When Formula Drift comes to Long Beach, its a pretty big deal. It is the first round of the season, it marks the debut of new teams, sponsors, drivers, and it also sets the tone for the rest of the season. Its also right in my backyard (kind of) so I always try to do my due diligence when it comes to covering this event for you all.
With the silly season over, new cars revealed, and the track ready the talk of the weekend was Justin “JTP” Pawlak. He was one of the few drivers to remain in (basically) the same car as last year and he has also won Long Beach the last two years in a row. Falken Tire was already anticipating their driver turning the weekend into a three-peat. However hopes of that were nearly dashed when JTP made an uncharacteristic mistake in Friday qualifying and had a bad shunt into the tires and wall at the beginning of Long Beach’s infamous sweeper.
The impact nearly destroyed the front end of JTP’s Falken Tire Ford Mustang but luckily his team was able to get the car back together in time to make another qualifying run. Despite the damage JTP managed to qualify 23rd and get into the big show. Unfortunately the show ended for JTP when his Drift Alliance brother Ryan Tuerck managed to take him down in the Top 16 which blew the competition wide open. With JTP out it was anyone’s game. Except for Tuerck who like JTP was taken out by a Drift Alliance member, this time Chris Forsberg. Forsberg fell to the same fate when Vaughn Gittin Jr. took him down in the Final 4. This sent 2011 champion Vaughn to the final to face none other than his main rival of that year Dai Yoshihara.
Unlike JTP, Dai was having a great weekend. He remained in a familiar car and due to his confidence in his machine and his team giving him a great set up Dai managed to qualify first. After that there was no stopping him as he took down Tyler McQuarrie, Matt Powers, Fredric Aasbo, and finally Chelsea DeNofa to make it to the finals.
After a heated battle Dai Yoshihara bested Vaughn Gittin Jr. to win the round and complete a perfect weekend (1st qualifier, and the win). During the podium ceremony Dai said that with his momentum he will “definitely go for the championship”. Watch out guys, Dai has officially begun his mission.
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If you like drifting at all and have no idea what to do this weekend then you are a magnificent moron! The 2013 Formula Drift season starts tomorrow you idiot! Where the hell have you been? Did you not see the banner at the top of this website for the last two months!?
Whew, ok, ok I am going to cut you some slack. In case I did not make it incredibly clear a second ago, Formula Drift round 1 is going down this weekend (tomorrow and Saturday) on the streets of Long Beach. Most tickets might be sold out by now but there may be a few hundred seats left and city officials have allowed Formula Drift to sell some overflow general admission tickets. Technically, those tickets are “standing room only” but Formula Drift will allow folding lawn chairs.
So hurry up and get your tickets! Here is all the info:
I realize I am a little late to the party when it comes to this but better late than never right!? Ok, I apologize! Forgiveness please! Anyhow let us get to business. Just like the year before, the final round of Formula Drift at Irwindale Speedway AKA “The House Of Drift” was the most intense due to a very close points battle. Things were so tense and close that just about every drift fan in the tri-county area wanted to see how it played out. Not only did the event sell out, but it sold out before the gates even opened which is a first for Irwindale Speedway and Formula Drift. A crowd of nearly 20,000 packed Irwindale to see how things were going to play out at the ”Final Fight”. Falken driver Vaughn Gittin Jr. was on top of the points coming into the weekend but mathematically speaking had 6 drivers who could have taken the title away from him at Irwindale. Realistically speaking there were only two drivers who posed a threat to Vaughn: Daigo Saito and Rhys Millen who were second and third in points respectively.
To hold off most of the mathematical points contenders Vaughn simply needed to qualify well and make it past the “Top 16″. Unfortunately he kind of stumbled on one and completely botched the other. Vaughn qualified 9th, which seemed decent at first but then lost its luster when Ryan Tuerck, Justin Pawlak, and Rhys Millen all qualified ahead of him. In fact Rhys Millenwas the #1 qualifier with a nearly perfect run at 97 points. Pawlak and Tuerck did not gain much ground because of this but now Rhys was in serious striking distance. Vaughn out-qualified Saito but only by a few places as Saito qualified 13thdue to troubles with his car.
All the necessary players made it past the Top 32 but after that is when things got interesting. Vaughn Gittin was paired up against Pat Mordaunt in the Top 16 and when Vaughn was on his chase run against Pat he spun out on the infamous transition on the front straight, thus handing the win to Mordaunt and gleaming, glittering, golden opportunities to Millen and Saito.
There was potiential for two great stories. For Millen, winning the championship would mean the ultimate redemption after Hyundai announced they would not be backing his program in 2013. For Daigo Saito it would mean solidifying himself as the current world’s greatest drifter after winning a D1 championship and Formula Drift Asia. He would have also been the first person in Formula Drift history to win the title in their “rookie” season.
To make things even more dramatic Millen and Saito were on the same side of the bracket. So, it would literally come down to a battle between the two to decide the 2012 championship. Rhys had been at the top of his game all night and Daigo was killing it as always so the capacity crowd knew that once the two met in tandem it would be an epic battle. “Epic” turned out to be the correct word as the two drivers drove as hard as they could but Rhys unfortunately drove a little too hard and during his chase run he over cooked it coming into the hairpin and slapped his Hyundai Genesis coupe against the wall right in front of the judges. His car was done for the night which gave the Championship to Daigo Saito. Rhys’ DNF also handed an automatic third place podium finish to Ryan Tuerck.
The final battle of the night came down to the new 2012 champion Daigo Saito and Justin “JTP” Pawlak. These two may not have been close to each other in the points but they do have a history with each other as Pawlak once got very angry with Saito after he felt that Saito brake checked him in the Florida round. Many wondered what would happen if Saitodid anything that might look like a brake check this time with such high stakes. However things did not quite get that far as JTP pretty much made the same mistake Rhys did while chasing Saito and hit the wall HARD in front of the judges at the hairpin.
With that it was over. Daigo Saito was not only the 2012 champion but he was also the winner of the “Final Fight” at Irwindale Speedway. As I mentioned before Daigo is the first driver in Formula Drift history to win the championship in their rookie year. He is also only the second ever Japanese born champion (Dai Yoshihara was the first). He is also the first Formula Drift USA champion to have already won a D1 championship. And he did all of this on one of the lowest funded teams on the grid, without a V8. The last person to win a Formula Drift championship without a V8 was Tanner Foust who won back-to-back titles in his V6 Nissan 350Z.
With this championship Daigo is arguably the best drifter in the world right now. What a season! What a champion! What a final round! If you did not make it out to Irwindale because tickets got sold out or you just were unable to make the trip then I highly recommend trying again next year and being very proactive. The good news is that tickets for the opening around of Formula Drift’s 2013 season at Long Beach are already on sale. Pick yours up ASAP and go on another ride!
For our full gallery of Formula Drift “Final Fight” Irwindale 2012 check out our Facebook gallery.
I can’t believe I actually have to remind you of this since the banner has been at the top of this website for weeks now but the final round of Formula Drift is this weekend! Technically it is going on right now at Irwindale Speedway. Today is qualifying and tomorrow is the big show. This being the final round, the championship will be decided tomorrow! Will it be Vaughn Gittin Jr.? Will Daigo Saito be the first driver to win the title in their “rookie” season? Can Rhys Millen give one last gift to Hyundai before they part ways? All is being answered, like right now! So get your arse to mahs! err I mean to Irwindale!
WHAT: Final Round Of Formula Drift
WHEN: October 12th & 13th
WHERE: Irwindale Speedway: 500 Speedway Drive Irwindale, California 91706
WHY: Because Drift Car
HOW MUCH: $28 for general admission, $38 for two day reserved seats, $33 for Saturday reserved seats, Parking $10-$15
WARNING: Tickets are selling fast so get yours NOW, also try to car pool if at all possible!
Decide to stay in this Friday night? Nothing to watch? No worries! Just do a simple scroll down below and you can watch Formula Drift Round 6 “After Dark” Live! Tonight at 9pm PST will be qualifying and tomorrow will be the big show! Anyhow, stop reading and start watching!
The pseudo rookie and D1 Champion Daigo Saito did what many of us suspected he would do since he game to Formula Drift, he won an event in his first season. Daigo-san took down Conrad Grunewald, Darren McNamarra, Chesea DeNofa, points leader Justin Pawlak, and finally Chris Forsberg to take the victory at Palm Beach International Raceway over the weekend. Keen observers will note that every opponent he defeated pilots a V8-powered car which should put Daigo in the lead for the Turbonetecs “V8 Hunters” cup. Dai Yoshihara and Justin Pawlak battled it out for third place and Dai came out on top grabbing a much needed podium.
Although despite not making either one of the three steps Justin Pawlak remains the points leader but Daigo is now only 20.5 points behind him due to his consistent podium finishes. Dai is in a distant third with 197 points but the season is still young and the 2011 champ has time to mount a come back.
We will see if Daigo can further encroach on JTP’s territory when Formula D returns to New Jersey’s Wall Speedway AKA “Irwindale Jr.” towards the end of the month!
In the weeks before Formula Drift Long Beach you probably heard a lot of talk about a dude named Daigo Saito. If you don’t know who he is then you were probably puzzled over why this guy is such a big deal. Well, let me tell you why. This guy is one of the best Japanese drifters since N.O.B. Taniguchi (maybe better), he is a D1 champion, and he does stuff like this. This year hes come across the ocean to compete in Formula Drift and despite getting into a new car, driving for a new team, on new tracks hes ever even seen before, this guy made the podium in his very first outing!
The team from Keep Drifting Fun, Will Roegge and Josh Herron turned their highly expensive cameras on Saito-san during the weekend of Formula Drift Long Beach in an effort to capture his awesome-ness on film. If you really want to know who Daigo Saito is, this flick is a good introduction so scroll down below and watch children!
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.
If you love drifting then I am sure you already have tickets to round one of Formula Drift this weekend in Long Beach so I am writing this for those of you out there who might still be on the fence about drifting or who like it but have never been to an event before. Formula Drift’s show on the Streets Of Long Beach is one of their best, most anticipated, and most attended rounds of the entire year! Long Beach is when the teams debut new cars and in some cases new drivers. Then there is the fun of watching these guys attempt to slide their very expensive machines sideways at high speeds between two very unforgiving concrite walls! If you want your first taste of drifting this event is definitely the place to get it.
The only catch is most of the seating is reserved for this event so you have to move fast before they sell out! Hit up the official event page for info and tickets.