A New Champion Emerges At Irwindale

The smoke has finally settled and for the first time in Formula Drift history an FD rookie wins the Championship.

Daigo Saito won the championship by a mere 19.5 points after finishing in 1st place at Irwindale.

He has said time and time again that he would not try to compete in Formula Drift until he had a real chance at taking the championship. This year he entered FD with the notion that he was ready. He was.

This is the final event of the year which was very evident from the way the guys were driving. There was no point in holding back at all and as a result, walls were scraped and bumpers smashed. It was an awesome event in its entirety, but here are a few of highlights.

For some reason Kyle Mohan always draws Daijiro Yoshihara in competition and he has always lost to the Falken driver. This time he finally got his revenge and knocked Dai out of the top 32 bracket.

The carnage began early in the top 32 with Walker Wilkerson going into the wall.

He did not just tap the barrier, he literally rode the wall and the car lifted the rear several inches off the ground!

Amazingly he did not lose drift. He just kept on going and he finished his lead run with Justin Pawlak.

Justin would move on, but I have to give it to Walker for putting on such an amazing show.

Next up was Chris Forsberg and Conrad Grunewald which did not end so well.

Conrad hit the wall and Chris was following very close. The two collided with each other  which sent Chris’ rear end into the wall, sucking the rest of the car along with it at which point he was merely a passenger. It has been tough for Chris as he has had a string of back luck to close out the season.

For someone who does not compete very often, Alex Lee always seems to do very well.

I think he has outgrown his car if I’m honest. It is severely under-powered and over-weight, yet he manages to get into the top 16 with ease.

Unfortunately for him this time he too ended up in the wall which took him out of the top 32 bracket. I am sure he will come back next year fighting.

One of the few drivers who has never missed a Formula Drift event is Taka Aono. It is unfortunate, but the team has been dealing with mechanical issues all year long.

Taka was the first road block in Daigo Saito’s final stretch of road to the championship. On his follow run Taka found the wall and took himself out. Time and time again Taka gets right back up after being knocked down and I don’t think anything will be able to break this man’s spirit. I hope he can gather up his team once again for another shot at glory next year.

The last battle of the top 32 bracket was between Matt Powers and Luke Lonberger.

It actually looked as if Luke was going to take the win, but after the judges debated for a while they decided to give the win to Powers.

As night fell the stands got more and more packed. The event was 100 percent sold out before the gates opened and by now all of the ticket holders were trackside. It was pretty much standing room only surrounding the entire Perimeter of the track.

President and co-founder of Formula Drift, Jim Liaw, had his happy face on.

The most talked about battle of the entire event was between Vaughn Gittin Jr. and Patrick Mordaunt. For Vaughn to win the Championship he had to win this battle which would have statistically eliminated anyone else from being able to claim the title.

It looked like he was going to take it very easily as he gaped Patrick very badly in the first run. For Vaughn’s follow run he left some room to catch up, but spun out on his own accord gifting Patrick the win.

The tension was very high as he was forced to sit and watch his second potential championship at stake from the sidelines.

He kept his cool and thanked his crew members for all their hard work over the season.

Then he just watched as the the rest of the event unfolded. Daigo and Rhys would have to get knocked out in some shape or another for Vaughn to keep his lead.

Next up was our very own Fredric Aasbo in the Need for Speed Scion tC, against Robbie Nishida in the Lexus SC300.

Both drivers did very well on Fredric’s lead run, but on Fredric’s follow run he tapped Robbie coming off the bank. Unable to recover from the hit he spun out and like that, his season was over.

Fredric would finish 6th in the points ranking which is the best result from the Norwegian hammer. I know for a fact that he will be chasing the championship next year.

The top 16 bracket also had its fair share of wrecks. Drift Alliance brothers Tony Angelo and Justin Pawlak battled it out door to door.

Tony just took it in way to hard and had a massive hit on the inner bank.

He was ok, but surely kicking himself for not putting up a better fight. Hopefully they will be able to button the Scion up for next season.

The wrecks did not stop coming just yet as Tony Brakohiapa practicly mirrored Tony Angelo’s wreck going against Tyler McQuarrie.

They have been suffering mechanical problems all year and it seems like they finally sorted it out for this event. It was a shame that it had to end this way.

The breakout performance of the event came from Mr. Hollywood, also known as Matt Field. I have always known he was a competitor to watch out for, but this time he literally let it all hang out.

After knocking out Jeremy Lowe in the top 32 he went onto knock out Ken Gushi in the top 16. In the top 8 bracket he met Daigo Saito.

This was when things got interesting. He was scraping the wall on the inner bank every single time at this point. The judges could not decide after the battle so they called a One More Time. Daigo would knock Matt out, but the outcome of the championship could have been very different if Matt took the win. Kudos to him for such an awesome performance, it goes to show that you can be competitive with a budget build as long as you have the balls to throw it in hard.

After seven events, and all the spills and thrills you could ask for, it all boiled down to one final battle – the battle for the championship. It was Daigo Saito vs. Rhys Millen… there could only be one.

Rhys was all smiles after his crash…

…as his wheel, with suspension still attached, rolled away, taking his hopes for the title along with it. Maybe he was just plain happy or perhaps he knew that he was pushing as hard as he possibly could. Either way I hope he finds a major sponsor for next year because we would hate to see him not competing in Formula Drift after getting this close to earning another Championship.

It was now up to Daigo and Justin Pawlak to settle a rivalry that was started back in round 3 at Palm Beach. Both drivers had nothing to lose so they went all out.

Justin threw it in just a hair too strong and was the wall of champion’s final victim of 2012, surrendering the win to Daigo Saito.

I’ve never seen so many wrecks where the drift cars could not go back to the pits under their own power.

Congratulations to Daigo Saito, Vaughn Gittin Jr. and Rhys Millen for an awesome performance this year. I can’t wait to see what these guys have in store for us next year.

If you weren’t there to see Irwindale unfold live, be sure to check out the driftstream if you watch to watch the entire event.

Larry

larry@dev.speedhunters.com

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61 comments
newguy
newguy

Not sure if anyone else caught this:

 

"For some reason Kyle Mohan always draws Daijiro Yoshihara in competition and he has always lost to the Falken driver. This time he finally got his revenge and knocked Dai out of the top 32 bracket."  

 

This is incorrect Kyle beat Dai in Top 32 at Palm Beach 2011.  www.driftstats.com

begeegus_da_breezys
begeegus_da_breezys

A few points:

-Congratulations goes to Daigo Saito for the win. He made FD interesting to watch this year and the Fans including myself loved watch him.

-If Daigo was operating on a shoe string budget, how should we coin the term for the Matt Field's budget?..sewing thread?

-Matt Field put on one hell of a show using what he had to work with.

-Daigo may be a new competitor in the U.S. Formula Drift series but he is no rookie. I've been a fan since D1 back in '04 and he competed in Formula D Asia prior to U.S.

-Matt Field's true rookie season was 2010.

 

Give credit where's it's due. This is a turning point for both drivers and for the series. I'm sure many more people will follow the Formula Drift Series after watching/hearing the buzz from this event.

Ben Chandler
Ben Chandler

Killer post Larry and some amazing shots! Looking forward to more on this!

Fearedisx
Fearedisx

I still think Field should've been awarded the win...

Regardless, congratulations Saito.

super_mut
super_mut

Formula D delivers once again with amazing action at an event.  However, I would like to address an issue I have. 

 

The staff at Formula D needs to allocate more resources towards security at this event.  The crowds general behavior in the grandstands was unacceptable.  The throwing of fans onto the track, numerous paper airplanes in the air with some actually injuring some attendees, and the number of participants sitting in seats that they did not belong in.  This was the same problem that I had last year when I attended this event.  Needless to say, it might be the general admission crowd in the general grandstands or I may have to start springing for the VIP seating area. 

 

Unacceptable Formula D, if you are going to hold such a large event you need to increase your security.  The year before you had people checking tickets to get into the grandstands, this year you did not.  I had a number of individuals sitting in my row that did not hold tickets. 

makofoto
makofoto

Larry does his usual amazing job of bringing us fresh angles!

makofoto
makofoto

Where those top mounted GoPro's ... with antennas ... transmitting live ... using WiFi backs?

duanemore
duanemore

Diago finished second in final round of King Of Europe Drift event a weekend earlier (driving a chaser) at Slovakiaring

 

CRazedsmokerer
CRazedsmokerer

Mat should have beaten Daigo he had the better runs but at least it's safe to day Daigo's the world champion of drifting

LavarBowers
LavarBowers

lol big suprise here saito raped these fools and he did it on good ole jdm horsepower.....he earned it GJ son!

magnus
magnus

I'm a long-time auto enthusiast and motorsports fan, and Irwindale was my first drift event. It was an amazing experience and I want to share a couple thoughts. First, I think Gushi and Fields both put on an amazing show and had excellent runs. Second, I noticed a pretty huge disparity between the well-funded teams and the smaller teams in terms of horsepower - has anyone pitched the idea of having two classes, one for >x00 horsepower and another for <x00 horsepower? Third, Speedhunters, this show really opened my eyes to just how big you guys have gotten. Your booth was jammin' and you guys played a huge role in the event, sponsoring cars and generating buzz with the featurethis promotion deal. I'm pretty sure I walked past Larry in the paddock but I was mildly starstruck and didn't know what to say... haha. Final thought, I had a great time overall and I loved how open the paddock was to spectators - a nice community atmosphere. And that RX8 sounded badass.

kids heart
kids heart

Congrats to Ken Gushi for his 8th place finish in points. Welcome to the top 10 again. I hope they get that FR-S figured out and faster for 2013.

MitchJBaier
MitchJBaier

Where are the pictures of Ken Gushi's Frs?

kids heart
kids heart

Congratulations Daigo Saito, the best drifter in the world. Four podiums, two first places and the Formula D series champion all in his rookie year. He did it in a chassis that isn't known to be competitive in drifting with a non V8 motor, maintained on a shoe string budget. If the schedules didn't conflict he would be the 2012 D1GP champ as well. After Three podiums, two victories and three missed rounds he currently sits in close third and has a strong shot at second place over there. Here's to hoping Daigo Saito returns for 2013 with a bunch of well earned sponsors and his victory encourages other top Japanese drifters to follow suite. Looking at you Youchi Imamura.

Fadam
Fadam

Being a huge Daigo fan for many years, it pleases me that he has yet another championship under his belt and still has a chance of taking the D1GP 2012 title aswell! The battle between him and Matt was a very tough one to call, in the OMT battle I honestly thought it was going to go another OMT, that's what I would of called anyway. Not trying to take anything away from Matt because he put in such an awesome drive! He put up a better fight against Daigo then alot of the top drivers this year and I hope he picks up alot of new sponsors and a big new title sponsor for next year. Bring on 2012!

Henry
Henry

Rad. I'm feelin this. Daigo has such raw style. 

LouisYio
LouisYio

It should have been another OMT between Field and Saito. There were way too people in the audience that were disappointed with the judges after giving Saito the win. Oh well. Next time.

AlfonsoAlcala
AlfonsoAlcala

Hands down... amazing shots!!! and matt fields just tore that track up... 

NorcalAP2
NorcalAP2

Field had that one, and HARDLY A ROOKIE WITH 7 FD ASIAN WINS IN A ROW.

CamCAm
CamCAm

Interview with Matt Fields please? and also is there an upcoming Matt Powers update? haven't heard from him in a while? 

Rey1164
Rey1164

also the reason so many wrecks is cause most of the big sponsored drivers dont have shit to loose, is the end of the season might as well go all out not like their cars arent gonna get rebuild to be better the next year.

Rey1164
Rey1164

congrats to Diego Santos, but Matt Fields stoled the show 

Kenzo
Kenzo

so many balls to the walls car deaths, this was go hard or go home finale

KBR
KBR

RETAKS model > ALL of the models at the podium.

vector52787
vector52787

Scion must be running fake wheels look how it shattered.

Larry Chen
Larry Chen

I meant for the 2012 season. But thanks for clearing that up for me.

Larry Chen
Larry Chen

 @dantediss This is just a quick highlight recap. I will be posting more coverage.

Carl S
Carl S

They definitely need to have a class similar to D1SL, it would motivate a lot of people, me included. To most drifters, Formula D has no appeal. Although it is cool to see how the top 3 this year all had engines from their respective brands, and only one was v8! They shouldn't have horsepower restrictions, but rather displacement restrictions or engine swapping restrictions. Just imagine the badical sounds if there was a 4/6/rotary class seperate from all the v8 tractor pull sounding stuff!

Larry Chen
Larry Chen

I don't know if it is right to restrict horsepower in drifting. How many other Motorsports out there allow unlimited amounts of horsepower?

 

Plus the lower HP guys take out the high HP guys all the time. Look at the battle between Aasbo and Saito in Atlanta. It is what keeps it interesting as well as all the different kind of cars that are allowed in competition.

john
john

thats a good thought on the hp classes, but FormulaD does have tire size/HP ratio restrictions to curb that high HP car from just running away from every body.  i also like that a grassroots guy can have the chance to drive against huge professional teams, where else does that happen?  

 

of course the RX8 sounded badass, its a rotary

kids heart
kids heart

Bridges Racing/ Achilles Radial had the highest hp cars out there, Daigo with 1100hp and Robbie with 950hp on a shoe string budget and tiny pit crew. They took it to the factory backed million dollars teams and won. Why would you want to limit hp?

LavarBowers
LavarBowers

power = $$$ bigger teams = more $$$ pretty simple really but not a bad idea but you gotta also remeber that the way it is gives the underdogs a chance to shine...a 400hp car vs a 800+hp monster and the the 400hp guy wins...tell me you wouldnt be impressed...it also allows the skill levels to show....

kids heart
kids heart

@LouisYio Saito had better banana on chase and Matt took the bank low. He lost fair and square.

StephonFazalKhan
StephonFazalKhan

competing in a new country, with tracks he has never driven before, in a car he had just built;  he's a rookie to FD america. and he won the season 

Larry Chen
Larry Chen

 @Rey1164 I don't know if any of the big sponsors would like to see their driver wreck.

Simply P
Simply P

 @KBR She's either your girlfriend, your sister, or you're kidding.

febykar
febykar

 @vector52787 dude Gram Lights the entry model from Rays wheels they made it by casting not forged one so they can shattered when hit concrete at high speed. Check their website if you guys not believe me.

Dshu
Dshu

 @vector52787  Oh yea, because we all know real wheels don't break when contacting a solid concrete wall at high speeds

Simply P
Simply P

 @vector52787 IIRC they're Gram Lights. A hard hit is going to ruin wheels regardless of brand, make, or country of origin.  Jus' sayin'.

777
777

@john fd has a tyre/weight rrstriction which helps bring some sort of parity to the field from a general grip perspective, and to the people saying daigo is only fast because of his power it's just so far from the truth it's not even funny, saito is faster because he has a drasticaly different driving style to those in the us and somewhere like irwindale which is a absolute power track it shouldn't be a suprise who is going to have an advantage. also, there is a distinct possibility that saito can be even faster next year from a car perspective, the car itself doesn't actually have that much of an emphasis on weight and as such it is actually in the 275 tyre class, but the problem with this is that achilles don't make anything bigger than a 265 in the 123s/atr sport series' so the car can either get lighter or achilles can make a 275, so really unless there's some dtastic changes to other cars next season, saito will continue in much the same fashion as in this season

vector52787
vector52787

 @Dshu I was just trolling a little I know no wheel will survive a impact like that.

john
john

 @777  @john i realized that it was tire/weight after i wrote it... i'm retarded. 


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