This weekend must have been the most hectic two days of drifting I have ever covered. Okayama Circuit was the place and the D1 management decided to try out a new format, running two rounds in two days. It was also my first time at the circuit, and I was impressed by the track, which is definitely perfect for drifting with drivers throwing the cars sideways at speeds approaching 200 km/h not to mention huge angles. Just take a look at the opening snap of Minowa to see what I mean!
As I arrived at Okayama circuit a little before 7 am on Saturday morning, after spending the whole night driving the 650 km down from Tokyo, I was greeted by possibly the best sound to come out of any car. I am, of course, referring to the Mad Mike's quad-rotor FD3S!
I've been hearing rumors of Mike coming over to Japan with his RX-7 ever since the beginning of the year and I'm glad to see he's made it! After a hectic week-end with plenty of bad luck Mike did enjoy his first outing in the world's original drift championship and did a great job of showing off his skills to the judges and crowds. Stay tuned for more on Mike's D1-adventure in Japan and more on that crazy FD!
Okayama is, like Fuji Speedway, a very fast circuit which demands a hell of a lot of commitment from the drivers. The lap begins with a full acceleration burst from the beginning of the straight. As Mike was pointing out to me today the better set up cars had revised diff ratios that would allow the drivers to use all of their gears up until the moment they throw the car sideways before the main judged corner, turn 1 of the circuit. You could just hear them hit the limiter before grabbing the handbrake and putting the car in a long drift as can be seen from this picture of Kawabata. Some got so sideways it looked like they were going to spin, but then miraculously pulled the car into line and powered out of the corner. Quite impressive to watch.
After passing in front of the judges, the drivers flick the car over and set up for the next corner, a fast left-hander, demonstrated here by Suenaga.
Orido looked like he was back in form at Okayama, where I finally got to see the potential of his new NATS sponsored Aristo.
Tanaka clipping the apex at the entry of the main corner. The Team Orange guys didn't look like they had this circuit figured out, even Kumakubo was struggling to nail a perfect run.
Ueo's return to D1 for 2009 was with this Drift Speed S15.
Takayama's R-Magic FD was one of six RX-7s, by far the biggest rotary turn out I've ever seen at a D1 round! Nothing like buzzing rotaries to get the crowds going wild!
The father of D1, Daijiro Inada, during the main Roudn 3 presentation. When not in the judge's seat he can be seen walking around the paddock chatting to fans.
In the afternoon the Best 16 action got under way with drivers trying their best to nail that entry perfectly. This, however, proved very tricky with countless cars running wide and plowing into the kitty litter.
Kuroi was in top form this week-end, here he is diving into the second corner under full power.
What was I saying about the kitty litter? Ueno was still getting to grips with his new 2JZ-powered BMW and ended up in this situation twice in a row.
The 3-series never suffered any damage however and he went back to put down a pair of solid runs, with that powerful engine doing a great job of pulverizing his Neova AD08's!
Nomuken did great behind the wheel of his Skyline ER34, but never managed to get the angles he was looking for.
Yoshioka was behind the wheel of the Team Magic RX-7, the same car we saw at the Red Line Oil stand at the Nagoya Exciting Car Showdown.
Minowa again, despite some almost perfect runs he didn't rack up enough points to make it into the Best 16.
Tokita and the Bee-R Crown got to use all of his 2JZ's power, powering the big Toyota in front of the crowds.
Tezuka in the other Bee-R built machine up against Suenaga. The GT-R driver managed to move into the Best 4 but got beaten by Daigo Saito…
…who went on to challenge Hibino in the final, who in turn had previously eliminated Kuroi, Kawabata and Nomuken.
After a series of very clean and close runs Hibino ended loosing his line and ploughing into the gravel handing Saito the Round 3 win along with a check for ¥500,000 (US$5,250). Make sure you don't miss the action from Sunday's Round 4, where the battles were just as close and where things ended very interestingly.
- Note: It was decided to give Hibino and Saito the same number of points due to both having small problems with their cars not allowing them to get 100% out of them. So Round 3 ended in a tie.