The Sunday following the rather electric night at Irwindale Speedway, Formula DRIFT held its annual end of year banquet. It was an evening filled with flowing drinks, good laughs, a three course meal…
…and it also gave Formula D co-founders, Ryan Sage and Jim Liaw, the chance to say their thanks to everyone that participated in the 2011 season.
At the banquet, Formula D judge and technical adviser, Tony Angelo, announced that he would be stepping down from his position and would once again be jumping into the driver seat in the 2012 season! We’re very much looking forward to see what team and car he’ll be stepping into.
Here’s to hoping we’ll see that iconic orange and green Mazdaspeed livery once again!
The evening’s main event was the annual Formula DRIFT Awards. There were nine categories which were voted on by everyone in the Formula D paddock. So with that, let’s look at those award winners.
Best Looking Car: Matt Field
There’s no argument that drifting is all about style. And having a car that looks good is a rather large factor in the whole art-of-sideways. In this “best looking car” category, the nominations included Chris Forsberg, Matt Field, Daijiro Yoshihara and Fredric Aasbo’s drift machines. And out of those four, the loud highlighter yellow S14 of Matt Field took home the win.
Best Personal Style: Matt Powers
This award is for the driver that exudes the most amount of personality off the track and there are few drivers that can keep up with Matt Powers’ lifestyle.
Best Drifting Style: Daijiro Yoshihara
The best drifting style award is the opposite to that of the one above. This award was given to the driver who portrayed the most consistent, smokiest and most stylistic drifts throughout the year. It’s no surprise that it went to the newly crowned champion, Daijiro Yoshihara!
Most Improved: Matt Powers
In 2010, Matt Powers left the too-low-to-function, green and purple S14 behind, donned on a much louder 80s-inspired Need for Speed livery and finished 16th in the championship. This year, he’s swapped out his turbo-charged KA24 for an LS V8, got more focused with his driving, stood on the podium twice and finished 6th in the championship. At one point at Irwindale, if all the right cards fell into place, Matt could’ve even taken the championship. If that isn’t an example of a drastic improvement, then we don’t know what is….
Spirit of Drifting Award: Walker Wilkerson
The “Spirit of Drifting” award exemplifies the driver who believes what the sport is all about and the self-funded privateer, Walker Wilkerson was that person. Through countless mechanical failures all year long, Walker was always able to get his car buttoned up and working just in time for qualifying or competition. It’s his complete dedication, perseverance and self-motivation that won him this accolade.
The other nominations included Daijiro Yoshihara, Ross Petty and Joon Maeng.
Crew Member of the Year: Mike Kojima
There aren’t many people on the grid that would argue with Mike Kojima’s technological knowledge of cars and the art of building a chassis. And by taking care of the car that won the championship, it solidified in everyone’s mind that Mike was the crew member of the year.
Hardest Charging Driver: Matt Powers
Matt started off the season with a bang –quite literally. He made contact with Chris Forsberg in Long Beach, felt that Darren McNamara’s car looked better with one door off in Atlanta and was officially told to ease up on the driving a bit. But did he? Of course he didn’t. He continued to bring the party to 11 in each round because of his rock star mentality and driving style. This was his third accolade in the evening.
Team Manager of the Year: Chris Forsberg
Chris Forsberg is quite the one man team. He drove his 370Z and finished 3rd in the championship while managing all the logistics that are demanded of a professional race team.
Comeback of the Year: Rhys Millen
At the beginning of the season, Rhys Millen was looked upon as Formula D’s old blood which was losing its steam as a result of his lackluster performance in those first few rounds. But by the time Seattle rolled around, it seemed as though Rhys rekindled his love for drifting and drove like a bat out of hell. He came back from his slump with a win in Las Vegas, and finished second at Irwindale.
Fan Favorite: Walker Wilkerson
Every other award was voted on by the peers within the Formula D paddock. This was the only award that was voted on by the countless fans of the sport. And it was Walker Wilkerson that won the hearts of the paddock, the media and the fans worldwide with his super aggressive driving style and his relentless “I can do” attitude.
The night finally concluded with the presentation of the 2011 championship trophies to the top three finishers. Chris Forsberg came third, Justin Pawlak second and Daijiro Yoshihara is the new Formula DRIFT champion by finishing first in the points!
We send our congratulations to all the award winners. It’s been an incredible season. It’s been one of the best to date with Irwindale being considered the best drift event ever with its record attendance and the edge-of-your seat fight for the championship.
It’s hard to believe that the 2012 season in Long Beach is a mere six months away and we’re going to do this all over again….
Additional photos provided by Jose Martinez/Formula DRIFT