In the season finale of GT Channel’s “Behind The Smoke” we get to see Dai give a heartfelt goodbye to his Falken Tire/Discount Tire Nissan S13. 2013 was a rough year for Dai and his team and it got even rougher when the engine in his S13 blew during practice and the team had to pull an all nighter to drop in a spare.
Dai was hoping to get one last win for the season but unfortunately he was taken out by Chris Forsberg (who was driving like a man on a mission). It was at that point Dai and his team said they’re goodbyes but also expressed excitement for the debut of their new BRZ drift car next season. Grab a hankie and watch the emotional send off below!
Anyone who has tried drifting can tell you how much fun it is but typically those people are at least 16 years old. What can a kid interested in drifting do? Well before the answer to that would have been nothing but thanks to Razor (yes the scooter people) and their new “Crazy Cart“, kids as young as 9 can feel what its like to get sideways. Powered by an electric motor the Crazy Cart is a three wheeled cart (with caster wheels up front for additional support) that has the ability to instantly pitch sideways with a pull of an emergency brake-like handle on the side.
Sounds fun right? To promote their new drifting Crazy Cart Razor has set up shop at Formula Drift Irwindale this weekend with a full booth and test track for attendees to drift a Crazy Car for themselves. Since they were already at the “House of Drift” for one of the biggest drift events of the year Razor invited current points leader Michael Essa and Scion Racing driver Fredric Aasbo to try out their newest toy.
Naturally the two drivers took to the Crazy Carts like the proverbial duck to water. Then, in a turn of events that shocked no one the two started tandem battling each other! You can see the epic match up for yourself in the video below. Also stay tuned for our personal review of the Razor Crazy Cart!
DISCLAIMER: The following post is purely the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other persons associated with MotorworldHype.com. Should you find yourself angered, offended, annoyed, harmed, maimed, confounded, confused, frightened, or aroused by this post please see a mental health professional promptly or express your thoughts in the comments. Note that if you include personal verbal attacks against the author of this post and/or other commenters in your comment it will not be approved. Debates/Arguments are encouraged, flaming is not.
Ever since the rise of Rally X (Rally Cross) at X Games last year, many have begun to draw comparisons between Rally X and Drifting. Some have even gone as far as to say that Rally X may oust Drifting as the “next big thing” as far as youth motorsports. I have my own thoughts on this and if you have sometime to kill I would like to share them with you.
I really like Drifting. In fact, I have been a fan of Drifting before I even realized what “Drifting” really was. I remember watching videos in high school back in ’98 of cars sliding around corners on mountain roads and thinking it was the coolest thing ever. Anyhow, after first learning of Drifting as a sport, it did not take long for me to understand what it was really about: style, technique, car control, competition, and fun. These days there are thousands upon thousands of people who get Drifting and have fallen in love with it. It is those people who are part of masses that pack grandstands and clog the livestream of Formula Drift (the premiere American Drifting series) events all year long.
Unfortunately, there has been a battle that professional Drifting has been fighting ever since it came to our shores. While there are many people out there who understand the sideways motorsport there are plenty of those out there who still don’t get it. The really bad part is that included in the group of people who do not understand Drifting are individuals from endemic and non-endemic companies who control how their sponsorship dollars are spent. That is tricky for professional series like Formula Drift and teams who are seeking funding to go Drifting on a professional level. How do you convince a company to sponsor your participation in a sport that they do not completely understand? That is a tough question to answer. However, I think the real question is: “What is it about drifting that these individuals don’t get?”
Well the area where most get confused is the area of judging, especially when it comes to tandem battles. What really gives one driver a win over another? Even enthusiasts who are very familiar with Drifting seem to be confused by this occasionally. In fact, despite being around for almost a decade, Formula Drift announcer “J-Rod” still explains the mechanics of drifting and the judging criteria to the crowd at each round of competition. Although in Formula Drift’s defense this could be because Drifting is still young enough that at each round there are attendees who have never seen Drifting before that event.
Still, this shows that the problem of understanding Drifting is more than just a small annoyance that we thought would go away in after the early years. Imagine the frustration of a marketing executive who commits a significant amount of his/her budget to a driver/team only to watch their driver lose in the first round of 32 and not understand why. It is definitely a tough pill to swallow! Being a member of the media I am usually around the marketing execs and representatives of the sponsor companies that participate in Formula Drift and I have heard more than a few off the record complaints about Drifting from them. Those complaints have mostly revolved around the fact that Drifting is a subjective sport and how they feel the judging is bull or worse, bias.
The latter suspicion is fed by the fact that all the judges are former competitors who have friends and acquaintances that still compete. Formula Drift and the judges will vehemently deny any bias in the judging system and maintain that the judges are 100% professional and can separate business from friendship. I choose to take them at their word but it would be naive to say that there have not been instances that would make people wonder if judges are playing favorites. For example the same year (2009) Tony Angelo, a founding member of the Drift Alliance crew was appointed a Formula Drift judge was also the year that fellow Drift Alliance member Chris Forsberg won the title.
At times even some non-Drift Alliance drivers felt that there was bias in the judgement calls. In an infamous interview Rhys Millen vented his fustration and suspicions in an interview with GT Channel at Formula Drift Long Beach. If you skip to the 4:13 mark in the video below you can whitness the awkward moment for yourself.
Now, before I get flamed by all the Drift Alliance fans who will accuse me of being a “hater” let me say that I disagree with any notion that Tony Angelo judged biasly to help Chris Forsberg win the title. Firstly because I just do not believe he is that kind of person and secondly there are three judges, so even if one judge wanted to play favorites there are two more to balance things out. However, despite my beliefs even I have to admit that the face value of that situation did not look good for those who defended the fair judging practices of Formula Drift.
Despite this there are still new sponsors coming on board and old sponsors who choose to stick with Drifting as part of their marketing efforts. Why? Because Drifting still draws a crowd, it is still exciting to watch, and for the most part it still has cars that the kids love albeit most have V8s in them now but at least they still look like the cars we idolized in high school. Yet, this problem of understanding still looms over the sport. A few years ago this problem did not really have the potential to drive sponsors away because there was no other motorsport that captured the youth the way Drifting does.
About a year ago that changed…
Actually, this change was set into motion about 5 years ago, 2006 to be exact. What happened in 2006? ESPN debuted Rally racing as a new event for Summer X Games. For those who remember it was quite a debut as Moto X cross-over talent Travis Pastrana just barely beat Rally racing god Colin McRae after Colin rolled his car with two corners left, kept going, and just missed gold by .52 seconds. Colin would come back to compete in X Games one more time before his untimely death at the end of 2007. Rally remained a part of X Games from that point on but it did not have quite as much excitement as it did in that first year. This was mostly because half of the action was taking place outside of the spectator’s field of view and they had to keep up with the action via video screens. Another reason for the slight decline in interest is the fact that the Rally drivers were on separate courses that crossed over (the jump intersection) and never quite went door-to-door. This is because at its heart Rally racing is about running against the clock and not crossing the line first. Still, there was enough mayhem, especially with the jump to keep things interesting for the next few years. Something to note is that Formula Drift champions Rhys Millen, Samuel Hubinette, and later on Tanner Foust all participated in X Games Rally at some point during this time as well. The most successful was Tanner Foust who won gold against Travis Pastrana in 2007 which was also the year he won his first Formula Drift title.
Now, let’s fast-forward to 2010. ESPN moved the Rally and many of skateboarding and BMX competitions from the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA to Los Angeles, CA with Rally being moved to the LA Coliseum. This presented a unique opportunity for the Rally organizers. By partnering up with the main brass from the Rally America series X Games decided to switch their format from the head-to-head style to the popular European Rally X (Rally Cross) format. How was Rally X going to be any different from what they were doing before? Well in case you have not seen or heard of Rally X until now allow me to explain. First of all the biggest difference between head-to-head and Rally X is that with Rally X both cars are on the same course at the same time door-to-door in a race to the finish line (no subjectivity to muddle things up here).
While both head-to-head and Rally X both include 70 foot jumps the way each discipline uses said jump brings us to our second major difference. In head-to-head each driver takes the jump once and depending on which path they start on the spectators know exactly when each driver is going to take the jump. In Rally X the jump is set on separate path through the main course its referred to as the “Joker” path. Now, most Rally X heats are three up to five laps. In a Rally X heat each driver must take the Joker path (called Joker Lap) and complete the jump. The trick is that the driver can choose when he or she wants to take their joker lap. This adds a huge excitement factor for spectators because they don’t know which driver will take the jump at what time. Will one driver go for the jump right away? Save it for last? Will both go over the jump side-by-side at the same time? All of those outcomes are possible!
How did the American people take to this new Rally format? They ate it up. The crowds went nuts; the Internet was a blaze with videos, comments, forum arguments, rumors and more. Highlight clips were all over local news stations and sports shows. Entertainment and marketing wise the event was a huge success. It did have its problems (many drivers were DQ’d by going off the very confusing and hard to follow course) but the overwhelmingly positive response drowned out most of the criticism.
This was one of the first moments that Drifting and Rally X were forced to look at each other. Why? Because once again several Formula Drift drivers including Tanner Foust, Sam Hubinette, and even Drifting grassroots hero Stephan Verdier participated in the Rally X event. More so, the Formula Drift drivers dominated each event for the most part with Tanner Foust taking gold in Rally X and Super Rally. To their credit, the brass at Formula Drift were quite happy with this result. They were proud to see their drivers go into someone else’s yard and put racing shoes to asses. As a drift fan I was happy to see that too. Although in hindsight some might say that instead of celebrating, Formula Drift should have been concerned. Rally X had a successful debut in front of thousands of spectators and a television audience of millions. Formula Drift’s debut event while successful did not get that amount of eye balls on their first time out. Formula Drift drivers discovered a new challenge that was also a potentially easy sell to sponsors thanks to its association with X Games. Could they jump ship from Drifting to Rally X?
At the time Formula Drift had nothing to worry about because there was no Rally X series for the drivers to jump ship to. Up until 2010 the only way to Rally X in America was to earn your way into the X Games by competing in the Rally America series or to go to Europe (the birthplace of Rally X). It was pretty unlikely that the Formula Drift drivers would try to do double-duty or ditch it all and move to Europe to try out Rally X so in that respect Formula Drift had nothing to worry about… Or so they thought.
The Global RallyCross Championship series was started by a few individuals with strong connections to both ESPN and Rally America. The idea was to capitalize on the success of the Rally X debut at X Games 16 and create a 4 round series with the season culminating at the next Summer X Games. Global RallyCross held their first event at Toyota Speedway in Irwindale back in March. So, not only was Global RallyCross potentially stealing drivers away from Formula Drift, they kicked off their inaugural season at what is easily Formula Drift’s most popular venue! The Global RallyCross officials brought tons of dirt into the Speedway’s infield and fashioned a combination course of dirt and asphalt with the 70 foot jump right in the middle. While it may have appeared so, the first round of Global RallyCross was not the big threat to Formula Drift as some had made it out to be. In fact it was kind of a flop for a few reasons. The first reason is that since group behind Global RallyCross got started late, they did not have much time to promote their event which resulted in a dismal turn out in the grandstands. The second reason is that it did not hold quite the star power that most were expecting. There was no Travis Pastrana, Ken Block, or even Brian Deegan. Although Ken Block and Deegan did make appearances as guests, the crowd would have much rather watched them drive. Tanner Foust did compete as well as Stephan Verdier and Dave Mirra. The rest of the competitors were mostly European drivers that most people have never heard of unless they were die-hard Rally fans. Judging by that first event Formula Drift was totally in the clear and had absolutely nothing to fear from the Global RallyCross series.
I did see something at the event that was quite alarming to me. In the garage area next to Tanner Foust’s Ford Fiesta was a similarly prepped Ford Fiesta decked out in Best Buy livery. The driver of the car was Marcus Gronholm, a hero to many Rally fans but virtually unknown to most motorsport fans here in the states. Yet here he was with a sponsor that Formula Drift teams and possibly Formula Drift themselves have been courting for years! It seemed as if Best Buy completely ignored Drifting yet they jumped into a brand new (new to us anyway) sport with a driver that 99.99% of Americans have never heard of? Clearly Best Buy saw something in Rally X that they did not see in Drifting. However, Best Buy is just one sponsor right? So Rally X got one sponsor that Drifting did not get. Big deal! There still no ship jumping from one sport to the other. Actually, that came to past as well.
Shortly before the 2011 Formula Drift season started, the first and only back-to-back Formula Drift champion Tanner Foust announced that he would be “taking a break” from Drifting this year to focus on Rally X both home and abroad and that he was taking his title sponsor Rockstar Energy Drink with him. That news was pretty shocking. Then came the news that Stephan Verdier would also back out of the 2011 Formula Drift season to focus on Rally X. It should also be noted that since the Formula Drift season started both Rhys Millen and Sam Hubinette have skipped rounds to participate in other motorsports. OK, is it time for Formula Drift to officially be worried yet? Perhaps not. Let’s look at the situation. With the exception of Verdier all the drivers that have reduced their Formula Drift participation are past champions. They are also a bit older than most of the Formula Drift field. One could easily conclude that they are just ready to move on to new challenges.
So far, no fresh Drifting talent has expressed interest in leaving the sport to try their hand in Rally X and Formula Drift still holds a strong advantage over Global RallyCross in many areas including experience, event attendance, driver count, number of events per season, and most importantly a fiercely loyal fan base not just in America but all around the globe. Even though Formula Drift is an American based series in the short time they have been around they have pretty much surpassed D1 as the top Drifting series in the world. There is also the fact that it is still just as exciting to see two high-horsepower machines sliding sideways at speeds of 60+ mph while only inches apart, tire smoke billowing from both cars all the while.
Both sports have a TV package (Formula Drift on Versus and Rally X on ESPN/ESPN2) and while it may seem that Rally X has the advantage there, the reality is both TV packages are equal in quality and likely in ratings. Where Rally X really has an advantage over Drifting is its ease of understanding due to its objective nature and the big advantage: the 800lb gorilla known as X Games. Despite having not-so-stellar turnouts at most of their rounds and an average TV package, sponsors will still clamor to be a part of Rally X just for a share of the millions of X Games viewers.
So, let us go back to the original question. Is Rally X a threat to Drifting? To me the answer is “yes, just barely”. But if you were to ask me if Formula Drift should be afraid of Global RallyCross I would say “absolutely not.” If nothing else I think the rise of Global RallyCross should be more of a message to Formula Drift and that message is “do not become complacent.” For now, Formula Drift is still on top but it could definitely use some tweaks. Those tweaks should mostly be with judging and curtailing the “invasion of the V8s”. Currently each car in the top 10 Formula Drift standings has a V8 in it and only a handful of those cars actually came with V8s in their stock form. I could go on about this but that is a different post entirely.
If Formula Drift makes some changes I think it can co-exist with Global RallyCross in harmony for the foreseeable future. If Formula Drift chooses to ignore what the sport of Rally X and the Global RallyCross series is doing then I feel there could be a very possible changing of the guard the same way Drifting ousted Import Drag Racing over the last decade. Formula Drift must not rest on its laurels. Instead, if they are not already doing so they should be finding ways to shake up the sport and inject some needed freshness into the sport that they have developed into an exciting global phenomenon.
If you cannot make it out to Florida this weekend for the third round of the Formula Drift season, fret not! Merely scroll down below for the official driftstream and watch the event live in this post! Enjoy!
The 2011 Formula Drift season kicked off over the weekend on the Streets of Long Beach for Round 1. Many were waiting to see how things would start to pan out with many new cars on the grid as well as new drivers and just as suspected things started off wacky. The biggest talk of the event was 2010 Formula Drift Champ Vaughn Gittin Jr. failing to qualify for the event. During Gittin’s first qualifying run he had a major bobble in the middle of the sweeper which resulted in a very low score of 41. When it was time for his second run he ran the course nearly flawlessly until he reached the hairpin at the end and lost drift. Losing drift once you initiate a turn will automatically get you a big fat 0 from the judges leaving Vaughn only his first score to try to get by on but it wasn’t nearly enough. Many feel that this setback for Vaughn will undoubtedly end any hopes that he will repeat as champion this year due to the nature of Formula Drift’s point system. Time will tell I suppose.
With Vaughn out of the running and Sam Hubinette also bowing out due to engine troubles many were speculating on who would capitalize on the a few of the heavy hitters being absent. Conrad Grunewald qualified 1st and Dai Yoshihara qualified just under him so many felt it would come down to those two in the final battle. However, once the Top 32 competition started the next day Grunewald fell to Chris Forsberg in the Top 16. Dai Yoshihara on the other hand was on a mission. He had never won at Long Beach before and he was looking to change that. Dai took down rookie Aurimas Balchis, Ross Petty, and then Ryan Tuerck to get all the way to the final four where he was pitted against Justin “JTP” Pawlak. The battle between them was fierce and evenly matched. Many were sure the battle would go into a OMT (one more time) but the judges gave the win to JTP to the ire of the thousands watching on the live driftstream. With that, Yoshihara’s hopes of winning Long Beach for the first time were relegated to “next year” although he wasn’t totally out of the show yet. After that battle, Chris Forsberg was lined up against his buddy Matt Powers who was dominating the day in his old but new Need For Speed Nissan S14 240SX now with V8 power. Their battle was equally epic but in the end Matt Powers bested Forsberg to get into the final show down against JTP. This would be the first time either driver would make it into the final show down. While they were preparing to fight for top spot Dai and Chris went head to head in the consolation round for third place where Dai edged out Chris to lock in a bronze for the event.
All that was left was for Powers and Pawlak to fight it out for their first win. When the smoke cleared (literally) it was Justin Pawlak who won the judges favor and took his first ever Formula Drift victory in his Falken Tire Ford Mustang. Despite losing to JTP, Matt Powers had plenty to celebrate as he earned his first podium finish and upgraded his status from “fan favorite privateer” to an official “force to be reckoned with”. While Dai wasn’t able to get a win here the fact that made it to the podium shows the new comers that he isn’t going anywhere soon and is officially in the running for the 2011 Formula Drift Championship title.
With Formula Drift Round 1 in the books all the drivers are now turning towards the south and the next round which will be at Road Atlanta on May 6th-7th. If you can’t make it don’t worry you’ll be able to watch the whole thing live right here as I will have the driftstream posted on MotorworldHype.com for your viewing pleasure.
We found this video of our buddy Sam “The Crazy Swede” Hubinette learning a new trick at Toyota Speedway. Sam and his crew packed up their rig with an old school BMW and a specialized ramp. What for? Well in a bit of off season fun Sam wanted to learn how to drive on two wheels. Which actually would be a pretty valuable skill for him to have since his other job is stunt driving. In the video below Sam really shows his natural talent as he takes to the maneuver really quickly. Check out his progress in the video below.
In a preview of things to come from the Formula Drift Abu Dhabi event this video was released of the two Mikes (Mike Essa and “Mad” Mike Whiddett”) drifting the Yas Marina Circuit. You can instantly tell by watching the video that despite being built for Formula One racing, Yas Marina Circuit seems perfectly suited for competitive drifting! Also the way Essa’s BMW V10 engine echos off the grandstands is epic! If you’re bummed out that you can’t watch the event since it is on the other side of the world then cheer up! Formula Drift Abu Dhabi will be broadcasted live on Feb. 25th via Driftstream just like any other Formula Drift event. However there is a catch, since it will be live and there is a massive gap in the time zones between America and Abu Dhabi you will have to wake up pretty early to watch the event live. For you east coasters the stream will begin at 8:30am. For us here in the west the stream starts at 5:30am (ouch!).
So far, it has not been confirmed if the event will be available on-demand after the live broadcast but I will keep you posted as soon as I know. In the meantime watch the video below for a preview of things to come.
UPDATE: It was just confirmed by Driftstream on Drifting.com that the event will be available on-demand after the live broadcast. So if you love drifting but not enough to wake up at 5am the Driftstream has you covered!
Want to go to the first round of Formula Drift but don’t have the scratch to make the trip? Well Alpinestars, Need For Speed SHIFT 2, and Tilly’s have teamed up together to help you out. If you visit a Tilly’s store or go to the official contest website you can enter to win a trip to Formula Drift Long Beach, get a ride along with team Need For Speed driver Matt Powers, gain VIP access to the Need For Speed hospitality area, and play Need For Speed SHIFT 2 before anyone else with Vaughn Gittin Jr.! If you think fate is on your side then you definitely need to enter this contest ASAP. If you don’t win then…well ok there is little consolation but hey there is always the driftstream and gamefly!
This spy shot popped up on the interwebs today courtesy of Mike Kojima. This will eventually be Dai Yoshihara’s 2011 Formula Drift competition car. Unfortunately the car probably wont have the awesome staggered tire sizes you see in the picture. That was just a playful poke by Mike at the new Formula D tire rules for 2011. We’re waiting with baited breath to see how the car will look once Falken crew is totally done with it. Get ‘r done boys!