We conclude our 2018 Formula DRIFT Irwindale coverage by pointing our cameras off the circuit and onto the vendor midways and team paddock at the House of Drift during the series' season finale. The vibe of the place hasn't changed much in 15 years of hosting this event, even if many of the key players have changed over time. One thing that was different in '18 was the actual amount of real estate available on site for staging Round 8. In years past, there was enough room to set up an attraction like an Autocon mini car show, for example, which organizers did last year. But this year Irwindale decided to either rent or sell off a portion of its lot to its neighbors, a trucking company, which meant there was very little space to spare beyond a traditional paddock, industry booths, and food vendor areas.
When we touched down Thursday morning to capture Pro 2 qualifying, FD, teams, and miscellaneous exhibitors were in full tent city mode, prepping for the next few days. We popped by our boy RAD Dan Burkett's HQ (of course!) to watch the crew unload his Toyota Mk4 Supra, and they were pitted across the way from the squad at Forrest Wang's Get Nuts Lab. From their trailer emerged Wang's Vapetasia Nissan S15 Silvia and a relatively new car he's been demoing and displaying, the Vapetasia JZA80 Supra. Suddenly our brains entertained the idea that one day both of these car could tandem with one another and our minds were blown—how friggin' insane would that be?
Probably one of the coolest sights at FD Irwindale this year was walking into the grounds and looking up at the banners suspended under the main grandstand. Formula D commissioned famed graphic designer Andy Blackmore and BarrierAds.com's Bill Diggs to come up with the hanging flags, each one commemorating each of the last 14 years of series champions crowned at the House of Drift. Elsewhere we bumped into local rides like Julia Duong's S14 in the TEIN booth, and Autofashion's S13 in the Function & Form booth, but it was Alan Viado's Toyota AE86 Corolla in the Sparco booth that really made our heart flutter. We've gushed before about the super-clean hatchback and still have to stop and crush on it every time we cross its path.
Toward the far end of the facility was where Pro teams set up (Pro 2 was pushed out to Irwindale's staff lot due to the limited space), and as par for the FD course fans were allowed to get a great, up-close view of their favorite teams' operations. Additionally, some pro drivers had multiple race and show vehicles on display at Irwindale—like Chris Forsberg, who had his competition 370Z, his demo Z in the AEM booth, and his wife's Datsun 510 wagon in the HPS booth; or Ryan Tuerck, who had a trio of widebody Toyota 86s strategically placed throughout the track, including his GT4586. Probably the coolest thing coming out of the paddock, though, were all the Kei vans and pickup trucks many of the Pro and Pro 2 teams seem to be rocking these days. Bigger than an electric cart but smaller than a subcompact car, we wished we had taken more pictures of them but luckily got a snapshot of the Enjuku Racing box on wheels (Honda Acty, maybe?) whizzing by on its way trackside.
Indulge in the 2018 Formula DRIFT Irwindale Speedway photo gallery. Check out the links in the story to the rest of the weekend's coverage. And prepare yourselves for 2019 season announcements due out of the 2018 SEMA Show in less than two weeks.