The past weekend marked the official kick-off of the 2012 Formula Drift season. Once again the roar of drift cars echoed off the high rise condominium and office buildings of downtown Long Beach and layers upon layers of scorched tire rubber were laid down on turns 9, 10, and 11 of the Long Beach Grand Prix street course. Round 1 of the Formula Drift season is always the most anticipated because this is the time when the fans get to see the debut of new cars, new drivers, and in same cases new teams.
Speaking of new cars one of the biggest stories of this year’s first round was the debut of Ken Gushi’s new Scion Racing FR-S drift car built by GReddy. Scion is banking on the FR-S so much that they actually flew out the first 86 people to drop a deposit on one out to the event all expenses paid and built a special VIP viewing area for the group to cheer on Gushi and the other Scion Racing drivers. “The Gush” as he is called had a pretty good first outing in the new FR-S as he made it all the way to the Great 8. Unfortunately he had to face 2011 Formula Drift Champion Dai Yoshihara. During the battle Gushi gave the FR-S its first official introduction to the walls of Long Beach, effectively handing the win over to Yoshihara.
Another major talking point of the weekend revolved around the track itself as the surface was repaved just weeks before the event. A special test session was held with one driver from each tire sponsor to see how their rubber would hold up to the new asphalt surface. The feedback was resoundingly positive and it showed in the tandem battles as many drivers who historically had lackluster performances were throwing down lines that were straight gangsta! To help measure just how “gansta” each run was Formula Drift actually had proximity sensors installed at the three main clipping points of the track that would light up every time a car came within a foot of said point. It really helped to show who was really hanging it out there and who was being conservative; it really was a great addition for the hardcore fans who love to technically break down each run to the minute details.
In the end the final battle was a re-enactment of the 2011 points battle as it came down to 2011 champion Dai Yoshihara against 2011 runner up Justin “JTP” Pawlak while the battle for third place came down to fan-favorite Matt Powers against living legend Daigo Saito who was killing it all weekend. Saito, with his Toyota 2JZ powered soarer proved that V8s are not needed The final battle between JTP and Dai was close but this time Justin Pawlak came out on top claiming the victory and marking his second year in a row winning in Long Beach.
With round 1 officially in the books it is onto round 2 at Road Atlanta which is a favorite among the drivers due to its super fast downhill entry. Stay tuned to MotorworldHype.com as we will have the live feed from the event at the top of our page!
For a full gallery of all the action from the weekend hit the links below to our Facebook photo albums.