemed so interested in the car. That's an LS1 in there, something people reading this from the US might not find too special, but for us in Japan it's a very unusual and impossibly cool thing to see.
The car was driven by Daigo Saito who came to check out the event and go out for a few practice laps with the Nascar-sounding RPS13.
Jay Duca was behind the wheel of JZX90 for the event, but also had Andy pick him up this very nice Rasty-tuned JZX100. The big Toyota sedan looked so good I couldn't resist grabbing some shots of it the following day at Matsuri. Jay even threw me the key and told me to take the car out for a skid if I felt like it. I kept it professional and just shot the car, preferring to return it in once piece. Don't miss the spotlight I have coming up on it!
Not sure who this was.
Something I've asked myself time and time again is why more US drivers don't come over to take part in the G1 and Matsuri. Mike Pollard didn't want to miss the event this time round, so made the trip over to Japan to meet the car that Andy sourced for him.
Andy and Emily even stickered up the Mike's 180SX to help him become instantly recognizable when out on track!
For a while now we have been talking with Swedish driver Mikael Svensson and wanting to do a driver blog with him whenever he would come over to Japan for the G1 and Matsuri. This finally materialized when he got this very mean looking S13 from Andy and booked his flights over! Stay tuned for more on this after the Matsuri coverage.
G1 and Matsuri regular Alexi Smith of Noriyaro fame was at the event with his JZX100…
…and a very interestingly colored helmet from icon. I had a look and yes you can see out of the visor, but as Alexi said, it is probably better to keep it open if you really want to concentrate.
John Dreyer was back in action with the famous R32 Skyline Police drift car, and this time round he showed up in very fitting attire.
Sumika of Team Orange was handling the registration early in the day in the control tower office…
…where people had to sign a disclaimer and pick up their numbers and special G1 GP windscreen banners.
As I was walking through the pits…
…I spotted the famous Disco Stu, who always seems to be applying stickers or numbers to his car when I see him. He only lives a few minutes from the gates of Ebisu circuit so he is a true local.
Kevin Delhaye from France was driving the ex-Yashio Factory S15 Silvia that he keeps in Japan when he competes in the D1 Street Legal series.
Another cool car was the Bee-R kitted R32 Skyline of South African Wade Zummeren…
…not to mention Emily Loudon's Powervehicles S14, another ex-Yashio Factory car but recently tuned by the best in the business, "God-Hand Koyama."
No explanation needed. All drifters should have one of these on their cars!
Christian Pickering was back on board the Kuroi-tuned Riverside S13, an incredible looking car from any angle.
With the practice over it was decided to go with roulette-type qualifying, drivers would go out and stay out for a few runs trying to do their best as the judges, well, judged!
On the far corner of the paddock I spotted Chris DeJager's S14, the car that we saw going rear-end first into corners up at the Kita-course during the Summer Matsuri.
Trust came over to exhibit a few of their most popular parts, like the massive oil cooler on the left of the picture and the diff-cover plate which extends oil capacity. If the G1 continues to grow as it has been over the last year we can expect to see more and more companies exhibiting and sponsoring the event.
Shane Bingham once again came all the way up from Osaka with a few cars and friends. Here is an RPS13 he built for John Dollisone…
…we liked it so much Casey did a spotlight on it so don't miss it!
Zenky Racing was again onboard as one of the main sponsors of the G1. Michael Iphigenie, the man behind the company, finally made it over to check out the event for himself.
Emily in her S14 getting some practice in as she comes down the hill at the Nishi short course…
…and then around the last corner.
Mana-P carefully observing the gaijin in action.
Next up will be a look at all the drifting action that went down as Casey and I do our best to cover the event from every conceivable angle of the small Nishi Short course. Back soon!
-Dino Dalle Carbonare