It appears the purveyors of sliding as motorsport have finally begun to embrace speed as a salient judging criterion. We cite the D1 fling in Vegas over the summer, where at one point in the course cars were easily topping 100mph in full drift. The JDM-centric organization touted Vegas as its fastest contest yet.
Velocity again reared its beautiful head at the Irwindale Speedway for round 7 of the Formula D Championship. Top speeds weren't quite as crazy in the House of Drift-a conservative 75mph, by comparison-but the action was still nuts. This was, after all, the final points haul of the 2006 season.
Most agree the increased momentum seems to be separating the men from the boys in the driving field. Good for fans and for the sport, probably not so good for drivers.
Of course, speed or no speed, the Hondas fighting for drift supremacy in the U.S. have had nothing but sour luck for some time. None have been all that competitive this year-Tyler McQuarrie and the RS*R S2000 were the closest to the points leader, and that was over 300 points behind prior to the Final-so nothing was really on the line for this event.
In addition, all of the drivers we're used to seeing-McQuarrie, Steph Papadakis, Pierre Kleinubing-tried to make qualifying, but unfortunately, not all had their cars with them. The FD season ender, held on an unusually chilly October Saturday, was just the latest in a series of exasperating results.
For starters, AEM/DriverFX.com golden boy Papadakis and his S2000 didn't make the cut of 32 for Saturday's eliminations. We found the car in the pits, and if Steph was smart he was probably kicking it at home under a warm blanket with a steaming mug of cocoa.
Kleinubing was sans the RealTime roadster altogether, which we hear is not quite ready to compete yet anyway. All along RTR has maintained this, so his appearance was sort of a bonus. He instead bummed a ride from A'PEXi, who loaned him its FD chassis RX-7. Despite showing impressive form, he wasn't judged among top 16 and his day ended early on Saturday.
The last hopes of the bunch, McQuarrie and the RS*R AP1, put up a valiant fight through 3 rounds of eliminations. Qualifying 8th among the Top 16, his first tandem foe was Yukinobu Okubo in the Signal Auto R34 Skyline. After making quick work of Okubo, McQuarrie had to square off against a red-hot Tanner Foust and the AEM 350Z.
The battle was epic. The judges really struggled with this one, as the duo ultimately made an amazing 5 passes (versus the typical 2 by tandems) before the RS*R car parked itself into the wall in the first part of turn 3 and collected the AEM car with it. While the panel gave the round to Foust, the accident essentially eliminated both cars from the running.
A somewhat fitting end to a mediocre season. For those keeping track, Dai Yoshihara and the Rockstar S13 Silvia won the event, while Sam Hubinette and the Mopar Viper won the overall Formula D Championship for 2006. As for Honda fans, we're left looking ahead to '07, and hopefully a better outcome.