800hp, 900kg: Daigo Saito’s D1 Corvette

Like all of the drift cars Daigo Saito has ever put his name to, you can expect to find a level of craziness and innovation in each new build.

Saito is definitely a guy that likes to challenge himself and step out of his comfort zone, which is pretty much the opposite of what the vast majority of Japanese D1 Grand Prix drivers have done over the years. To me, the latter has really held the D1GP series back; aside from poor management and a backwards way of marketing, there’s never been anything new to keep people coming back and traveling to see some of the rounds. Apart from Saito’s presence, of course.


He pushed the JZX100 chassis so far that it allowed him to maximize his style, stand out from the rest of the playing field, and turn him into one of drifting’s biggest superstars. But that car is no longer legal in D1 Grand Prix, following a review of the regulations. That’s when Saito decided to build something completely different, and around the same time that we first saw his Z06R. I could not believe that he was going to take an ex-GT300 race car and turn it into a pro-spec drift machine. But yesterday, at Fuji Speedway’s Drift Course, I got to see the (almost) finished Corvette.


This car is built around the spare chassis he had in the shop during my visit in the fall of last year. Cut up and modified with tube-frame sections, it now cradles a Mast Motorsports LS3 V8 crate engine with all the bells and whistles. It’s said to deliver an 800hp punch.


The dry-sump motor breathes through a Kinsler 8-throttle Crossram intake which Saito and his crew were trying to set up correctly yesterday. With a straight exhaust and the omission of any silencing, this motor sounds incredible. The response is lightning fast – almost too crisp and immediate it for a drifting application if I had to throw my own opinion into it – but I’m sure the team will get it all figured out.

Seeing as the mechanics were working on the car in the paddock for the entire time we were at Fuji, it was the perfect opportunity to take in all the details. In its partially deconstructed state, it’s even crazier than when you see it as a whole with its paper-light Kevlar body acting as a thin veil covering the interesting bits beneath.


Saito brought enough spare wheels and tires to have a proper fun day at the track, but unfortunately it turned out to be a day where he wouldn’t use any of them.


Unlike the complete GT300 Z06R we saw in his Fat Five Racing workshop, this one is right-hand drive and features a typical Daigo Saito interior with nothing more than the bare necessities dotted around the cabin and a heavy emphasis on quality materials and execution.


The only piece of instrumentation is the AiM dash unit, which is perched on a series of tubes that sprout out of the dash. Like the wheels on the outside, the wheel on the inside is courtesy of Prodrive Japan.


Here’s a better look at the shifter and hydraulic handbrake.


Turning a race car built for the track into a dedicated pro drift machine requires a very different suspension setup and geometry.

Utilising the base car’s top and lower wishbone pick-up points, custom billet arms were fabricated, holding up the billet spindle onto which the solid brake rotors and Wilwood 6-pot calipers are mounted at the front.


You can get a better feel for how the whole setup works from this angle with a wheel mounted.


There is more tubular criss-crossing going on in the back, stiffening up the shell further and also creating mounting points for the radiator. Here you can also see the hand-welded titanium exhaust arching over the transaxle.


The rear is also where the fuel system lives.


Sticking a radiator in the back requires you to vent it properly for those times the car is sitting around prior to a run or cooling off after one; the extractor fans move air across it and out of the cut-out rear section. The rear wing element is the dry carbon item we saw on the GT300 car last year.


Saito was out at Fuji with the HKS guys, driving his FD R35 GT-R alongside Taniguchi and the new HKS 86. Both drivers were called there to pull some cool moves for Luke Huxham’s cameras, all for a new HKS promotional movie. I’ll share some behind-the-scenes footage with you next week.


The headaches continued well into the afternoon for the mechanics; they even connected a spring to the throttle linkage, zip-tying it with tension onto the chassis in the hopes to resolve the throttle feel issues being experienced.


The Corvette ended up going out for a quick lap of the track, but without Saito attempting to drift it. He and his team have until the 1st of next month to get the car squared up properly for D1 Grand Prix Round 1 in Odaiba, Tokyo, so the clock is definitely clicking. His name is on the entry list, but with Formula D USA happening on the very same weekend it will be interesting to see which series he prioritizes.

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: speedhunters_dino



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Oh man, I cannot wait to hear that thing.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

You need ear plugs!


Huh 900kg sounds maybe too light and twitchy for a pro car but I guess we'll see


His JZX100 was also around 900KG if I remember correctly and that worked out fine for him.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Yep, it was, guess that's how he likes them


Makes you wonder why hypercars can't be as light...

Dino Dalle Carbonare

What you see on that car is nothing more than skin, very thin Kevlar, wobbles all over the place. It's just a way to cover the cut up chassis beneath it. There are no similarities to a road going car, hypercar or not. Those cars have to comply to so many regulations and be actually comfortable at the same time. Two different worlds!


Because hypercars arent tube framed with rear mounted radiators and also race spec, plus hypercars have to have air bags and hydraulic wings and other things. plus just look at how minimal the rear and the engine bay are

Davide Sartoris

what tristian said, also drift cars dont need to go very fast or be stable at high speeds. Hypercars need both, which either requires, a) aerodynamics or b) weight. Either way you have pressure pushing wheels down into road creating stability and traction. Considering aerodynamics is impractical to engineer into a road car (massive splitters, diffusers spoilers etc - makes car seem vulgar) its easier to take the route Nissan did with the R35 and instead calculate the applied vertical pressure at a given speed with both weight and downforce taken into the equation, but an emphasis put on weight. Did you know a R35 has a very similar "effective" weight (read: load on wheels) as a formula 1 car at about 250kph? This is why hypercars cannot be superlight - they simply would not have enough grip at higher speeds and would be far too twitchy for non-racecar-drivers to handle.


So hypercars have design goals similar to time-attack cars, minus the drama...


Because hyper cars usually have to abide by emissions and safety laws, this car on the other hand doesn't.


I think there's a small mistake in the article. D1GP Rd1 is right before FD Japan, it's not on the same weekend. However, FD Japan and King of Asia are on the same weekend,

Dino Dalle Carbonare

FD USA, he is not entering FDJ


Probably Formula D USA




That LS3 is a beauty


So if he's gonna use this one, what's up with the complete GT300 Z06

Dino Dalle Carbonare



I'm going to FD Long Beach. I hope he comes to LB over Odaiba, time to take another championship over here.


I'm going to FD Long Beach. I hope he comes to LB over Odaiba, time to take another championship over here.


Ohhh, "New drift roll cage" I don't know if the guys at GM would call this a "Corvette" I think converting an older LM Vette would have done the trick.




I'm so excited to see this in action. 0.8 power to weight ratio, this is just second to his 1hp/kg meth-cooled JZX. Daigo never fails to amaze me.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

He's single handedly pushing Japanese drifting forwards lol


I can agree with that!


I can't wait to see this thing in action. 800hp and 900kg, it's only 2nd to his 1000hp-1000kg meth-cooled JZX100. Daigo never fails to amaze me.


Oh, I might have forgotten that Speedhunters comments show up at the bottom. Please delete this comment it any moderators see this haha


god i hope that hideous thing crashes already

Dino Dalle Carbonare

That's not very nice


The throttle linkages are the problem. Too much play in those things, and almost impossible to get all eight opening in unison. They'll need to ditch them and make their own system, I'm quite sure they can do a much better job than wherever they got those things from..

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Seems to be a common opinion on these things. Why would they sell such poorly engineered stuff!


Many reasons! Not all are nefarious either... could simply be a case of "not enough time to do the whole thing properly", or "using what we have available instead of engineering everything properly to keep costs down". Or of course it could be the old marketing ploy of "charge big dollars and deliver cheapest possible product". I'm assuming its not the last one as I figure Saito-san knows these people personally, and it wouldn't pay anyone to do the dirty on such a well known guy. I hope you can find the time to keep us updated on how they come to fix this issue. :)


I have never seen brake rotors that thin (and unvented) on a car before. Any reason behind them? Less rotating mass perhaps?

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Yes, adds to a decrease in unsprung weight, and he runs them because he doesn't need vetilated ones, he won't be needing the brakes much during a run or two so he wouldn't suffer heat issues


Oh man.


Body panels from HGK Motorsports?

Dino Dalle Carbonare

I'm not sure


This panels looks like HGK Eurofighter BMW panels. Today I read a lot: panels from HGK partners, suspension setup from Sergey Kabargin's HGK Corvette, etc. This type of rumors. Maybe, when Saito visits Eastern Europe and borrow Evil Empire cars, he can see how HGK Corvette built.


I don't know drifting...is it common to use off-road brake rotors not really built for cars on drift cars?

Dino Dalle Carbonare

They don't use brakes much


This car despite said build by Saito, looks so much as the one build by Hgk, which was meant to be used in Fd Us and didn't go ahead for what ever reason. I to believe she will be twitchy no matter the weight down to such short wheel base say compared to a jzx...


HGK's Corvette did run for a season of Pro-2, AFAIR.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Might have been, he's known for picking up abandoned projects. The shell that's used in this car was sitting next to the GT300 Z6R at the shop when I visited last year


Why do the mesh pieces on the intake look so beat up? Is it not a new item?


I need video of that thing idling.
Topped with few revs. Then I'm blessed. Hahaha..


800hp seems like such an odd number...
he should make it 900hp to match the weight :)


That is the craziest brake rotor I've ever seen, and the whole suspension and steering knuckle set up is some serious fabrication porn.


dude called Sregey Kabargin made drift corvette more than year ago. Daigo saw it when Sergey went with it to FD


Carbon Kevlar gets me proper going. ooof!


HECK! Needs video, Dino!


This and the Redbull HRT V8SC drift car of Shane Van Gisbergen would be the best thing ever.


900kg is too light, I think