When you think of a major professional drift event, the first things that come to mind are the drivers, the cars and their respective teams. In essence however, they are mere cogs in a much bigger machine. Behind the scenes, events like Formula D take months of planning, a fully dedicated staff and, of course, the famous last minute dash to the finish line. In the lead up to the final round at Irwindale, we decided to take a peek at how it all gets put together.
This is what Irwindale Speedway looks like just a few days before the actual event. It goes from this rather empty state…
…to a house packed to capacity.
Long before any tire burns up the tarmac, things are put into motion in the city of Long Beach, California.
On the sixth floor of an office high rise, nestled in the heart of downtown Long Beach…
…is the FD headquarters. It's here that their events are conceived, planned and organized.
This is the office of co-founder and the president of Formula D, Jim Liaw. And as you can see, Jim likes to keep his office spotless!
On the opposite end of the building and in stark contrast to Jim's office, is the other co-founder and the vice president's office, Ryan Sage.
Ryan is also the executive vice president of marketing. He locks in TV and radio deals, works with the livestream, co-hosts the Formula D TV Show, and hosts Formula D's weekly podcast "FD Insider." Quite the job, no?
In another office sits Bryan Olfert who is the manager of sales. His day-to-day responsibilities include sponsorships, booth sales and making sure everything is delivered to their clients as promised.
If you take part of a Formula D event, be it as a member of the media, a driver, or a team member, you'd deal with this person on a regular basis. This goofy fellow is Andy Luk, Formula D's director of operations. During an FD weekend, he is the person that oversees everything that happens throughout the paddock, the pit lane and on track. He's the first person to arrive before any event and also the last person to leave.
Outside of an FD weekend and inside of an office, Andy maintains relationships with all the venues Formula D visit during the course of a season.
A person that works alongside Andy Luk is Myles Hasegawa. He helps oversee operations at all the venues and is responsible for each venue's layout. The responsibility of designing the layout of each venue includes the placement and location of all the teams, their respective rigs and trailers, as well as the vendor booths and designating areas for the car shows.
Then there's FD's newest team member, Kevin Wells. He is the new Technical Regulations Manager, who has replaced the former Technical Manager, Tony Angelo. His primary duties will include the writing and enforcement of the technical regulations, develop new regulations, work together with a soon to be created technical committee, and many other things. Kevin will travel with the series and to all the various Formula D international events including the Formula DRIFT Asia Championship to make sure their technical standards are upheld.
In another office at Formula D, sit two important cogs, Ceso Begay and Steve Choi.
Ceso's day-to-day at the office is to maintain Formula D's social media sites and the blog. He also assists Ryan with marketing activities, projects and works with local event promoters to help market each FD event. His on-track duties include manning the finish line. He's the guy that inform the drivers who has won the tandem battle.
Next to Ceso sits Steve Choi. He is the administrative manager at the office and also works with Ryan on marketing and special projects. In addition he maintains relationships with the media, does posts on third party web forums, does the international logistics as well as event planning.
In the office adjacent to Steve and Ceso's, is the Belle-1 Communications lair. This is the nerve center for all things video, including the live stream, for the series.
Then there is the office of Casidy Tanaka Fixmer. Her responsibilities include ticketing, handling credentials for all the teams and media, team registration, and books travel for the office and external staff. Basically, she's Formula D's mom.
The week before an FD weekend, Casidy's office turns into a ticket and VIP seating organizing warzone.
Here are the hundreds of VIP credentials for the Irwindale weekend.
Those credentials include a pass which grants them access to the VIP suites.
And of course, these are the highly coveted golden wrist bands. Teams, VIPs and members of the media are given these wrist bands to gain access to the track throughout the weekend.
Throughout the FD offices you'll find reminders and to-dos on the walls. On the upper left hand corner of this photo you can see the design of the Will Call area for Irwindale.
Before an FD weekend, the atmosphere in the office can be tense, hectic and rather stressful. There are some things though to take the edge off the seriousness.
So with that, let's move out of the office and onto the track.
If you're heading to FD to work or drive, then your first stop will be to the Will Call booth.
This is where team members, drivers, VIPs and media pick up their credentials. If you're application is in order you'll be granted access to the event.
Pulling sour faces doesn't seem to get you in however.
As with many types of events, the organizers are met with countless people claiming to be friends of so and so, or with this certain team/sponsor. Casidy can often be found hard at work on the phone, making sure the correct passes are issued only to the right people.
Days before an event starts, you'll see people in red FD shirts scurrying around to get things organized.
Here is Jim Liaw climbing the crows nest to make sure the TV cameras and microphones are in place.
Hidden in one of the many trailers parked in the paddock was DirectTV's HQ.
With a wall of monitors in front of them, this is where the TV show is processed and stitched together.
In a room next to the command center is the sound board. It's impressive to think that all of this is hidden within a semi-truck trailer!
As a special for Irwindale, DirectTV was also shooting in 3D.
The FD office in Long Beach is home to nine people. At events however, the number of staff increases markedly. Hailing from New York City if FD's staff photographer, Jose Martinez. If you've seen any FD web banner, poster, flyer, or big roadside banner, then you've seen Jose's photography.
There's also the voice of Formula Drift, Jarod DeAnda. He the main commentator for all the events and also the live stream.
Patrick Cawley is another external staffer. He works the starting line, making sure the drivers are released at the correct time.
Luke Crowell – who owns the Honda S2000 powered Datsun 510 we've featured previously – also works at the starting grid with Patrick.
Then there are of course, the judges: Andy Yen, Tony Angelo (who has since left his post to pursue driving again) and Ryan Lanteigne.
It's not an easy job being a judge, but somebody has got to do it!
All the FD staff that work on the course can communicate via their headsets. Drifting is a dangerous sport and having these radios keeps all the staff informed and safe as they move about the 'hot' track.
Formula D really is like a huge machine that has been pieced together. Each of these cogs and gears are greased up and work in unison, just so a bit of drifting can happen….