Irwindale, CA, the seventh and final round of Formula D. Sitting pretty in peak point standings is the Crazy Swede himself, Samuel Hubinette-a close second, Rhys Millen. Each have a Formula D trophy: Sam in '04, Rhys in '05. Two domestics, one tie-breaking title. The money question: who's better? It's hard to say, but if actions speak louder than words, Irwindale was screaming.
Entering the final round Sam stood with 544 points and Rhys at 508. In order for Rhys to win the championship, he would have to place first and Sam finish 5th or worse.
Up first in the Top 16 fight was 3rd ranked Tanner Foust against Ben Schwartz. Tanner's lightning quick rally skills came in handy as he maneuvered his AEM 350Z, avoiding a near hit with Mr "Big Smoke" and taking the round. Tyler McQuarrie and his silky smooth style went up against Yukinobu Okubo in the next match, taking the round in a "One More Time" bout where Okubo would lose after smacking a K-wall. Calm under pressure, Rhys Millen lights up his GTO, taking out Hiro Sumida, after which JR Gitten lights up his Falkens in the next match with his torque-happy Mustang, taking out Rich Rutherford. Season leader, Sam Hubinette retaliates against Rhys' win by smoking Mitsuru Haraguchi, an old school JDM drifter, while our December cover star, Chris Forsberg, is out early when he goes up against Kenji Yamanaka and bumps into a wall. Young Ken Gushi shows off his precociousness, taking out Casper Canul. Fan-favorite, Daijiro Yoshihara takes out fellow JDM countryman, Kazu Hayashida throwing his S13 with ninja star-like precision.
With titles on the line, the action in the Top 8 was some of the fiercest of the season. The first of the four matches pitted Tanner Foust and Tyler McQuarrie in his RS-R S2000. Both went into the round hard, but it would be Tyler who wouldn't advance after hitting the wall and causing Tanner to hit as well. In a battle of domestics, Rhys Millen in his Red Bull GTO went heads-up against JR Gitten and his hard charging Mustang, which charged so hard that his aggressive angle of attack would destroy his tire and wheel, allowing Rhys to advance.
During the third match of the Top 8 all eyes were on Sam Hubinette and Kenji Yamanaka. The deciding round, if Sam won the match he would clinch his title for the season and if not, open it up for Rhys. With pressure enough to crack a diamond, Kenji Yamanaka would make a small correction locking in Sam's victory for the year. Not to be eclipsed the Sam's win, Dai was on his personal quest to win for the JDM front. Up against Ken Gushi, Dai would pull off a flawless run, ensuring him a place in the final four.
The Top 4 who made it into the final rounds of the '06 Formula D season came as no surprise. Rhys Millen, Tanner Foust, Sam Hubinette, Dai Yoshihara; on a good day any one of them have the talent and ability to take the top podium spot. This day however, Tanner wouldn't have the chance to flex his sideways skills due to his accident with Tyler in the previous bout, giving Rhys a free pass to the final match. Still bubbling from his victory, Sam lost against Dai who, in typical fashion, used acceleration and speed to advance to the finals. The concluding match pit USDM muscle against JDM brawn with Rhys and Dai vying for the top spot on the podium. After a close battle, the judges gave Dai the nod putting a Nihon ride in the top slot.
Throw in Sam snagging his second trophy from longtime Kiwi friend/track rival and mix in the fact both will be rocking with new rides, we can't wait to see what next season brings.