After the 11 hour flight and pre-track preparations with Billy from GAIJIN Smash, I showed up to Ebisu to find my car sourced from Andy of Powervehicles, decked out in full American fashion. It actually had 52 stars as well! I had sell off parts from my personal competition drift car in the US to afford my Matsuri missile! I took the first day to install some bits I brought from my personal car like the steering wheel and 5-point harness not to mention doing a full check on the car I would be using to compete in G1-GP Round 3 in as well as the Autumn Matsuri in. Although it had blown shocks and completely rotted motor mounts, nothing was gonna keep me from driving.
Once my car was pitted for the G1-GP on Friday I took a walk around Daigos LS1 LHD 240SX he sourced from the States. Although nothing special as far as V8s go, it had the Daigo touch, which makes it like no other! Also took some time to talk with him and Robbie Nishida before the day commenced.
The pre-qualifying drivers meeting was jam-packed with Austrailians, South Africans, French, and other's from around the world including myself and Billy Hanson from TMFO and Gaijin Smash representing the Americans that would be competing. Robbie Nishida took the mic to explain what the judges would be looking for and lay out the qualifying format for the Top16.
During my 10 minute qualifying session I was laying down consistant runs in my 280HP 180SX, hitting all the proper clipping points with my aggressive style coming down the hill at Nishi, through the middle section and through the final corner, laying hard on the gas TMFO style!
In the post qualifying drivers meeting, the Top 14 finishers were announced along with four more drivers including myself…
…who were apparently equal as far as runs went…
…and would have to pick straws to battle it out for the final two spots in the Top 16.
In my first tandem battle I went up against the Drift Police R32 of John Dreyer…
…and came out victorious after a solid lead and close chasing runs followed by him spinning on his chase run.
After fighting my way to Top 16 I went up against South African Daniel Buchner in his 180SX. Having both made mistakes on our first round we went one more time. I laid down a solid lead run and when following him made contact coming down the hill as he was much much slower than usual in the faster part of the course, causing me to spin. After getting told I had lost I was not happy as his "brake checking " should have been totally clear. I went back into the pits and proceeded back to the stands to watch the rest of the battles when I was told they had announced I won! After a quick interaction with Kumakubo, Robbie and the judges, it was corrected that I had indeed won and there had been a mistake! I immediately rushed back to my car and headed up to the staging lane for my next battle for the Top 8. I lost to one of the many Australians competing, ending up in 7th place overall in my first G1-GP. I was hoping for the 1st American podium but fell short. There's always next year
On Saturday morning I showed up to the track a little late as the night before me and my friend/sponsor Chris from sakurajimaexpress.com got a little intoxicated at the G1-GP post event party. We ended up upgrading from the normal drivers accommodation across the track thanks to Robbie Nishida and Daigo Saito who invited us back to a nice hotel for some more drinks to chill and chat. Getting to shower was the best part. Thanks guys! Once at Ebisu for the Drift Matsuri I headed straight to Minami Course to pit and setup the car for the jump, as instructed by Diago. Raising the car I found one front strut was bent, and for safety I ratchet-strapped the motor down. Although my car was the complete opposite of jump-ready I proceeded onto the track regardless of the obvious dangers.
After ten or so feeler runs I began to speed up into the entry and did what felt like a 90% run into the course, getting some air in the process.
Upon landing it was clear my car, with its blown shocks, was not in the best shape to be jumping, but I didn't let that get to my head.
Since I was not going 100% I didn't have the proper line to get close to the wall, fully carry my momentum down the hill and run the outside line, but still completed the course in fashion. It was the best feeling in the world!
With my fears aside and a little ego boost having completed the course, I told myself to "quit being a ***" and do it like a man! Thats when it all went wrong. I proceeded to enter the jump line with full speed and upon landing the car decided to go the complete opposite way, shooting me head-on into the wall at roughly 75-80mph. The hit was without a doubt the hardest I have taken since I started drifting 10 yrs ago. Thankfully knowing my own driving style I installed my 5-point harness over the stock seatbelt.
I emerged from the wreckage with a smile from ear to ear and my adrenaline was at max. I was glad I was ok, minus some harness burns on my neck. "Thats drifting" I told myself. My plan had been to do the jump at the end of the Matsuri, figuring this would happen, but being there my excitement got the better of me.
Of course I had to show some sadness for the media…
…as it would seem my matsuri weekend was over just 4 hours into the 36 hour event.
A close-up of the carnage. Had wall material pressed into the paint, my wheel had managed to cut right through the fender and radiator and obviously intercooler damage as well as major frame movement.
We got the car back into the pits…
…to see what could be salvaged from the wreck.
The car would sit in this spot in the Minami pits for the remainder of the Matsuri to be a reminder of the dangers that lurk just 40 yds away. Minami wall – 1 … America – 0. hahahaha
After hangin around, watching as others drifted for 4 hours into the evening, it started to settle in that I could not drive anymore. It was starting to get to me when I overheard an American military guy say he was out of tires and had zero money left and was also low on gas. I proceeded to walk over and inform him I had 6-10 tires left, as well as better Dunlop Star Spec front rubber to run and a full tank of gas we could syphon over. It just so happened his missile was a 4-door Ceifro with 4-lug hubs and a RB20DET sporting coilovers, rack spacers, and an aftermarket diff. He agreed to allow me to share his car with him for the remainder of the weekend, provided we would share the tires I had left, as well as my gas! MATSURI CONTINUES!!!
After installing my steering wheel…
…and 17inch wheels I proceeded to drift through the night into the morning (4am) hitting hot laps on the Touge and North Courses in the darkness, blowing out tires, drifting on bare rims. I even got the car on 2 wheels on the driverside sidewalls for 5 seconds in a verrrrryy close nearly-roll-over-situation coming down the Touge course hill. Thankfully the car ended up back on 4 wheels with me and my friend Chris laughing hysterically with our hearts racing in awe. After this it was time for some rest and I slept from 4:30 am to around 8:00am.
In the morning I fitted some new tires on the Ceifro and headed up to the North Course to "ride the wall." In the pits I ran into Dino who was shocked to see me behind the wheels of yet another car, still enjoying Matsuri.
During the 1st session out on North Course I blew 3rd gear initiating up the hill onto the straight. I proceeded to only use 2nd and still have just as much fun getting closer and closer to the wall.
In this picture you can see the full rear end of a stock Ceifro after one wall tap.
After finally reaching the wall and getting calibrated with the length of the 4dr drift car, which being my first experience in one is a bit longer than my usual S13 chassis. It sparked 30 runs back to back to back of consistant wall-taps down the straight, which when done right, bounce you perfectly into the next corner at wide open throttle.
Now the rear end slowly losing its natural shape tap after tap.
After a few runs a big crowd gathered on the wall cheering me and showing me just where they wanted me to tap.
So I gave them what they wanted until I was literally backing the car into the wall to hit it, as the passenger corner was completely rounded off with the trunk opening and closing under its own free will.
After finally running out of gas I pulled into pits where, with the adrenaline pumping and smiling ear to ear, we chatted on how every time I managed to tap the wall and was having the time of my life.
I gave a "I conquered North Course" pose to wrap up the weekend on top of what was left of the rear end of the Ceifro!
I can honestly say the Drift Matsuri was the most fun I have ever had drifting in my whole life and would strongly suggest you make the trek at some point in your life. The guys at Ebisu really know how to "keep drifting fun." From the atmosphere to the 100+ drifters from all over the world all just having a blast and destroying their cars. It's the biggest and baddest grassroots event in the whole world, period. It was a bit pricey but worth every penny I spent and would not have been able to do it if it wasnt for friends like Arron Mai from Arron Mai photography, Billy Hanson and the other members of Gaijin Smash, Chris Tesarski from sakurajimaexpress.com, Andy and Emily at Powervehicles, Kumakubo and Suenaga for the great facilities and the awesome military guy from Florida who let me share and thrash in his Ceifro. I am now addicted to the Drift Matsuri and will be going back in the future and working to setup a way for more Americans to get over and experience it, as it is simply amazing. And I wont forget Dino for being everywhere drifting is and allowing me to do this Driver Blog here on Speedhunters and share my experience with the world in my own words.