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2008 D1 Grand Prix Exhibition - D1GP Odaiba

Drifting Returns To Its Birthplace

Nov 1, 2008
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After a three-year hiatus, the D1 Grand Prix finally returned to Tokyo for two days of D1GP's "Tokyo Drift in Odaiba" exhibition. Located in the center of the city, the man-made island of Odaiba is the perfect venue to expose drifting to fans who might not be able to see D1 at the other circuits around Japan. Since there is no actual racetrack in Odaiba, the course was set up in a large parking lot with temporary grandstands. Thirty of the top D1 drivers practiced and organized impromptu exhibition runs surrounding official competition each day, so all the fans were guaranteed a healthy piece of the action. Crowd favorite Nobuteru "NOB" Taniguchi, who has returned to D1 on a limited schedule this season, chose the event as his second D1 appearance of the year, behind the wheel of HKS's famed Toyota Altezza. Also notable was the debut of AE86 driver Toshiki Yoshioka's new 3SGTE-powered Lexus SC430 drift car.

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Come the morning of the first day, drivers were given their final practice session to adjust to the new course and fine-tune their machines, before the start of the qualifying rounds, where each driver would battle it out for a spot in the Top16 Tsuiso round. Top Qualifying honors went to Tsuyoshi Tezuka, who, motivated by his recent victory at D1's Suzuka event, continued his hot streak by laying down a 120-point qualifying run in the Bee*R R32 Skyline-better than perfect! Unfortunately, Tezuka's chase for podium would come to an early end when he accidentally pushed Akinori Utsumi's S13 into a wall during best 16 battling. More excitement came later, when 2007 D1 champ Masato Kawabata's 180SX struck a light pole in the middle of the course that destroyed the car's front-end. The battle of the weekend came during the semi-final round, when Youichi Imamura and Nobushige Kumakubo fought each other four rounds before settling the match, where Kumakubo and his STI finally went on to face the RE Amemiya RX-7 of Masao Suenaga in the Finals. Two runs later, and Kumakubo proved his title of "Tsuiso King" by taking home the win...along with a $20,000 check!

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Day Two's D1 contest proved to be just as crazy as the first. A scary moment came when Hideo Hiraoka violently crashed into the same light pole that Kawabata had collided with the day prior. Despite heavy damage to his Impreza, Hiraoka was fortunate enough to walk away without injury. In the end, Youichi Imamura, who had been performing well, but falling short of his personal best all weekend, finally got his glory (and the second 20 grand) by defeating Masato Kawabata to claim victory for Day Two.

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Surrounding the D1 competition itself, there were a lot of other attractions to see in Odaiba. Team Orange's legendary four-car tandem drifting wasn't in short supply, and usually followed by comical, yet equally impressive drift shows by a team of Subaru Rex kei cars. The Odaiba event also served as the release party for the newest Initial D video game, ushered in by a special live performance from J-Pop group Move, which was held alongside a drift performance by D1 drivers in replica Initial D cars. Although the Odaiba event was only an exhibition, and neither day's competition results were counted in the season standings, you couldn't tell by how hard the drivers fought one another-a perfect example of what happens when some of the most driven athletes in motorsports perform for their most dedicated fans in one of the biggest cities in the world.

Sources

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