March 6, 2006 - A new year, a new season. The 2006 D1 Grand Prix championship started off with more smoke, more noise, and more cars. You may be thinking, "drifting again? Irwindale again?" But, before you jump to any conclusions about seeing the same event over again, this year's D1 field hosted an assortment of changes and updates. Following the surprise win of Vaughn Gittin Jr. and his Falken Mustang at the US vs. Japan exhibition round earlier this year, many expected the US drivers to enter the year stronger than ever. But to the disappointment of many red-blooded Americans, it was the Japanese heroes who came out on top this time around.
Proving that time never stands still and change is inevitable, the D1 ranks reshuffled and renewed for 2006. 2005 D1 champion Yasuyuki Kazama returned in his green S15, although no longer with Kei-Office title sponsorship. Youichi Imamura, the 2003 series champ, is no longer with his memorable white A'PEXi Mazda RX-7 but is now the chosen pilot of the 600ps ORC wide-body GTR-powered Nissan 350Z.
Slowly phasing out the older ranks of the D1 AE86's and RX-7's, Gen Terasaki's black hardtop S2000 and Team Orange's twin rear-drive Impreza's point towards the new direction of unique and up-to-date machinery. Following Kumakubo's insane JUN-built Impreza, fellow Team Orange drifter Kazuhiro Tanaka debuted his own 500ps rear-drive Subaru. Lacking the trunk-mounted radiator, side air scoops and sequential transmission of Kumakubo's Impreza, Tanaka's ride still makes use of the stock transmission, locked to send all power to the rear wheels. Even Show-Up's Shinji Minowa jumped ship from the AE86 camp, now rocking a wide-body S15 Silvia. With Dai Yoshihara, Rhys Millen, and Ken Gushi missing from the driver's ranks, the round appeared at first like it might be lacking some of the most exciting drifters on the grid. But in the end, there was no need to worry. From the bewildering sight of Team Orange's two-wheel drive Subaru effort to the outrageously loud machine-gun blasts of Bee-R's R32 Skyline, the show was in full swing. American hopefuls Vaughn Gittin Jr. and Samuel Hubinette looked to be shooting for the crown, but eliminations in the Final 16 and Top 8 rounds ended their dreams. Hubinette's 8.3L Mopar Viper brought an all-American assault to the Japanese drivers, but the day would belong to Kazama. Having taken the D1 Round 1 Irwindale win in 2004, 2005, and now 2006, Kazama's hat trick only proved that he is still the king of Irwindale. Six more points-paying rounds of the D1 Grand Prix are to take place in Japan before the drift circus returns to the US in mid-December, but a scheduled Las Vegas exhibition round in July promises to crash Sin City in style. We can't wait.
Bfgoodrich Enters The WorldrallychampionshipAlready a known name in the time attack and off-road racing circles, Michelin subsidiary BFGoodrich Tires is setting its sights on the World Rally Championship (WRC). Featuring turbocharged 2.0L four-wheel-drive monsters that make over 300hp and blast through forests at triple digit speeds, the WRC is the logical next step for BFGoodrich after the Paris-Dakar Rally and the Baja 1000. Running BFGoodrich tires for the 2006 season include Kronos Racing, BP Ford, OMV Peugeot Norway, Stobart VK M-Sport Ford and Red Bull Soda. Two-time WRC champions Sebastien Loeb and Marcus Gronholm can be seen jumping their respective Citroen Xsara and Ford Focus RS on BFGoodrich rubber, just a few names off of a long list of talent BFG is attached to. Thanks to the Playstation generation and the growth of WRC awareness in the US, BFG can only hope to gain in its rally endeavor. We're hoping that some BFGoodrich rally slicks are going to make it to the US market, and did anybody say WRC car giveaway?
Hondaracingf1'sfirst BattleAs the team formerly known as B.A.R. Honda, Honda Racing F1's first season under full Honda ownership began under the blaring sun of the Bahrain desert. Finally grasping complete ownership of the Formula One outfit, Honda has thrown its weight into the ring against such other manufacturers such as Toyota, Renault, Ferrari, Mercedes Benz, and BMW. The newly-developed 2006 Honda F1 car packs a 700hp V8 that does over 19,000 rpm, a full carbon fiber body, advanced aerodynamics, and a seven-speed sequential transmission. Packed with more exotica than the space shuttle and your ride combined, a F1 car is the pinnacle of automotive technology. Showing some early promise, Honda F1 driver Jenson Button finished in fourth-place through the dusty conditions. Honda is sure to show heavy interest in development of the car and is expecting good results for the millions of dollars that they're spending. Plus, taking down Japanese rival Toyota in the F1 circuit couldn't hurt their corporate moral. If the season goes well, will we see a more powerful, reinvigorated NSX? We certainly hope so.
Sparcousa Opens Its Doors And Lowers Its PricesSparco, a company whose aftermarket safety equipment is immediately familiar to all our readers, opened its doors on March 11, 2006, for a semi-annual clearance sale. Digging through the back of their storage warehouse, Sparco USA cleared out their 2005 stock of damaged and discontinued items with discounts of up to 60 percent off. Nearly $400,000 in merchandise was up for grabs, which included gloves, bags, hats, racing suits and a sea of racing seats. The sale was scheduled to run from 10AM to 3PM at Sparco's Irvine, California, facility, but eager buyers began showing up at the crack of dawn in order to camp out, hoping to be the first one to pick through the offerings. With the line for the sale stretching around the building and down the block, it was just another example of the early bird catching the Alcantara-covered worm. In addition to the sale, Sparco offered a free lunch to the first 300 entrants courtesy of IN-N-OUT Burger. To all our Midwest and East Coast readers, we say sorry. With locations in California, Nevada, and Arizona only, all of our non-West Coast readers will be plenty pissed to know that they missed out on both a massive sale by Sparco and a chance to taste some of the finest burgers to grace the United States. There's always next year.
Munizvs.Shatnertoyota Pro/Celebrity RacePushing the boundary of what is considered either pro or celebrity, the 30th annual Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race is set to return to the streets of Long Beach, California. Having already run by the time that you hold this magazine in your hands, the Pro/Celebrity Race is one of the more devilishly interesting support races that runs in conjunction with the Long Beach Grand Prix. Stranger than the Champ Car, World Challenge, Formula Drift, and Grand-Am races set to take place, the Pro/Celebrity Race stands on a whole different plane of existence.
Facing off such celebrities as William Shatner and Antonio Sabato Jr. (of The BigHit and Earth 2 fame) against such pro drivers as Todd Bodine and returning celebrity champion in the middle Frankie Muniz. The Pro/Celebrity Race reached new heights during the 2001 race when Donny Osmond flipped his Celica right on to its roof. Now using near stock Scion tC's, beefed up only for safety, the race is all for charity and is one of the most entertaining events that you'll catch on TV, aside from Deathrace 2000 that is.