Tokyo Drift: Revisiting D1
Getting reacquainted

It’s been over a year and a half since I’ve hit up a D1 Grand Prix event. Over the last few years I’ve had a bit of a love and hate relationship with this series: initially I loved it because it gave this cool motorsport the attention and promotion it deserved, plus I enjoyed shooting it, experimenting with low shutter speeds and trying out strange new angles. Every time I went to an event, it was an exciting mix of witnessing drivers do their thing, seeing, hearing and smelling powerful cars pushed to the very limit, and then the photography aspect of it all.

Never did I expect D1 to disappoint me, but that is precisely what it did. Seeing such a great series spoiled by poor organization that forced even the founding fathers to leave, but then seeing it continue to evolve into an overly-protected series; well if this doesn’t kill your passion for a sport, then I don’t know what will. But I believe in second chances and with the last round of the 2013 Championship being held 30 minutes from my house…


… well I thought, why not? I wasn’t there to follow the proceedings as I would have ten years ago, getting caught up in the battles and anxiously waiting for the judges’ calls. No, I was there for the very simple desire to shoot some wild slides…


… and to take a look at the cars that are currently participating. After all, this is exactly what caught my attention all those years ago. It’s always been about the cars for me: that, the way they are driven and the resulting pictures I can walk away with.


The morning started off with some solo runs, drivers getting judged on both entry speed and the line they managed to put down…


… around the makeshift track that was laid out at the same car park that hosts those cool Mooneyes and JCCA gatherings we always flock to every year. There was much I wanted to see, starting off with Manabu Orido’s 86…


… which, since the last time I saw it, had ditched its hard-to-work-with ISF V8 powerplant in favor of some American muscle. After a quick initial and very smooth pass however…


… everything went pear-shaped for Orido. After clipping one of the last concrete barriers as he powered out of the turn, his car straightened up and the front end pushed into one of the guardrails, the resulting push allowing the following guardrail to literally stab the front end of his car. Orido’s weekend was over before it even started. The big spear-like hit had bent a portion of the chassis, and despite his team managing to get most of it fixed up by the end of the day, the car wasn’t used, even in Sunday’s exhibition round.


Single runs led to some tsuiso battles between drivers in the first group, and there were some pretty cool cars to see, like the HDO KP61 Starlet of Hideo Itakura, seen here leading against Mitsuro Murakami of Team MMM.


The top five drivers in D1 Street Legal were called in to do a short competition between each other: drivers that included Andrew Gray and his Powervehicles JZX100, which, thanks to a 3.1L 2JZ and an HKS T04Z blower, does a good job of burning through Neova AD08Rs like they were butter.


One of the youngest drivers in D1, Masanori Kohashi, always manages to put down smooth and consistent runs and is always a pleasure to see in action.

Paddock time

There is always much energy in a D1 paddock, especially as drivers are lining up their cars and warming engines before going out for a run. I will be bringing you a spotlight-o-rama post of some of the cooler cars that I came across…


… just to see what your modern day D1 machines are looking like – from what big teams like DrooP put together, to what those that manage to participate in the series with far smaller budgets come up with. Diversity is the most exciting thing in any drift series I think.


It doesn’t look like much has changed in the 19 months since my last D1 round…


Much of the same cars are still there like the GP Sports/Toyo Tires S15 of Sakuma and the RPS13 of Kawabata. These cars have been perfected with so much time having been put into setting them up; it’s not surprising a move away from the known and trusted puts some off.


Kuniaki Takahashi of course doesn’t belong in that camp. His move onto the Mark X platform back in 2011 was a very respected one and one that in no way hampered his competitiveness in that year’s championship. His car is looking even better this year thanks to the face-lifted Mark X front end. Oh and Utumi’s S15, despite not having changed much, is still a badass looking machine and one that likes to take to the sky as shown by the opening picture!


There is another type of driver I respect in D1: those that like Iwai continue to rock old school rides, despite being confronted with the highly powerful and more modern cars sported by the rest of the field. Hats off to you sir!


This sort of debate always brings you to the question: what makes a true drift car? A well set up older car like the 3S-powered DrooP AE86, or a true race-car build like the ZN6 the same team put together for Hibino? Tough one right?

Fierce competition

What has always made Odaiba fun is the number of foreign drivers that are given space to show off their skills in front of the Japanese crowds. However this year, Indonesian driver Emmanuel Amandio has competed in the full championship, and behind the wheel of his JZX100 has proven to be rather competitive among established drifters.


I saw as soon as he went out that he was there to drive 110%, probably generating more smoke than any one other driver and not afraid to take some aggressive lines with his spare car, as you can see in his barrier brush above. He managed to beat Ueno in the T&E E92 and move up to the Best 16 competition.


Hibino seemed to be more at home in his EJ-powered 86 compared to when I saw him take the car out in its debut round last year in Odaiba, going into the Round 6 competition in seventh place in the standings.


But everyone’s eyes were on Kawabata’s RPS13…


… and Naoto Suenaga’s Team Orange S15, the car that has replaced his Evo 9. Powered by the dry-sumped RB26 that was in Kumakubo’s Laurel, Suenaga has really found a superb set-up, landing him only two points behind Kawabata, point leader in this year’s season.


Suenaga was doing superbly all day until he came up against Imamura and his nichei S15…


… both drivers driving infallibly, run after run until Suenaga managed to grab the victory by a small margin.


Here is Russian driver Gocha Chivchyan and Amandio, once again proving that D1 is in dire need of a foreign presence to throw a little unexpected excitement into the proceedings. These guys fought hard and aggressively, pushing their respective cars to limits that most Japanese drivers weren’t even attempting to risk, so big thumbs up because that’s what drifting should be all about!

Rocket launch

But then in the battle against Suenaga and Utsumi something a little unexpected happened, that sort of redefined ‘limits’. After Suenaga lost his drift mid corner and almost came to a stop, Utsumi ended up using his steered passenger side wheel as a ramp…


… a ramp that sent him flying up into the air with a massive backfire, lightning up the whole underside of his S15. I’ve been shooting drifting for well over a decade now and I’ve never seen anything like that happen!


More fire? This time it was from the external wastegate on Kawabata’s S15 in his battle against Amandio.


Kawabata ended up going against Utsumi in the final and grabbing the win, taking those points that would guarantee he stayed in front of Suenaga in the standings, clenching yet another D1 Championship title. With the Exhibition to follow the next day, the weekend wasn’t quite over yet, but before we take a look at more drifting, there are some cars we should check out first…



Comments are closed.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest
Seeking Perfection

So Kawabata's car is actually an S15?
Thanks for the coverage Dino and I am wondering which are the cars you are going to check out before you provide us with more drifting coverage.

It might be out of topic, but what happened to the cars that Larry shot during his visit in Japan? I remember there was an S15 with a BMW front conversion and some cool Toyotas.


Not Fedorov Ilia, its Gocha Chivchyan from Krasnoyarsk Russia!


That Mark X front end would look amazing on a Scion tC. I actually mistook it for a tC until i saw the side shot


@Seeking Perfection unless he did a reverse conversion to make it look like a S13, its probably a S13.


OMG D1!!!!!!!!


I'm curious, what do you mean by an "overly-protected series"? Great photos as usual brosef.


caltemus The Mark X front end does look good on the Scion tC as seen here


kawabatas car is a 180sx not s15..


- Here is Russian driver Fedorov Ilia and Amandio 
Fedorov gone (S13)... , yellow S15 -  NGK Silvia, drive Giorgi Chivchan ! aka Gotcha! =) 100%
From Russia with love)


Really exicited to see you cover a D1 Round again, and it's the finals too. I rooted for Suenaga because he was really killing it this year! Hope to see more D1 next year!


D1 is just getting a bit stale, I know what you mean. When you look at a drift series like BDC with stupid cars like V8 Volvos, 2JZ BMW wagons and V10 S15s etc it just makes D1 look a bit serious and po-faced. Exactly what drifting is not meant to be, right?


I agree with you Dino.  D1 is but a shadow of it's former self.  On a related note; did anyone hear the news (rumor) that Formula D has decided to debut a Pro-Am league?  Seems some of the higher-ups at FD read the comments here at SH.

Seeking Perfection

Simply P With regard to FD, Pro Am and Pro series have been  running for years. Do you mean the introduction of FD Pro Series 2 which will be in full function in 2015? It seems that you are not familiar with happens in FD. Do not overestimate yourself and believe that Pro-Am began because of you. It was already there son.


@Dynames Yes it's an RPS13.  As for the cars, it'll be the interesting ones ;)


Mike Garrett LOL


FunctionFirst Oh please don't get me started...


Chrixz Yeah Suenaga almost had it, and he deserved it.


JoeWhaler Yes that and the fact that it's just a big machine to sell DVDs to the masses.  I really don't know how long they can keep it up, it's like its all organisers for crowds that have never seen's a weird one D1


good to see some d1 coverage, the cars there have always been my favorite. formula d cars try as they may never seem to pull off the look


When I saw that S15 picture floating around FB, I was like WTF?! Is this for real. Hahaha! Looks like a scene from the movies. I wonder how it was like watching that actually happen.


I have my most respect to Emmanuel Amandio, a sole D1 driver from South East Asia. And he's really gone wild this year!


Why is it that people are still saying "OH THATS A VERY GOOD DRIFT BECAUSE IT IS BLOWING A TON OF SMOKE!!". When the hell did drifting become of who is blowing more smoke? Every time I watch awful FD that is all I hear as well.


Question, is the popularity of D1 dwindling? I noticed in some photos the stands are less than previous years. Yet some shots have the stands full. Weather/Seating perhaps?


good luck amandio


@Seeking Perfection Dynames speedhunters_dino Kawabata's car is a 180SX which based on the S13 chassis not an actual Silvia S13.
RPS13 = 180SX + SR20 + S13 chassis


Amandio was fast!  Even Gocha had some good runs...very refreshing to see!


EdoSNTRL I was quite surprised too. Went there on Saturday... 2 of the stands were less than half full


Awesome shots!!


meal stub some michael bay shit right there


I had interest in D1 and drifting ages ago starting around 1999-2001 or something like that. Found a japanese page for the URAS S15 which was pretty sweet. The last time I saw D1 was in 2005 when all the Irish got pissed off at D1 for what they saw as favouritism when they were last in the UK. I lost interest in it a couple of years after that and would rather have some A Road eating monster with a bit more compliance in the suspension so its not like driving over boulders at 50mph. D1 imploded on itself when the judges misunderstood the American crowd and started doing "One more time" they just wanted a show but it meant things like the actual winner losing. That and I miss the Yukes AE86 that used to compete with like 200hp he didn't get past a prelims one yea and that was it. 
I'm just a spectator but I lost interest in D1 ages ago. I'd like to see something new from drifting, or just some sort of Mountain Pass Rally. Then again even Rally cars these days try to minimize slip and concentrate on being neat and tidy.


FairozAzami I dont think he was the only one from SEA this year.  There were a bunch from Thailand as well including S Chanatpon from Team Westlake who is just as young (or younger) and as talented.  I believe he bested Amandio and Suenaga at D1 this year too


JoeWhaler Totally agree.  I like the variety...and the whole grassroots feel about it.  Maybe we are the minority


@pleasestop Because drifting isnt just about who is fast ...there is an element of showiness about it that appeals to many...and a big part of that is generating smoke


Not sure how kawabata won the round, apparently not offering a chase run is seen as less of a deduction than a small error whilst close, see for yourselves
And good photo of kawabata completely straight behind amandio, it's nice to know d1 is still as corrupt as ever, as it looks to be the exact same thing that utsumi lost for


777 Can't disagree with your there...


Youjutsusha The highlight of the Odaiba round was when one of the silly girls reporters they sent into the crowds asked an Aussie guy what he though of the D1, he said it's ok but it's a pity Tsuchiya isn't here.  I've never felt so much awkwardness in my life lol


Zeafone Thank you!


azmedaj Refreshing <<<----- this is what D1 needs


EdoSNTRL Yeah not that many people go


PetrolheadsgSmokeybandit Because lots of smoke is cool :) Not saying this is the only aspect one should look at in a drift of course.


PetrolheadsgSmokeybandit FairozAzami Yeah but he did the whole season, not just the exhibition


meal stub Everyone was like WTF just happened!!


@kstyle What look may that be?


@Seeking Perfection Simply P I'm not going to comment on FD as I honestly just don't know much about it as I've never been to an event, but D1 yes, it's a fraction of what it could have become with more openness and less arrogance


PetrolheadsgSmokeybandit JoeWhaler Grassroots? I'll show you grassroots, wait until the next time I get a chance to head to Nikko for a little drift event...that's what drifting is all about


speedhunters_dino How can they afford to keep it running? Guess that's why all the sponsors? FD in the US in comparison sells out almost every event. Too bad, D1GP used to be so awesome back in the day.


speedhunters_dino 777 also, the tin foil hat part of me thinks that no matter how well utsumi drove against suenaga, barring the obvious glaring error, and then kawabata, suenaga was going through to meet kawabata, and when he didn't the round was pretty much decided. "Because what better way to finish off the season than for the top driver to win the last round / two to go head to head for the championship"


the only drifting scene i pay any attention to anymore is D1NZ, the rest have turned either too V8 powered or, like d1, corrupt :(


stylez nz I like Tsuchiya and Dai's Drift Muscle series, but they're kind of small...nothing like the golden years of D1GP tho.


Youjutsusha You said it brother...Ueo's AE86 is still an inspiration to this very day.


@pleasestop Modern day drifting = RWD power sliding.


apex_DNA stylez nz Drift Muscle and MSC are cool, as are just regular soukoukai events. Will really try to cover more next year, feels like it's been ages since I've been to Nikko!


777 speedhunters_dino :)


apex_DNA Youjutsusha He took me for a two lap ride around Sugo ages ago. I still can't believe what he did with that little underpowered hachiroku!


EdoSNTRL speedhunters_dino Sponsors and a tv deal with Fuji TV. But who know how it's all managed.


Dino, what shutter speed were you using in the first few pans on the first page?


скоро русские придут в D1 и будут рвать всех, Россия ВПЕРЕД!!!


JoeWhaler I'm only a casual drift spectator, but I think we're pretty fortunate with drift Championship in the UK: there are some mental cars running in the BDC!


That first picture is just superb, loving some of the pans on the first page as well. I'm not a diehard drift fan, but my interest in the D1GP trailed off when the forefathers of the Championship walked away from it.


speedhunters_dino PetrolheadsgSmokeybandit JoeWhaler ^^^ This Dino - just this! Now that I've been to Nikko at the beginning of September for the White Smoke Festival with Hideki & Nakamura from N-Style everything else just seems so bland...
Nikko is like eating an fruit corner with a little bit of extra strawberry dip to tantilise the taste buds - other events are just like boring old plain yoghurt... Sad face at how much I miss Japan


mu4a4o umm, what???


aussieANON meal stub 'some Michael Bay shit' LMAO ROTFL


Really liking those oddball cars like the Starlet.


LouisSoon Don't miss the spotlight-o-rama I've got coming up next then ;)


tbtstt It's actually really bad, out of focus but I was ready to do another slow shutter pan when that incident happened. At least the backfire is in focus lol


datsunsss The wide Orido shot is 1/8th, some of the other are 1/20th


speedhunters_dino apex_DNA stylez nz  MSC is probably still the best competition in Japan as far as talent and coolness meshing, plus it is the only drift comp with regular team drift


speedhunters_dino datsunsss Nice man... 1/8th is damn slow! I am down to around 1/40th lately, with some decent results... What lens were you using? And were the shots taken with active VR at all? :)


I was fucking missing your D1 coverages! Reminds me when your sold your photos to french magazine Modify. 
Nice too see that Orido is still crashing on walls after so many years haha


speedhunters_dino Youjutsusha Hahaha!


That 86 now uses an American Engine , huh , I guess it crashing into the barrier should serve as a sign. Stop ruining those nice Japanese cars with American engines....


That 86 now uses an American Engine , huh , I guess it crashing into the barrier should serve as a sign. Stop ruining those nice Japanese cars with American engines....


Novac Darius Orido is a bit of a fan of anything to do with the US. Drives a Hummer and rides a chopper


Max_Ryde Yes his relationship with walls has been a bumpy one


Please do. That's why I asked.


Novac Darius why shouldn't he be allowed to do what he wants. its not your car, and you can't "command" people to stop doing something and expect them to listen.


That's a funny looking s15 in the second last pic, I can just about always fault your articles


"This sort of debate always brings you to the question: what makes a true drift car? A well set up older car like the 3S-powered DrooP AE86, or a true race-car build like the ZN6 the same team put together for Hibino? Tough one right?"
AE86. Every time!


speedhunters_dino tbtstt Ha, thats brutal honesty! I've only looked at it on my small phone screen, so it looks good on there: I won't look at it on PC then!


"The firing S15" looks incredible!


"The firing S15" looks incredible!


Novac Darius Orido ALWAYS crashes anyways haha. Part of the reason he's one of my favorite drivers. Just goes for it each and every time!


If only people knew how corrupt Tsuchiya and Dai are.


USED to be cool is probably more correct, no coverage on their site as of 2012 I think. And I agree with you on Nikko, for most people Ebisu is the mecca of drifting, but for me it will always be Nikko.


True, but for most of us outside of Japan who grew up with them, Tsuchiya especially, they will forever be synonymous with drifting. Sorry.
Quick question tho, is that the reason Best Motoring is no more?


I miss drift teams...I think that's one of the things that attracted me to the sport.


I miss drift teams...I think that's one of the things that attracted me to the sport.


Россия заебись!!!!


SILVIA03 Хорошее красноречивое выражение, в целом я с вами полностью согласен, очен рад успехам Русских дрифтёров.


@Not good enough And to think you paid such a massive sum of money for your subscription to this site. I would livid if I were you. Demand your money back.


dino you should work professionally or something. your coverage is amazing. =P did you ever shoot for drift tengoku magazine???


wow i dont  know that amandio competing in d1 -_-


apex_DNA Youjutsusha i have the super street issue on his car when they featured it. ahh the nostalgia. i'd love to see it take on the 1000 hp cars of today and piss everyone off when it beats em ;)


krazy krash


krazy krash