Through My Lens: D1GP Odaiba
The Perfect Escape

I say this time and time again, but aren’t we so lucky to be able to enjoy car culture the way we do? Isn’t it crazy that a Lamborghini Murciélago and a Lexus LFA can battle it out head to head? Heck, motorsport in general is a waste, isn’t it? Drifting is probably the worst offender of them all; fire-breathing monsters creating pollution every single pass, and sets of rear tires burned up in two laps.

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There are just so many more important things in the world that we have to worry about, but that’s exactly why motorsport is so valuable. It gives us an escape.

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Watching Daigo Saito and Youichi Imamura was an eye-opening experience, and it amazed the crowd like I could not have imagined. Later on, Daigo would battle Masato Kawabata in his Nissan GT-R, which was an equally epic battle.

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For those few seconds when supercars were battling it out door-to-door, people in the crowd forgot about all their worries and just focused on the awesomeness that was happening right before their eyes.

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Supercar drifting is not a dream anymore. It’s real life, and it happened at D1 Grand Prix’s ‘Tokyo Drift’ in Odaiba just a few weeks back.

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There are three kinds of drift fans out there; firstly, the ones into amateur events who maybe do a bit of drifting themselves, but don’t really pay much attention to the professional aspect.

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Then there are those who follow the pro side of the motorsport; tracking Formula Drift, D1GP as well as the other established series around the world.

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And last but not least, there are the JDM fanboys who think that D1GP is still the center of the universe when it comes to drifting.

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Seeing as I’d never actually had the chance to attend a D1GP event in Japan, I had no outlook on what it was really like. But that all changed in Tokyo.

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Sure, I followed D1 Grand Prix very closely when the series came to North America; heck, my first ever drift event was D1GP vs. USA at California Speedway back in 2004.

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However, the sport has evolved massively since the last D1GP event I attended back in 2009. Although, I could already see the writing on the wall for what the series would become…

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I’ll just come out and say it too: D1GP is more of a produced show. It’s like watching a live action drama of sorts, with many different commentators.

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It features elimination brackets, which allow for drivers who got knocked out to re-enter the competition of sorts.

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Plus, the event I covered was essentially two back-to-back events held over the course of a weekend. There was so much action and lots of things for the fans to see and do.

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I know this will be a hard pill to swallow for some of you guys, but I believe D1GP is more for the show, whereas Formula Drift emulates a professional racing series, like NASCAR or F1.

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While there are many Japanese teams that have what it takes to compete globally in D1GP as well as Formula Drift, there are only a few that have the know-how and the skill.

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Daigo Saito is the best of them all, and arguably the best drifter in the world. I’ll come back to the FD versus D1GP debate in a bit, but let’s jump onto his Lamborghini for a moment…

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How badass is this? Daigo is just insane. At this second, the bottom of his wing was seriously one centimeter away from touching the wall. I checked afterwards for damage and there was not even so much as a scratch. Was he qualifying? No. Was he in competition? No. This was just a demonstration run. Yes, he is the real deal.

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What I found interesting is just how stock the Murciélago’s motor actually is. The rest of the car? Let’s just say that it’s extensively modified.

Fun Haver
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So what was Daigo doing with his Lambo drift car if he also had his Toyota Chaser on deck? Enter Vaughn Gittin Jr. the professional fun haver.

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Monster Energy figured it would be a great opportunity to showcase its new team by having them do demos over the course of the Tokyo Drift weekend.

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It’s been Vaughn’s dream to come to Japan and compete in the D1 Grand Prix ever since he won D1GP vs. USA back in 2005. For the final round of the 2015 series at Odaiba, he finally had a chance to compete in the D1GP World Champions exhibition match on Sunday.

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Of course, Vaughn brought out his entire team, who have traveled with him all over the world.

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It’s just like Vaughn to have the ultimate drift and jumping bike posse. There is no better way to roll in Japan.

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While there are a few V8-powered drift cars in D1GP, Toyota 2JZs are the engine of choice for most. It was actually refreshing to hear a V8 out on track.

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What I thought was cool, was how interested in Vaughn’s car everyone was.

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It seemed like there was a non-stop stream of mechanics and drivers stopping by for a closer look.

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What an odd couple, right? Who would have guessed these two would eventually become teammates, let alone very good friends.

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But somehow, the odd couple works out. The crowd absolutely loved it too. I’ll let Vaughn talk about his experience in his own blog.

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You guys can bet that I found time to do a full car feature on this beast, and it’ll be dropping shortly.

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Liberty Walk’s Kato-san was on hand with a cheering squad every time Daigo brought the beast out.

A Kid Again
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While it’s fun and appealing to get cool action shots all day, often I’m just looking for that one moment that speaks volumes. I’ll let the picture speak for itself, but wow, that little kid must not have been a day over 2 years old, and he was totally spellbound by Daigo’s car.

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It seems like some things just don’t change. Young or old, once a car culture fan always a car culture fan – even if you’re of the most seasoned variety, like Manabu ‘Max’ Orido here. This was actually Orido’s final D1GP event as he’s retiring from drifting to focus on sports car racing. Even though he’s a drift veteran, here he is pictured acting like he’s not a day over 2 years old.

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Of course, the one question on everyone’s mind was ‘how does the Lambo drift?’ Quite amazingly I’d say. The real crazy thing is how Daigo can even see out of the cockpit.

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I shoehorned myself in the driver’s seat and could barely see anything at all. I couldn’t even imagine trying to drift the darn thing.

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So back to Daigo Saito being one of, if not the best drifter in the world…

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Very few competitors in the D1GP are as prepared or have the knowledge that Daigo does. He’s not afraid to push the envelope when it comes to technology and advancing drifting as a whole.

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You know it’s serious business if you have to stand inside of the engine bay.

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So here’s the main thing that really rubs me the wrong way when it comes to D1GP. The photo above represents what was probably the most badass qualifying run I saw all weekend. Daigo rubbed the entire length of the foam wall like an absolute boss.

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Any deeper and he would have stuffed it – and maybe even landed shiny-side down. But because he ran the wall, and maybe had to lift off the throttle or make a slight correction to stay on it, he was docked points. How does that happen, you ask? It’s called the ‘Drift Box.’

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It’s a judging system that utilizes data collected by a RaceLogic GPS-based unit that among other things measures yaw rate and g-forces.

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With this system, it pretty much eliminates judging altogether – or at least in D1GP qualifying it does. While the judges still have a say, it’s only enough to sway it one way or the other by a slight margin.

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With this technology they have eliminated clipping points. Now qualifying is about being fluid and making your transitions as fast as possible.

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You are rewarded for being on-throttle, but not for scraping walls. If you have a big angle flick from one direction to the other you get docked because the transition took too long.

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It stinks. I hate it. It’s molded these awesome drivers into following rules set by the machine in order to obtain maximum points.

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They just can’t drive like they want to anymore. Which of course brings us to the question, why? D1 Grand Prix is a neat little package and a tightly-run ship. The show moves super fast and it’s extremely well produced.

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The drivers still run door-to-door, but they are miles away from the walls compared to what I am used to with Formula Drift. It’s entertaining to watch for sure; decisions are made in mere seconds with little to no downtime at all. There was always something happening.

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To the average Japanese drift fan, it’s more action that they know what to do with. Here is an awesome scene where Tetsuya Hibino lit his rear diffuser on fire due to all the rubber bits from his tires getting super heated by the exhaust. How cool is that?

Drift Box
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I asked Daigo what he thought about the Drift Box. The thing is, he’s so programmed from competing all over the world that he just does not care. He runs his own line and if he gets docked points, it doesn’t matter in the slightest to him. I think that is just so awesome.

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I wonder what the old school drivers think about the way the series has progressed. I watched drivers like Ken Nomura as a kid in Best Motoring and Option videos, and after all these years, it seems like he’s still the same person.

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But even though the faces are the same, it just not the D1GP that I originally fell in love with back in 2004.

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D1GP used to be the best drifting in the world. It was groundbreaking to see how much smoke and what the cars were capable of doing at Irwindale and California Speedway.

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Now it’s just so sterile. It’s sad really.

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The good thing is that Japanese drivers are now much more inclined to compete in other series like Formula Drift. I really think Daigo Saito opened the floodgates.

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How much longer are we going to have to sit around twiddling our thumbs waiting for Kawabata to come to Formula Drift? He is already competing in FD Japan after all…

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The D1 Grand Prix is set in its ways and it doesn’t look like those that are calling the shots will change their thinking anytime soon. They have sold-out crowds (29,399 people over the weekend for this event according to D1GP), and at the end of the day it’s all about the show. It’s the perfect weekend escape from reality for busy Japanese car culture enthusiasts.

So, what do you guys think about D1GP, and why do you think it’s better than Formula Drift or vice versa? Let us know in the comments section below…

Larry Chen
Instagram: larry_chen_foto
larry@speedhunters.com

Cutting Room Floor
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58 comments

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1

...What the hell is that last car in the bonus images?

2

Fantastic write up and photos! I agree with all your points Larry. The only thing I enjoy in D1 over FD these days is the cars. They have so much of that JDM style many (myrelf included) have come to love over the years. I really wish Tsuchiya and Dai were still running D1, then maybe it wouldn't be so much of a show but more of a competition. I guess that's why they left in the first place. I really love watching the drift muscle series online. That seems to retain the competitive nature while still having really cool cars and drivers. 


From your words, seems D1GP excels at the organization. The breaks between runs in FD are sometimes unbearable and frustrating from a spectator's point of view. Especially when you're sitting in the sun or rain waiting for someone to fix their car. I understand it's the nature of the sport but if we're going to have to sit around and wait, they could at least not show a goddamn ford mustang commercial 100 times over. Perhaps something a bit more connected with what's happening throughout the day rather than making feel like I paid to watch commercials outside rather than on my TV at home.
Anyways, thanks for the great shots! :D

3

PatrickPeebles That's the "Morocielago" by Morohoshi. He's the guy from the underground hero video and the LED Lambos. He made his own kit last year which makes the lambo even wilder, haha.

4

EdoNYC PatrickPeebles Thank you sir. That was driving me crazy.

5

The opening shot demanded an autoclick. Or a Larry Chen post for that matter.
I still like the spectacle of the well produced show that is D1, but without a driftbox.

6

abezzegh87 What if its a he?

7

You cannot quantify cool, therefore competitive drifting will never work as a sport in my eyes.

8

Isso que é Drift!!! Eu amo andar de lado queimando pneu!!! hahaha

9

I wonder how much does it cost to replace a single panel of that Murciélago.

10

LouisYio You normally refer to machines as female, as far as I am aware its a sailors tradition

11

@WOpwow LouisYio Stop oppressing cars with your gender binary privilege hate speech.  This is so triggering for me right now.  Nazi!

13
90nissanS13@my350z

abezzegh87  When it became a drift-car, it could never be considered a "racecar".

14

drifting is supposed to be all about the show, but you make it sound like a bad thing. show comes first, competition comes second and that's where formula drift gets it wrong. at least the drift box makes up for shitty judging like formula drift has had over the last decade. while i don't think the competition should be solely based on the drift box, I do believe having that information available would help shotty judges (i.e. formula drift) make a fair call.

15

I don't hate on D1GP becoming more of a show. They have to make money and the way their run this series now appeals to many people. As many of us here are hardcore car enthusiasts, we may not like how sterile (great word for it btw) it's gotten, but we need it - just like we need our grassroots and amateur events like FInal Bout for example. I feel like having a pro-mass appeal-cookie cutter-big sponsor variant makes having an amateur event more likely.
I could be wrong and I'd love to hear opinions of people who disagree with what I said.
That being said, I would love to attend a D1GP event, but I know I'd have much more fun at an event like Final Bout.

16

so uh does any team drift the mr2 or ae86

17

Too much Gittin. Too little D1GP.

18

Wow, awesome photos Larry! Wish I could've made this event!

20

Fantastic photos Larry!
Excellent article as well, and I couldn't agree more.

21

LouisYio abezzegh87 of course, because it's a bull

22
FamePunithipandkul

I think it adds a new flavor to the sport. If you look carefully. Japanese drifting culture is still quite different from American ones. Japan has always stayed true to honesty and honoring system. Back in the day the sport is still young, now they have implemented fairness by adding sensors to clipping points and to the car.
Sure it might not be as shouty and free as the americans. American car culture has always been about all out actions. But Japan have achieved fairness, which I think made the sport more professional. And its showing revenue aswell, I guess thats the proof that its working.

23

well drifting is a dead end "sport" anyways, it should stay at the level of Final Bout, thats a good thing.

the rest of it-d1, fd- is not a good thing.

but it is worth mentioning the d1 cars look infinitely better than the fd cars

24

Now that was some awesome photos Larry!
Hard to imagine this, a Lamborghini Murcielago battling with a LEXUS LFA in a drifting competition!

(I rubbed my eyes again and again when I saw the first photo. O_O !!)
Want more photos of that LFA...

25

No Nomuken's Muse ER34 & Girls und Panzer S14..?

Dat Lambo

26

What ore can you say except....great sport! :)

27

I'm also wondering how those rules influence the power levels of the car. That transition stuff seems to favour nimble and light car, not beasts with thousands of horsepower.
I still like Scandinavian and east European drift events the most. Its somewhere in between.

28

ernie2492
Yup...how come Itasha become so underrated to share the spotlight?

29

VadimAnikin
And NO Pacific Racing Itashas. WHERE THE HECK IS THE DEAR O' LOVELIVE ER34??????

30

Sadly I have tried to see drifting as something else.

But in reality it is little more than kids messing about in ASDA's car parks. ON a grandee scale.

D1 and the like are just pro versions, put together with huge budgets and massive companies trying to get your interest and your name on email spam senders and twitter accounts.

It is marketing pure and simple, they want the bright young things buying their products, subbing to their social media accounts to be fed yet more marketing by advertisers impressed with 1 million followers. It's why Gittin was there, he is trying to be the next Pastrana/Block. And that is very well funded by the social media loving, diabetes loving green stuff.

The drivers who are in these events are very talented, very good at what they do and would no doubt be very good in anything they tried to take part in. Byut they are probably well paid too!

It is the fans I feel for, I mean really?  It's a car going very sideways, with smoke, and a bit of style, can you really, REALLY watch this more than once without saying,  "been there done that?"

AS an engineer I can get into the builds, the cars that are used, and that is a great idea for features.

Or is it the scene, the vibe, the thing we used have when I was a kid which was slipping a PECO on your Nova or Mk2 Escort.

31

Larry, is simple as that - if you get rid off judges, they cant favor Vaughn JR like they did in the past. You really have to be the best to win. So , from this point, I really like the Drift Box. It's no fun to me to see someone car being destroyed into the wall. I dont find pleasure in this. I just love drifting.

32

I agree. I have seen badass runs go for nought due to that drift box. "sterile" is the perfect word for D1gp scoring. Long gone are the days of Ueo vs NOB, Kazama vs Kumakubo. In those days, the performances themselves were larger than life. Now epic runs don't really compute.
What I like about FD is that it has coaxed the competition into a show. The judging of the lead vs the proximity for the following makes it exciting for the fans, cuz ultimately thats what they want to see. Also FD seems so much more accessible for the avg competitor. D1 almost seems like an F1 team (you won't make it without major backing), there's no real underdog, they're all heavy hitters with heavy backing. At least it appears that way.
As a regular drift competitor in my country, my goal is to be able to enter FD feeder series and hopefully be competitive enough to graduate to the higher echelons of the sport. I cannot see that happening for D1. The judging system is just too obscure. I think there's also something lost in translation. Its a cultural difference.
oh and yeah...Daigo just don't care

33

The Drift Box helps eliminates biased judging decisions, but at the same time it takes away the crazy style of drifting. Which is sad, really.

34

Would love a review/indepth review of the Lambo.

35

RobertEvery That's like saying "can you really REALLY watch any more then the first 4, and last 10 laps of F1 without falling asleep? Can you REALLY watch NASCAR or Road Racers travel around a track for 50 laps without saying 'been there done that?'". Kids messing around in car parks on a larger scale? So ignorant to the fastest growing, and arguably most exciting to watch, Motorsport in the world. smh

36

EdoNYC FD seriously needs to step up their downtime game. Showing the same 3 commercials for two hours got old in 2010.

37

deolio I'd like to see something like a driftbox to HELP the judging, but not be used as the main source of the decisions.

38

DevBizkit D1 has always had an elitism that outsiders and lower-ranked drivers could never break into. VG and Mad Mike and others have tried to get into D1 but the refuse anyone that isn't a Japanese driver. I feel a lot of that stems from VG winning D1 in the USA years ago, that embarrassed the entire D1 organization and to this day they absolutely forbid foreigners from competition. Heck, they even went so far, they threatened any Japanese driver with suspension/banishment for competing in the 2008 Red Bull World Championship! The only time they allow outsiders is the Odaiba demo round. Couple that with their refusal to allow coverage outside Japan and to not even sell Option videos outside Japan, you have an impossible wall to climb.
Meanwhile, FD opened its arms, began the Driftstream, implemented a World Series and an Amateur series, the writing is on the wall. Thankfully FD has surpassed D1 (in many people's eyes for these reasons) and now the best drivers from history (D1 drivers) are itching to come to FD, not the other way around.

Remember folks, this is all changing as this is still a new sport. You can't go back to the past and bring Ueo out to battle Nomuken every week. But can't you see the sport evolving? Favoritism is being weeded out/exposed from the major series, cars are faster and harder, drivers are getting better, and as more series broadcast their events, we get more drifting to watch and more to learn. That's all I care about. I want World Finals and the ability to keep on top of all the series.

39

D1 simply cuz the cars are cooler.
FD relates to MX and bro trucks IMO. Same crowd hyped on energy drinks and flipped up brim ball caps and puffy skate shoes.

40

any videos of Daigos D1 car or a feature soon?

41

RobertEvery "It's a car going very sideways, with smoke, and a bit of style, can you
really, REALLY watch this more than once without saying,  "been there
done that?""

By that reasoning, LeMans and the ADAC Endurance series must be utterly useless. God, how boring, the same corners, again and again, on and on, for 24 hours. A sane person would think paint drying is exciting compared to this.

42

@GregG RobertEvery  Chap

It is not and never will be motorsport.  It is only quick growing becauise of the cars and image and the fact it is in the latest generations of games. I know thousands of people who watched it once, gave it a chance and dismissed it.

If you don't know any better, you will no doubt love it, it's spectacular, the cars sounds great, you can see whatever action there is. But it is not a race, it is not overly difficult, and there is little variety. Just like most motorsports really.

Now I watch literally anything, can't stand F1 or WEC, watch rallycross, autograss, stock cars, rallying, anything so am not a snob, but this left me cold, Im sorry. The cars were cool, the drivers are talents, and the engineering is good, but other than that, sorry fella but its like monster trucks.

It is anything but exciting, it lasts a few seconds, and then you are off to do what the sponsors want, look at cars, buy merch, buy food.

It is fast food generation car show, for the need for speed generation, That is all it ever will be.

43

D1RGE EXE DevBizkit DAMN RIGHT!!! Its a motorsport at its core but onlookers should not get tied up in the way its run....its all about performance; presentation, driver, car, etc. I for 1 enjoy the hell out of it. And even though after reading some responses where they say its repetitive....I don't agree. I can watch the 3 battles of Saito vs Aasbo in LB and then watch last year's Atl battles of Wang vs Whiddett and still be like DAMN!!

44

The most interesting point I read here was the latest methods for judging qualifying for D1GP. Using telemetry data from a black box to make super precise judging calls is very japanese, the whole thing makes perfect sense to me. If you have ever read or watched Initial D, this is essentially taking Bunta's and Takahashi Ryosuke's opinions on drifting and applying it to real life. The only things that matter are speed, accuracy, and driving optimization. Of course in the US we are now quite used to the smoke, speed, style, proximity, etc method of drifting but you gotta remember Japan is ahead of us in drifting, they invented it. Im sure this has come about after several iterations of judging. Sure compared to FD it may not seem as exciting or spontaneous or full of emotion, but I believe the perfect accuracy type model has merit. When all of the drivers can drive with the same aggression, proximity, angle, and speed one must find newer ways to quantitatively measure the events in order to come to a solid conclusion about which driver did it the best. 
That being said I do actually prefer spectating FD, but I still enjoy the majority of D1GP matches as well.

45

A Lambo engine fitted with HKS air filters is something you don't see everyday haha

46

racerlordheiman ernie2492 well super gt has gsr hatsune miku sls amg in case you don't know

47

EythanAldrich 
I know this one...and I was disappointed it lost to the Gainer GT-R.

48

all i can say is HOLY CRAP WAS THAT A LIBERTY WALK MURCIELAGO DRIFTING AGAINST A WALL WITH NO DAMAGE?

49

You summed it up best by saying its not the D1 we all fell in love with. I used to love watching the early rounds of d1 and option dvds but I don't really like where it's gone, seems to be too much about money and sponsors now. I like the grassroots stuff

50
Muhammad Firdaus

i hope Daigo next car will be Ferrari 458 that sick!!!!!!

51

@Matt I agree to it all, but the last line <grins>

52

Totally disagree; IMHO drifting was NEVER about wall proximity, drifting was never about clipping points. Drifting was always about highest speed, fluid and smooth controlled oversteer; with max angle possible, all are measured digitally for more FAIR judgment. 

i believe the new system IS better, as its more true to what drifting (the art, not the WWE'esque FomrulaD, hugging each other to walls -_-...) 

Angle, speed and maintaining both is where the skill lies. wall proximity is cool, but its a by product. Clipping points where created as -an ancient- tool in the analog age.

Besides, D1GP was always more fun the FormulaD for me:

1-FD has absurdly boring sponsor ads, like 65% of the time is sponsor ads, one would get seizure from watching the same ads repeatedly. Time between runs is significantly more than the run times themselves! D1GP is  one after other rapidly

2-MOST of FD drivers "baby-crawled" when it rained in NJ/Rd.4! that tells you a lot about the wrong focus of skill measurement / scoring system, while the D1 driver Yokoi wasn't having problem dealing with rain. I lost interest in my fav. FD drivers after this, was heart broken really.


3-Won't generalize, but just check out the twitter/facebook feeds during the FD rounds, many judging decisions just don't make any sense! Some where downright wrong, and some penalties (straightening out, 2 wheels off the track...etc.) where un-identified!


We should embrace change, getting used to the wrong aspects (wall!!), is just wrong.

Make no mistake, I AM an FD fan, but it proved repeatedly that its inferior to D1GP.

53

RobertEvery One word: Touge

54

deolio totally agree with you!

55

OBEEWON speed in Kph (or MPH), angle in degrees, proximity in cm's. there, drifting quantified ^_^

56

..and, FRIGGEN AWESOME shots!

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