Our final day in China started off with a big bang. The cars started to arrive around 3 AM local Beijing time. The last car to arrive was Vaughn Gittin Jr.'s Mustang, which showed up at 6 AM. All night the cars were pulled out of the containers along with all the spare parts and tires needed to keep these machines running.
This is Todd Ho. He actually grew up in California but he moved to China recently for work. Todd was the very first driver to swap in a LS motor in his FC RX-7 and drove it on the Formula Drift circuit back in 2006.
The drivers gathered up groggy and dreamy eyed to an early morning drivers meeting. It was done in three different languages: Chinese, English and Japanese.
We had three international judges. Tarzan Yamada from Japan, Todd Ho from China and John "Afro" Coatzee from South Africa.
After the meeting all the drivers stuck around for a few rounds of Pictionary.
I went up to the judges stand as all the competitors got ready for practice and qualifying.
From up here you got a great vantage point of the entire course.
The course designers made the best of what little space they had.
The tension was growing back in the pits.
Ian Stewart from ASD came along as Vaughn's crew chief and mechanic. The Mustang had a charging issue but the highly experienced crew worked it out before it was time for practice.
Vaughn also brought his personal tuner, Adam Browne, all the way from Maryland. The fuel that was in the Mustang was 100 octane race gas. What was available to team USA was 85 octane pump gas, which is what the Chinese Taxi's use.
Every replacement part you can think of was shipped over.
Vaughn and the team spared no expense competing against the Chinese and Japanese.
While Vaughn and the rest of the Monster team got ready for practice, Ross Petty and his crew from Garage Boso was getting his right hand drive S14 ready.
In just four hours, the entire car was wrapped in the rasta Boso livery colors. Bob Marley would be proud.
Costa Gialamas built Matt Powers' China LS-powered Zenki S14 competition car in just ten days.
Could this be a preview of a future livery?
With just a few more adjustments to the clutch and e-brake, the car was ready to hit practice.
Kyle Mohan was the team hamster as he tested out the track first. He ended up doing twelve laps in a row before he ran out of tires.
Before qualifying, Kyle pretended to drive the course…
…while Ross made the rotory engine sounds.
Joshua Guild put down a couple awesome laps but unfortunately the wall sucked him in for a kiss on the cheek.
He was lucky because there was minimal damage.
It made me feel really good seeing everyone help each other out no matter what team they were from.
Just a quick push to the pits…
…and the car is nearly ready to go back out again.
Kyle "The Menace" Mohan is a one man show. He was alone in China so he wrenched and drove. He is like one of those one man bands that can play the guitar with a harmonica in his mouth and play a bass drum with his foot.
It was time to see if the Monster Energy Mustang could handle the 85 octane gas.
At first it was having some troubles but the car ran great after they dialed it in.
Vaughn's head mechanic, Rick Lamber, got to leave the pits for a while and watch the on-track action. I can only imagine the banter that goes on between the crew members and the drivers.
The local Chinese media came out in force. Who needs a tripod?
Afro decided to get some rest before qualifying in a deflated hot air balloon.
Matt went out and killed it in qualifying. He landed a 2nd place spot in the Top 32 bracket.
Justin Shreeve egged on the drivers to get closer.
Some took it a little too far…
…and others spontaneously combusted.
One by one, Team USA battled their way into the Top 16.
The crowd started to roll in as night fell.
The stadium lights were turned off for the Top 16 opening ceremonies.
I followed Vaughn and Tarzan in an A31 Cefiro driven by Andrew the Russian.
The crowd of 35,000 spectators went nuts.
In China, the drivers are not introduced individually during the opening ceremony.
Instead they introduce themselves in a video recorded a few days earlier. Matt explained why he loves drifting and what his hobbies are.
It was showtime and Matt brought his "A" game as he made it all the way to the finals.
Kyle made his way into the Top 8 after a One More Time battle.
He followed so close that he ran into his competitor after the finish line.
The entire team helped Kyle button up his FC before Top 8. Unfortunately, the car was just not driving straight anymore so he got knocked out by Chinese driver, Zhang Shao Hua!
Andrew, the crazy Russian drifter, hit the wall on the last corner and started a small bonfire.
Vaughn had been looking forward to meeting Daigo Saito in competition for years now.
The two definitely put on a great show for the crowd.
It was some of the closest tandem I have ever seen. Check out the video here.
Ross Petty is no stranger to drifting in China. This is his seventh event in the People's Republic.
Ross ended up getting knocked out in the Top 8 by Feng Ren Zhi of China.
Feng Ren Zhi then met with Vaughn in the Top 4.
They would go two OMT's before Vaughn was declared the winner…
…he then threw up the international hand signal for "right turn."
The two American titans clashed In the finals as they drove door to door.
In the end, Vaughn would finish on top. Both Matt and Vaughn made me really proud. It was good to see such familiar faces on the podium of a foreign drift event.
After Powers stepped down from the podium, he got mobbed by the Chinese groupies. He looks like he was getting squished pretty well.
It's not the size of the trophy that matters.
Chinese drift fans are just all sorts of nuts. They jumped down from the stands on multiple occasions to say hi to their favorite drivers.
I have a feeling we will see some good battles at the next round of World Drift Series China in the beautiful city of Hang Zhou.
After a four day vacation, and 24 hours of straight work, the members of the Team USA media were pooped to say the least.
Since Vaughn won the event, he treated the entire team to some street food that was right outside our hotel. It also happened to be under a freeway overpass, but that did not stop the guys from sharing drift related stores till the sun came up. At the end of the night the bill came out to $26 USD.
Not a bad way to end a trip to China….