Daigo Saito’s New Formula Drift</br> GT-R In Detail
Time To Drop The 2JZ

Mention the name Daigo Saito and anyone with the slightest interest in drifting will no doubt conjure up images of smoke filled full-lock drifts. That smoke has usually been created via the use of wildly tuned 2JZ engines strapped to a variety of Toyota and Lexus chassis, but for 2015 things are changing for (probably) the world’s greatest drifter.

Yes, for the forthcoming Formula Drift season Daigo is ditching his old Lexus SC430 in favour of what is shaping up to be one of the world’s wildest R35 drift builds.


The new project is being built out of Daigo’s recently complete man cave, and thanks to Robbie Nishida – who set up the visit for Larry and myself – we were able to get inside for a closer look. Larry will also be bringing you a tour of the facility in separate post.


The new Formula Drift car sits in a heated workroom separate from the main workshop/garage area where Daigo keeps all of his competition machines and a variety of other cars he’s picked up over the years. This is giving him a comfortable place to tackle the big job of transforming an all-wheel drive grip-oriented supercar into a fully-fledged, stripped-out, rear-wheel drive pro drift weapon.


As it sits the car is far from finished, but many of the major tasks have been ticked off. The chassis work is complete and most of the other components that will be added have all been test-fitted and checked. The body too is coming along nicely, and unlike the R35 GT-R that was displayed as Daigo’s future car back at a Formula Drift event in November, this one runs the complete BenSopra aero conversion – not just the BenSopra bumper that HKS ran on their time attack car at WTAC last year. Compared to other BenSopra kits I’ve seen, this seems to be of the extra-super-thin variety to help keep as much weight off as possible.


Daigo’s cars have always been about minimalism, and with a pretty heftily stripped shell, a simple driving position/setup and a paper-thin carbon fiber dashboard, that theme definitely prevails throughout the R35. But wait a second, what are those two chimneys sprouting out of the bonnet?


Well that’s interesting, right?


To get a closer look at what’s going on I had Daigo remove the bonnet section, which unlike the regular BenSopra GT-R kit, is split from the front bumper.

A Pair Of Chimneys, Just For Show

Those chimneys we saw are the two screamer pipes coming from the HKS external wastegates. And yes, that is very cool! Can you imagine the flames these things are going to be spitting in competition?!


A dummy engine is test-fitted to the extensively modified chassis to figure out positioning for the ancillary gear and to ensure that everything lines up correctly.


The actual VR38DETT that will power the car is currently being built and of course will feature forged internals in its make up.


The fuel system is one of the next things that will be worked on, but the mounting position for the Turbosmart FPR2000 fuel pressure regulator has already been established.


Seeing the hard high-RPM use that the engine will be subjected to in competition, an ATI Performance/Titan Motorsports dampened crank pulley will alleviate all possible vibrations.


Daigo will use HKS’s GT1000 turbo kit with a pair of HKS GTII 7867 snails providing the boost. Due to the way the wastegates have been positioned, a pair of custom stainless steel exhaust manifolds needed to be fabricated though. The straightest possible exhaust system will be built to dump spent gasses as fast as possible. Drive will be sent to a BNR34 GT-R rear end via a Holinger 6-speed sequential transmission – a very similar setup to what Blitz specified for their defunct R35 build that Ken ‘Nomuken’ Nomura was scheduled to drive.


Most of the frontal area ahead of the main chassis/impact beams has been chopped off and replaced with this simple tubular structure which will hold the bumper in place.


As Larry and I drooled over the build, Daigo was waiting for the crew that will be designing his livery for the 2015 season.


The rollcage has been engineered to Formula Drift specification and the fabrication meticulously executed with plenty of gusseting to the roof and A-pillars. Once completed it was all painted with a few glossy coats of metallic silver.


Seeing that most pro drift machines use thin doors that are lightweight but offer absolutely no impact protection in case of an accident, it’s required that all FD cars run cross bars as part of their cages.


Here’s a closer look at the two bars that reinforce the front section of the cage – one gusseted to the pillar and the other taking a different angle to the footwell.


The carbon dash has been designed and shaped around the rollcage, and I can’t emphasise enough how thin it is. It definitely wouldn’t weigh much!

Cooling In The Back

Of course, with the entire front section gone the radiator had to be moved to the rear, and here it’s fitted with the stock extractor fans to keep enough air flowing though its core at all times. It sort of makes you wonder where the intercoolers will be placed up front. Perhaps Daigo is planning on running without them altogether, as he has with the 2JZ powering his Formula D Japan/D1GP JZX100. Either way, I can’t wait to see what he comes up with!


The stock fuel tank has been removed and in its place an ATL fuel cell mounted in the trunk.


The adjusters for the HKS Hipermax suspension will also have to be placed in an easy to access position so that quick tweaks here and there can be made in between runs.


See what I mean about the minimalistic approach? This is as simple as can be. Granted, there are still some miscellaneous switches and warning lights to be added, but this is one clutter-free office!


The Racepak digital display/data logger is the only bit of instrumentation that Daigo will need; its customisable screen relaying a variety of data from the HKS F-CON V Pro that’s set to manage the 1000hp motor.


Along with the lever to actuate the Holinger ‘box, the taller billet one will allow Daigo to engage the hydraulic e-brake system and actuate a secondary set of Wilwood calipers that will soon be fitted to the rear.


The ARC pedal set is especially designed for Daigo, and his name is even etched onto the brake pedal lever! Seeing as the R35 has a sort of double floor, a tall heel plate has been built to ensure that his feet sit in the perfect position to ‘dance’.


The GT-R will be running on a set of a set of 21-inch Prodrive wheels shod with Achilles Radial ATR Sport tyres in 295/35ZR21 sizing at the rear and slightly narrower 275s up front. The biggest wheels in Formula D? Definitely!

Before the car is shipped off to the US for the first round of the 2015 Formula Drift series in spring we will be trying to tag along with Daigo for one of this test sessions and take a look at the finished car. We just have to see those wastegate screamer chimneys in action!

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: speedhunters_dino



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pretty sweet


so excited, Not so much about those rims... My personal opinion though.


The greatest drifter without a doubt since he proudly holds the distinction of being crowned D1GP and FD champion. Let's hope Daigo's GT-R performs well and he gets a far better livery than the one shown at SEMA.

Thanks for the detailed post and I am really eager to see the forthcoming post on the JUN GT86.


PhatRainbows I agree, but Prodrive is probably a sponsor.




21's? is this Formula Drift Dub edition...?


i can already see the drift/stance cars to follow....i will call it "Dance" Muhahaha


Top pacarai


I want to see fireballs from the chimneys and smoke from the tires! This is going to be epic.


what's all in the garage next to that room?

Chris 'Haffy' Hafner

21" in drift!?
"There's too many self indulgent wieners in this city with too much bloody money!" Lol


I hope this trend of messing with r35's as much as possible really takes off!


Brentonmartian You want V8.. you get V8..


The vr38 hasn't had anywhere near enough love!


LavarBowers Does it make any difference? Drifting is a car show not a race.

turbo BEAMS ae86

nice men..hate that trendy hood pipes tho...


So funny seeing all this effort put into something that isnt about who's the fastest.


Boy formula drift 2015 going to be insane.


Raw Brokerage is building a RWD R35 as well
And yes, Nissan V8 :)


That might be the case just for drifting, but not when you're tryng to be competitive


This isnt what drifting is about. 1000 hp, 21" wheels, full carbon bodies.. Meh.


@Epoxy The spirit of drifting is in every car that goes sideways for fun, but to win at high level this is whats needed. TBH I'd rather see this drifting than a 300hp S13; you can just watch a random youtube vid for that. This is what pulls people to Formula D and D1GP.


@Epoxy Drifting has no set definition when it comes to power or tires... Its just your personal opinion on what a drift car should look like, not what drifting is about. smh.


@Epoxy yeah it's about super low street cars with crazy vinyl, 2nd-3rd gear corners, and 300whp max.



funny when I know he used tires for passenger cars..


@Epoxy no it isn't, this is pro drifting :)


Ricky Roth building it for what?


@turbo BEAMS ae86 lol but they make fire. Fire is cool!


Brentonmartian That's because it's a bitch to get them to steer enough. Trust have figured that out now


MrSOLOMON85 Larry will be showing you all about that soon


@TROLLS ROYCE Livery should be cool from what I saw


@speedhunters_dino I would really love to see more on that.


speedhunters_dino it'll be our test bed for our Nissan VK56 engine program.  Setup as a FD car as well.


@Epoxy I totally agree. This is a badass build, but if they made a 400hp cap and a track 5 times longer it would be a lot more of a drift competition. None of this "how well can you take three corners before blowing up your car thats designed to make it through three corners?" it would bring a lot more skill and strategy into the driving and the building.


For those wondering about the 21" wheels.  I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this is a way around the weight vs tire width rule in FD.  He's increasing the tire contact patch by going "longer" rather than wider, therefore increasing grip and staying legal. :)


speedhunters_dino gentlemen,,safety,,please


This will just be insane, cant wait to see it in action in my place for real this summer, formula drift in Québec, Canada :)


This is sick! Looking forward to FD next year, but damn it is making competing and keeping up at the pro level even harder! Then again there is a 300K grand prize this year so..... yeah


Seems like all the big names are coming out the box with some insane builds. 
BTW, I see that Drift LFA had its V10 removed for a NASCAR V8. What a waste.


Damn shame, smh


So, are Prodrive an official sponsor for this build then? It would be awesome so see those guys get their hands mucky in the drifting world.


Yeah it's a waste but could you imagine what it would cost if you broke a head or valve in a lfa v10 XD and this being drifting it's going to happen sooner or later .
it's a waste but if you're going to run this in d1 it's much more affordable


One side of me is really excited for these big expensive builds and the other side of me is just a bit afraid it is becoming too expensive for privateers .
As jarrod deanda once said you can't do f1 you can't do motogp but you can do drifting and i hope that not going to fade
But still it's a pretty damn cool car !


JustinOdijk Expensive car and than you swap out the motor, because it's expensive?... Quite ironic. The carbon body panels will also be expensive. Atleast the subframes are aluminium removable pieces.
To talk about this car in a way of money is stupid. It's more likely that the engine is swaped because they don't want to work as much on it. The V10 is rated at 560hp. So increasing the horsepower would be hard and a low of development, when on the other hand the V8 can be modified easily and have safe higher figures.

I'm not hating nor loving this build, I'm just trying to see both sides. Far from an "ideal" drift build.


I love how they are Un-GTRing an R35. I've not liked the R35 since it came out but this... is better.


Rear mounted radiator? What for? With all that room up front, it doesn't cool as well and is heavier due to all the piping and extra coolant. The roll cage is messed up also, the door bar X should be doubled at the center junction, as it is it only has one tube (in cross section). Also the double tubing at the A pillar is overkill for a drift car because they don't ever go fast enough to need it.


Chri5 Duncan jesus christ, shut the fuck up.


Chri5 Duncan You obviously don't follow drifting very closely. Rear mounted radiators are required for FD. And drift cars don't go fast enough to need that cage? These guys are initiating in to turns at 100mph+ on some tracks, and with 1000+hp, I'm sure that will be no problem for this car. Hell, in the Hakone Turnpike drift video, the R35 was entering at over 180kph... that is fast!


Have you seen drift crashes at irwindale for example , imagine those without rollcages ....


Robo_No1 Prodrive Japan have been involved with drifting for a while, Youichi Imamura was sponsored by them back in 2008 and I don't think he is the only D1GP driver to be associated with them.


JustinOdijk Fully agreed: this is a mental car and great to see in detail, but it's far from a cheap build! As you say, it moves the upper echelon of the sport far away from the average privateer.


SWEET! can't wait


Rear mounted radiators aren't required, it just helps cooling if it is farther away from the radiating heat that the engine makes. It also helps distribute the weight more towards the rear.


Have you seen Aasbo's 220kph entry at Gatebil. That's sick


Mehtrological yes. Cant wait to see it up close


Aeroteq Get something signed and ill pay for shipping lol


Mehtrological theyre going to orlando


Aeroteq How much are tickets? there prices yet?


Mehtrological pretty sure its a 30 buck weekend pass


Aeroteq gonna have to look into that


JustinOdijk Good to know I'm not the only one that thinks that. What's next, Pagani's and McLarens'???


Aeroteq 40 a person


Mehtrological i got mine through danny so idk


Aeroteq lucky you, eh whatever its worth it.


Damn you got me there XD but i mean that a v8 engine is easy to replace and because there aren't many lfa's you can't replace that after every round which sometimes happens and i don't think lexus is going to give away the "blueprints" of the engine so they can replace it .


But you're right mate ;)


apieceobacon Really? I thought it was put in the rule book last year to keep coolant off the track with all the front impacts these cars see. Either way, I don't think a single pro is still running a front mounted radiator.


cooling modifications are free but must be filled with water as if 2015. I'm not sure if that was a rule in 2014 but if it was it appears to have been repealed.

Chris 'Haffy' Hafner

No it's not a "show" mate, this is professional motorsport. Just seems like the most "bling" worthy genre of automotive excitement. But 21's? Wouldn't it be better suited for both driveability and price (even if sponsored) for 20" wheels?


It's too bad he didn't use the bensopra kit the most recent hks Gtr with the leds too.  Its the best looking most aggressive kit and would fit Daigo's style


AirLift_Lucas Didn't say they don't need cages, just not double tubing at the A-pillar. That's for something in the 150 to 200mph range. These guys might be fabricators but they haven't done a lot of racing cages, because the A-pillar is overkill and the center of the X on the door bar is an unnecessary weak point.

Here's 2 different door bar X-styles that have both tubes running through the center junction instead of splicing them together so that there's only 1 in cross section.


apieceobacon Rear radiator is not going to cool better, it's going to be close to the same but it's definitely heavier. It could help with weight distribution if you need more weight in the rear.


@Lukaz JustinOdijk I don't got you anywhere. =D They're just chasing more HP with this engine. We'll see how it'll all go. It's like the GTRs that a lot of people planned to drift and then didn't.


mitchb Yeah but that would require different fenders


Chri5 Duncan AirLift_Lucas I love how roll cages gets everyone talking


Robo_No1 Bridgestone licenses the Prodrive name in Japan for their wheels and miscellaneous accessories like seats and steering wheels. It's got nothing to do with the Prodrive guys in the UK who build the race/rally cars


kphillips9936 I don't think it's a waste. That engine is not built for drift, doesn't have the right sort of power and torque delivery. Sounds badass though


Tsunami cars FTW lol. Same goes for that LF-A if I'm not mistaken. And WTF does Daigo do for a living?!


speedhunters_dino Robo_No1 Cheers for the reply Dino. I have long wondered what the connection was (if any) between Prodrive in the UK and Prodrive in Japan!


Chri5 Duncan You don't understand aero...someone should probably tell a ton of race car builders that rear rads don't' cool equally.


speedhunters_dino Robo_No1 Thanks Dino. I didn't know that, I checked out the Prodrive.jp site and it's very different to what I expected from Prodrive UK. Still a cool hook up. It's just I found it a funny to think of the very business like clean cut Prodrive UK going and getting dirty at some drift events on the weekend haha!


Chri5 Duncan Once a car is sideways in a drift, very little air if flowing to a front mounted radiator. The air is no longer traveling smoothly from the front to the rear of the car. The sides of the car basically become the frontal area, which is why drifters have giant side scoops to grab up all of this air and force it through the radiator. Efficient in a straight line? No. But once your 30-40* from driving in a straight line it can make all the difference. Drive down the road with your hand out the window flat and pointed forward, then rotate it left and right. You should be able to feel this effect very quickly. That and these guys crash... all the time, and most of them are front impacts.


AirLift_Lucas Chri5 Duncan I have to admit I'm not totally familiar with the dynamics of drift cars.
 I'm not saying you can't cool a racecar with a rear radiator, just that it's going to be heavier. But I guess that's a moot point with drift cars because they are not really racing.

If you are depending on air coming in the side then you have two ducts, one coming from either side, and both of them need to be large enough to fully cool with just one of them because when the car is sideways only one duct is getting good flow. I would think you could duct the front to be just as effective. But I agree with your point that if the front gets wrecked in that case the rad is better in the back.


JustinOdijk FD is becoming the big leagues. There are smaller amateur and pro am series that privateers can play in, and potentially use as a stepping stone to get to FD.


I thought that was to be split between the top three drivers in the points Standings


Yea i know but i think the best thing about fd is that you don't need vast amounts of money to compete ofcourse it makes everything easier
But i gues that's just the way it's going to be ...


speedhunters_dino kphillips9936  Id say if its a real LFA its a waste. How many LFAs where made? And youre going to drift with it? Drifting is like a car show where the cars get destroyed.


Ricky Roth speedhunters_dino Dont care for drifting but very interested in VK swaps.


Pray to god the gtr never liftsU0001f610


all thos cars in the title picture!!!! please tell me your doing a feature on the facility and the cars inside it.


speedhunters_dino It would look much better and do you know the aprox time when he will be finished?


It will probably be done some time in in February so they can get some testing in and get it to the us in time for round one of formula drift on April 10


Terrible cage design though, with the large budget he has this is unnaceptable


speedhunters_dino Chri5 Duncan AirLift_Lucas What u think about halfcages? xD


Masterwana speedhunters_dino Chri5 Duncan AirLift_Lucas 
Half cage or "roll bar" is good for the street. A full cage is dangerous without a helmet because it intrudes into head room and it doesn't absorb force like the normal interior plastic. In fact people have been killed driving a full cage on the street.


mitchb bensopra kit is hideous, i like the one more which Saito used.


Geez! I cannot wait until this beast is finished!! Keep up the great work Dino!


Dino, when is Larry's post on Saito-san's garage coming? So hanging out for that!


Your retarded the design is the standard of the damn tournament. On books


hello I want to join your team