Super Street Network

 |   |   |  2006 D1GP Drifting Series Final Irwindale Speedway - Twice as Nice
Subscribe to the Free
Newsletter

2006 D1GP Drifting Series Final Irwindale Speedway - Twice as Nice

Scene: 2006 D1GP Series Final And World All-Star; Irwindale Speedway, Irwindale, CA

John C. Naderi
Jun 7, 2007
Photographers: Carter Jung, Jonathan "Wong,", Henry Z. DeKuyper
130_0704_05_z+2006_d1gp_series_final_drifting_irwindale_speedway+imamura_helmet Photo 1/41   |   2006 D1GP Drifting Series Final Irwindale Speedway - Twice as Nice

The Drift King and his entourage of sliding superstars set out to double our pleasure and double our fun at the latest D1 Grand Prix US stop. While the Doublemint twins may be hotter than the Team Orange twins (although Tanaka has great hair), this final drift comp of 2006 was twice as nice because it featured two, two, two events in one!

That's right, sports fans. The D1GP returned to the House of Drift (aka Irwindale Speedway) with a double dose of drifting packed into one weekend. Saturday saw the 2006 D1GP Series come down to this final round to settle a hotly contested points battle. And on Sunday the World All-Star event expanded upon the US vs. Japan theme by inviting the top drivers from across the globe.

Mega driving talent wasn't the only thing to take Irwindale by storm as heavy rain dampened everything except the enthusiasm of both the spectators and drifters. Over the years, Irwindale has become the holiest of the holy for US drift events, often drawing record crowds who come to watch the world's best duke it out within the confines of the banked half-mile bullring. Even with Saturday's super soaking, D1 still claimed 5,800 spectators through the gates, with 7,800 on Sunday.

Irwindale's high-speed banks and unforgiving barriers always make for a daunting challenge for the drivers. The course layout for this latest D1GP was "flipped," with drivers entering the high bank backwards through the Turn 2-1 combo instead the usual 4-3 outer bank entrance. This isn't the first time this configuration has been used at Irwindale, but it's a much less common layout that kept the drivers on their toes. The slip-and-slide surface also got the attention of the drivers but not for the most obvious reasons. Contrary to popular belief, a wet track surface is not any harder or easier for the drivers to negotiate. These D1GPers can easily change their driving styles and chassis settings to adapt to a different road condition. The challenge is to be able to alter their attack on a track with ever-changing conditions and go at ten-tenths without the luxury of checking everything out beforehand. Such was the case on Saturday as chilly temps and intermittent showers changed the course conditions more often than Carter uses the potty-which is to say, frequently.

Round 8 FinalsThe wet-dry-wet conditions only added to the drama of the 2006 D1GP Series championship as Nobushige Kumakubo led Ken Nomura by a scant three points going into this eighth and final round. Even though the World All-Star event was not until the following day, the international contingent of drivers were all trying to slide into one of the coveted top 16 spots of the tsuiso (twin battle) rounds. When the single round dust had settled, only two non-J drivers made it into the field.

Vaughn Gittin Jr. looked great in his Falken Mustang, and his 99.85 solo run score was nearly perfect. The fact that it was only good enough for the final 16th position shows just how intense the competition is becoming in D1. The only other un-Japanese driver to make it was Ireland's Darren McNamara in his SR20-powered Levin (see p72). This guy is big in the D1GP UK scene and he showed why at Irwindale, initiating his drifts earlier than any other Hachi driver including Katsuhiro Ueo, the world's greatest AE86 drifter. The 22 year-old McNamara was fast, clean and virtually flawless throughout the weekend and it showed with his 99.90 solo run score.

Once the single round passes were complete, four drivers had perfect 100-point scores. Daigo Saito put his big Toyota Chaser in fourth, Masao Suenaga and his GReddy FD came in third, with Tatsuya Sakuma and his S15 landing the second spot. But in this solo round no one was as strong as Tsuyoshi Tezuka and his Skyline GT-R. Tezuka's R32 sports a very rare R34 front-end conversion as well as a Silvia strut-style front suspension swap to provide a sharper steering angle. But our favorite mod is the WRC-style anti-lag system which emitted boombastic blasts with each lift of Tezuka's foot. But Tezuka didn't treat the fans to these explosive backfires nearly enough, as he was pegging it everywhere and whipping the big Nissan around like a little Hachi.

Tezuka dispensed of our boy Gittin in the first tsuiso pairing, only to get rocked by '05 D1GP champ Yasuyuki Kazama in the best eight. In another best eight match-up McNamara came dangerously close to upsetting D1's monkey magic man, Ken Nomura. Nomura's Blitz Skyline was sporting McNamara's Irish window flag in its final four pairing against Kazama's S15. We're pretty sure it was a sign of respect, but it just might have been a spoils-of-war trophy that Nomura the victor claimed from his vanquished foe (oooh, we smell an international controversy, though it might just be last night's dinner). Whatever the case, it wasn't enough as Kazama not only ended Nomura's night but also his championship dreams, essentially handing the trophy to Kumakubo.

This made the other top four match that much more interesting. It was an all orange affair as Kumakubo was going up against his teammate Kazuhiro Tanaka.It was quite a sight to see both Team Orange Imprezas prepare to battle it out. This was compounded by the fact that Kumakubo is not only a Team Orange driver but the team owner as well, which makes Tanaka his employee. Because Kuma already locked up the championship, the twin Imprezas were able to duke it out without any team orders in place (take note, Ferrari). In the end Tanaka triumphed, and the night and championship belonged to Team Orange.

THE SCORE
ROUND 8 RESULTS
  DRIVER CAR
01 Kazuhiro Tanaka {{{Subaru Impreza}}} GDB
02 Yasuyuki Kazama Nissan Silvia S15
03 Ken Nomura Nissan Skyline GT-S ER34
04 Nobushige Kumakubo {{{Subaru}}} {{{Impreza}}} GDB
05 Darren McNamara Toyota Levin AE86
06 Masao Suenaga {{{Mazda RX-7}}} FD3S
07 Tsuyoshi Tezuka Nissan Skyline {{{GT-R}}} BNR32
08 Yoichi Imamura Nissan Fairlady Z33
09 Daigo Saito Toyota Chaser JZX100
10 Tatsuya Sakuma Nissan Silvia S15
2006 DIGP SERIES
POINTS RANKINGS
  DRIVER POINTS
01 Nobushige Kumakubo 110
02 Ken Nomura 109
03 Yasuyuki Kazana 91
04 Masato Kawabata 69
05 Toshiki Yoshioka 61
06 Kazuhiro Tanaka 59
07 Tatsuya Sakuma 53
08 Masao Suenaga 51
09 Tsuyoshi Tezuka 49
10 Katsuhiro Ueo 48
THE SCORE WORLD
ALL STAR RESULTS
DRIVER COUNTRY
01 Ken Nomura Japan
02 Masao Suenaga Japan
03 Yoichi Imamura Japan
04 Katsuhiro Ueo Japan
05 Tengku Djan Malaysia
06 Darren McNamara Ireland
07 Daigo Saito Japan
08 Tsuyoshi Tezuka Japan
09 Vaughn Gittin US
10 Rhys Millen US

World All-Star

With the '06 points race already decided, Sunday's World All-Star affair took on a more relaxed attitude. Saturday's storm passed and gave way to sunny skies. But while this event was only a demo, the international gathering of drivers fought just as hard for the top spot. In some ways a win on this day might be even sweeter as it would come against the best in the world.

The D1GP actually consists of five different international series: Japan, USA, UK, New Zealand and Malaysia. After the solo runs, Gittin put America on top with a 100-point flawless run. Two other Americans, (via New Zealand and Sweden) Rhys Millen and Samuel Hubinette, both ran strong enough to make it into the top 16 as well. This D1 also marked the long overdue competition debut of Millen's Solstice and Samuel's Charger. Neither car looked very sorted as Millen was dispensed by Yoichi Imamura in his RB26-powered Top Secret ORC Z33, and Samuel was not only beaten but passed by Team UK's McNamara on the inner bank turn. Samuel is one of the strongest American talents and a fan favorite as well, although this time around McNamara's Hachi was greeted with thunderous cheers while the Charger was met with a chorus of jeers. Maybe Mopar should paint the car orange and ask Stiffler to drive it.

Vaughn Gittin didn't fare much better in his top 16 match-up. Gittin met Malaysia's Tengku Djan Ley. Djan slammed his AE86 hard into the wall in practice but somehow managed to get most of it back together for Sunday. Djan is known as Malaysia's drift king, which is appropriate because he's a Kelantanese blueblood. In his battle with Gittin's big bad Mustang, Djan initiated his drift very late on the high bank (a questionable move) in order to hang with JR. And on the inner bank, Djan executed a perfect pass on the larger Ford, advancing what was left of his Hachi to the next round.

In the top eight, Djan and Imamura tangled twice to force a "one more time" sudden death round in which the long nose Fairlady would triumph. In a repeat of Saturday's clash, McNamara once again faced Nomuken and his imposing Skyline sedan. This tandem rematch was even closer than the first, but the judges awarded a very narrow victory to Nomuken. Ueo kept the Hachi fans' last hopes alive by besting Tezuka in his beastly yellow GT-R.

In the final four, Suenaga and his highly agile RX-7 made quick work of Imamura's Z, and Nomura took out Ueo. Suenaga and Nomura were evenly matched in the finals, forcing a sudden death round. As if to avenge his bitter one-point loss in the championship, Nomura claimed the victory and provided the perfect end for a spectacular drifting double-header.

Motown Woes

Question: What do Ken Gushi, Samuel Hubinette and Rhys Millen all have in common?

Answer: They each have a factory ride from Ford, DaimlerChrysler and GM respectively. Another thing they have in common is that although they are considered to be three of the top American drifters, each of them has been struggling as of late with their factory efforts. The only American who seems to be doing well with a domestic car is Vaughn Gittin and his Falken Mustang and he's doing it without factory support. Silly us, we always thought OEM-funding was a first class ticket to the winner's circle.

By John C. Naderi
49 Articles

BROWSE CARS BY MARKET

MORE EVENT COVERAGE

For 2018, CSF brought to SEMA a pair of cars that really couldn't be any more different, but that both draw their own sort of crowd for different reasons.
RodrezNov 1, 2018
SEMA is massive, filling all of the Las Vegas Convention Center's three huge halls as well the million square feet of parking lots surrounding the LVCC
Bob HernandezNov 1, 2018
A look inside Honda's stronghold at the specialty equipment mega-event
RodrezOct 31, 2018
Sponsored Links

SEARCH ARTICLES BY MAKE/MODEL

Search
CLOSE X
BUYER'S GUIDE
SEE THE ALL NEW
NEWS, REVIEWS & SPECS
TO TOP