The end of the motorsports season is particularly hard on drifters. Budgets are stretched thin, the willpower of drivers and teams are tested at their limit, and after seven brutal competition rounds for many in Formula DRIFT, for example, engines and chassis are pushed well past their breaking points—and that's just leading up to the Irwindale Finals! A short two weeks after that is the annual SEMA show in Las Vegas, where all those elements are expected to be in fresh, preseason condition and looking forward to next year.
Regardless if that's what actually happens, drifters and cars do make it to the show (a lot of them, anyway), and do a fine job of representing the world's newest and youngest professional motorsport to the masses of mainstream automotive enthusiasm. Here's what we found.
0. SEMA Formula D Press Conference
Before we get into the cars, it's important to mention FD's annual Press Conference, and all that it means for drifting in 2019. First up: the creation of the four-round Formula Drift Korea Championship, we think heavily inspired by the league's continued partnership with Nexen Tire. Next, the five-round schedule of the Formula Drift Japan Championship was given, followed by the provisional schedule for the eight-round Pro and Pro 2 competition season back here at home. The takeaway: Formula Drift is growing, and expanding the global drifting industry in its wake—and that's only a good thing for the sport.
1. JAMES DEANE S15 NISSAN SILVIA
Why not start at the top of the list, with the 2017/2018 defending FD champion and his venerable 2JZ-powered S15 Nissan Silvia? Nestled comfortably in the Borg Warner booth deep in Central Hall, it didn't seem to enjoy a ton of attention, save for those who knew its significance. Regardless, if you want to build a rock-solid reliable (and potent!) drift car, it might be worth it chat with the Borg Warner guys about the details.
2. AARON PARKER FD3S MAZDA RX-7
Located across from Deane's S15 was another awesome drift build that maybe fewer people will know: Aaron Parker's FD3S Mazda RX-7, at SEMA reppin' PTP Turbo Blankets. This thing is a beast with its 13B rotary power plant, sequential dogbox, and newly added mix of authentic JDM aero and fresh livery. It's not an FD machine, but you can catch it making the off-season bash (beginning with Winter Jam December 15/16th at Sonoma Raceway) and Top Drift pro-am competition rounds next year.
3. FREDRIC AASBO 2019 TOYOTA COROLLA
Just when you thought the guys at Papadakis Racing were completely insane for creating a 1,000-hp, rear-wheel-drive version of the all-new Toyota Corolla, and nearly winning the Formula D championship with it (missing the mark by a scant 4 points!) they somehow found the time to do it all over again, with the fresh built of another nearly identical and fully functional car on display at the Toyota booth at SEMA. No official word how this one will be put to use outside the show circuit, but it will be, and it will melt faces anywhere it goes.
4. KYLE MOHAN ND MAZDA MX-5
Another crowd-favorite FD ride, Kyle Mohan's slammed/flared new-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata and its near-quad-powered rotary power plant turned their fair share of heads at the Primax and XXR Wheels display in the North Hall (also known as the "Wheel and Tire" hall).
5. ROB "CHAIRSLAYER" PARSONS S13 NISSAN 180SX
Once a Top Drift pro-am competition car, and currently Rob's instructional drifting vehicle for his Chairslayer non-profit, the world's favorite hand-controlled S13 can be found doing what it does best—shredding tire—at the Hoonigan's all-new demo area at this year's show, with Rob either behind the wheel, under the chassis, inside the engine bay, or greeting friends and fans.
6. JOSH ROBINSON HOLDEN COMMODORE UTE
Just give Aussie Rob and his imported Ute some time—they're going to become a real threat on the professional drifting circuit very soon. Rob's skill is proven and the performance level of his truck's Magnuson Supercharged LS powerplant is world class. You can also catch them at the Hoonigan homebase for SEMA. Just remember to bring earplugs.
7. COREY HOSFORD "BOSS" NISSAN S14 SILVIA
Nope, it's still not a Challenger. While Corey Hosford's Boss S14 might never shed the confusing look its Datsun-inspired "Boss S14" kit (especially among SEMA's old-school domestic crowd), Corey has definitely shed his reservations about drifting it aggressively in demos and bashes around the country in 2018. Not sure what he has planned for the 2JZ-powered brain twister for 2019, but we're as excited to find out as we were to see it also on display at the Hoonigan's SEMA HQ
8. VAUGHN GITTIN JR. & CHELSEA DeNOFA RTR FORD MUSTANGS (W/SPECIAL GUEST: JTP)
Not that they don't deserve their own profiles here, but since they seem to be joined at the fender everywhere they go (including those Irwindale Finals!), why break from tradition? Both could be found under the giant "fun haver" banner of the Nitto Tire / Ford Mustang rig at the backbone of the Ford Out Front display at SEMA, entertaining fans and breaking for the occasional drift demo. And if that's not enough domestic muscle for you, elsewhere in the area was JTP's supercharged Mustang to quell those cravings.
9. MATT FIELD CHEVROLET CORVETTE
Oh you want more? OK, here's another one: Matt Field's Vortech supercharged Chevy Corvette, suspiciously presented in halfway cut-away form, missing its right-side quarter-panel, fender, door, and hood. Weird, but cool, and it gave a good view of the car's blingy gold suspension bits.
10. CHRIS FORSBERG NISSAN 370ZS
No, the "370Zs" isn't a new submodel from everyone's favorite unofficial drift-car maker. Chris Forsberg's just lucky enough to have two of them, and they're both at the SEMA show. His Nexen Tire-shod demo version could be found anchoring Continental Tire's massive multi-tent annex just right of the North hall (since SEMA has outgrown the Las Vegas Convention Center), and when it came to picking a car for the official Formula DRIFT display of the show, you could say Forsberg (and his competition Z34) once again got the win.
11. COSMIS WHEELS DRIFT MACHINES
Also in the Continental Tire annex were two awesome machines holding down the Cosmis Wheels booth: the fully built, dogboxed BMW 3-series that Branden Sorenson drove to a US Drift pro-am win (and FD licensure) at VIR during Hyperfest, as well as that insanely over-built JZ-powered Version X S14 we kept seeing in odd places all year long. Hoping to see more of these two in 2019!
12. MATT COFFMAN S13 NISSAN 240SX
It might be the most well-known S13 fastback still in Formula D Pro competition, and for good reason: Matt and his V8 S13 have become one of the most potent and feared competitors in the Pro ranks over the past several years. Both could be found reppin' the Thunderbolt Racing Fuel coursing through their veins, and you can bet both will be back for vengeance next year.