One of the things I really like about Formula Drift is the fact that drivers and teams from all over the world come to compete in the Pro Championship. However, for some reason not as many FD drivers make an effort to compete in Japan’s D1 Grand Prix series. I understand that it may be a budget issue, but seeing how many new Japanese teams make the trip across the pond does make me wonder why the top Formula Drift teams don’t make the effort in the name of competition.
Well, Speedhunters driver Vaughn Gittin Jr. figured it was time to make the trip over to Japan to take part in the final round of 2015 D1GP series: Tokyo Drift in Odaiba.
Vaughn really wanted to compete in the final championship round held on the first day of the event, but he wasn’t allowed too, as only drivers who had competed in the five earlier rounds were eligible.
However, he was able to compete in the D1GP World Champions exhibition match held the following day. I sat down with him after the event to hear his thoughts on traveling to Japan for D1GP.
LC: It’s been over 10 years since you won D1 USA vs. Japan at Irwindale. Back then, did you think you would ever have a chance to compete in an exhibition match in Japan?
VGJr: Not really, but I definitely am a ‘believe anything is possible’ kind of guy!
In 2005 it was a very distant dream, but one that I have kept my eye on, and through patience and a lot of hard work we finally made it happen this year.
LC: What do you think about qualifying and competition judging with the aid of D1GP’s Racelogic DriftBox, which measures angle, speed and track position to essentially give you a score?
VGJr: I was literally told to drive how I feel, which was actually pretty cool. I liked that it was open to interpretation.
But from a competitor standpoint, it made it very difficult to strategize.
I like the overall idea of having technical aids to support scoring in drifting, but because I have no idea how the DriftBox works I can’t really comment on it or give a true opinion of its relevance.
LC: What was it like drifting alongside Daigo Saito in his Lamborghini Murciélago?
VGJr: Absolutely awesome and scary! It sounds so insane.
But at the same time I was actually very nervous for him driving it surrounded by walls, because I knew he had such little seat time in it and we had the Battle Drift shoot following the D1GP weekend. I’m sure that parts for a drift-spec Lambo are probably hard to find!
But he drove it like the champ that he is. It was cool to have him on my door and watch it from the outside during the event.
LC: What sort of reactions did the fans and competitors have when you first showed up on grid with your Mustang RTR competition car?
VGJr: It was a very cool reception for both me and my car.
For me personally, it was the first time I have been able to spend time with Japanese fans, which was awesome.
It was a bit overwhelming to be honest, but I was very appreciative of the love!
The fans liked the car for sure, but all the teams were very interested in the build and many were very impressed by it.
It seemed like it was the first time many of the teams and mechanics had seen a drift car like my team builds.
They were crawling all over it and looking underneath inspecting everything whenever we took the wheels off.
If that happened in FD it would be weird, but there we just embraced it and were happy to share our build style with the OGs of drift.
All in all, everyone was pumped we were there and seemingly a bit surprised at how fast and nimble the Mustang RTR was, as it is perceived as a big, heavy car in Japan.
LC: You’ve drifted all over the world – the Middle East, Europe, China and now Japan… So, where do you want to try to drift next?
VGJr: I have my eyes on the moon, we’re just working on the whole lack of gravity thing at the moment. I think me and my bros running tandem on the moon would be pretty epic!
Seriously though, wherever I can. I just like driving, traveling, meeting new people and experiencing new cultures.
It’s my favorite thing to go to a foreign country, not be able to communicate through speaking but to simply connect through a passion for cars and drifting.
Drifitng is becoming a universal language and I am pumped to have the opportunity to experience it all over the world!
LC: When do you plan on going back to Japan?
VGJr: As soon as possible! We have some unfinished business and there is plenty more fun to be had over there. I really enjoy the people and culture, too. Japan likes to party and so do I!