As journalist reporting a motorsport event, we try diligently, at times, to recount, the happenings in text form. Cnversations with drivers and crew are recorded, notes from the race are taken, and images are pored over. But at the end of the day, what we write is pure speculation sprinkled with facts, times, scores, and so on. The ones who really know the story are the people who are themselves part of it. And in Formula D they are the drivers-pardon my expression, the drifters-who are deeply involved in the plot. So for the first time ever, we gathered seven of the greatest drifters to write in their words what happened at Round One of Formula D: Long Beach.
A seasoned racer with experience ranging from ALMS, to Sprint, to NASCAR, Tyler debuted his Porsche the last two races of the '07 season and now has his German-made sights set on the podium for 2008.
The off season came and went, and Round 1 was at hand before I knew it. I was super excited for the ' 08 season to start, simply because I'm finally feeling comfortable in the Hankook JIC Porsche. We hadn't tested during the off season, so jumping in the car for the first time since Irwindale was a little nerve racking, especially at Long Beach-fixing the Porsche can cost more than some drivers' cars, so keeping it off all the walls was high on the priority list.
I got in one good practice session before the transmission case broke in two. Not that big of a deal, but it happened one hour before qualifying was to start. The team thrashed to get the trans changed-which takes much longer on a Porsche-and I was pretty pissed at this point; I didn't want to start the season like this. The JIC team got the spare transmission in, but we missed our first run, and we got the car to the line with only two cars to go before it was time for our second.
As I was strapping in, the team tells me over the radio that the spare is a six-speed and not a five-speed like we ran all last year-crap! I had one run to get it done, and now I had to change the gear selection I had been using in practice, and hope for the best. As I started my run, everything felt good. In fact, it felt like the best run I had all weekend: Smoke, angle, speed, and clipping points all in place. But on my approach to the hairpin, the axle broke and my run and weekend were over! I think the axle was damaged when the transmission broke.
I spent the rest of the event in the grandstands watching the Top 16 compete which sucks for a driver, but those are the highs and lows of motorsports. Mechanical problems are killing us, but we're still learning a lot about the Porsche.
The '04 D1 Champ went LHD and placed 14th in his inaugural Formula D season. Will his D1 skills be enough to take Formula D?
Long Beach was a tough event for me last year, so I had a rough image of what to expect. This year, by tuning the suspension's height and spring rates differently for the course, I was able to create a better image of running the course and practice went without a hitch.
During the qualifying round, I took a conservative approach on the first run and my speed was not too fast and resulted in an average score. The second qualifying run was very nerve-racking as I only had one more run to guarantee a Top 16 spot. During this run I had miss-shifted going into the final turn and was not able to run a clean line. It was up to the score from the first run to get into the tandem rounds. After qualifying, it was rough for me, I felt very disappointed in my runs, but with the support and encouragement of my team I was motivated going into the tandem rounds.
For the first round, I was up against none other than last year's series champion, Tanner Foust. So with this in mind, the challenge was to keep up with him on the straight and challenge him in the first corner. I kept up with his pace, however, followed too closely, hit the brakes and lost my drift going into the first turn. From there I knew I would be at a disadvantage. I knew even if I ran a solid second run, going up against a seasoned driver like Tanner Foust, I could only hope for a "one more time" sudden death round. Unfortunately, my second run was not good enough and the mistake I made in the first run would be the determining factor of our ' 08 Long Beach event. It was a mistake on my part, and I still have much to do in order be more competitive.
The Gush is turning Japanese, going from a Mustang last season to an all-new tC. Lacking crucial seat time, with practice, time will only tell if this Scion will really move you.
Formula D at Long Beach was a nightmare for me. I only tested the RS-R Scion tC once before the main event and I was not quite accustomed to the car yet. To make things worse, the axles broke during practice on Friday and I was not able to run the entire day. Crap happens though, right? A new car with absolutely no data can't run like a champ right off the bat. Nervous? Not really. I knew Gary from Design Craft would work some magic to make crazy things happen. But everyone else was freaking out because we had Scion representatives coming to the event the very next day and it would look bad on me as a driver if I couldn't get the thing to run during qualifying on Saturday.
That night I remember telling myself, You know what? Who cares if you crash the car? Just go balls-out and don't lift! I think that's the attitude you need when driving a new car that you have no idea of where it's going to turn. Whether you choose to crash the car or not is up to you. I don't want to crash a new car in the first round, but I think the "balls-out" attitude is what I need in every run. I did what I had to and magically pulled off an 89.5, which placed me 10th overall in qualifying. Everyone was surprised including myself. With close to no practice, no seat time, and no time to think, I went "balls-out" and for the first time, the car did what I wanted it to do. Dad, you were right. I was holding back all this time.
Vaughn Gittin Jr.
The D1GP title holder is looking for a Formula D title to add to his conquest. Will attitude, Falkens, and a Ford be enough?
With last year's D1GP World Championship under our belts, we were all excited to carry the momentum to Long Beach for Round One. While there is a brand new Mustang chassis in the works, we were in Old Faithful for the season opener. During Friday's practice I was dead on. I had a great line, speed, smoke, and angle. I was feeling both mentally and physically ready to rock for Saturday's main event. My first qualifying run set the bar and left me sitting in Sixth overall. I was paired up to be the leader of the first run against Kazu Hyashida in his R34 Skyline. Running the same line and speed I had been all weekend, I was able to create a slight gap on him in Turn 10 and the judges gave me an 8-6 advantage. My spotter called down to let me know that he had been entering the same speed as me all weekend, so I didn't need to change a thing.
As I left the line in the second run behind Kazu-san, I entered about 200 feet before Turn 9 and he was still straight. At the apex of Turn 9 he stood on his brakes for some insane reason. I successfully did everything I could not to hit him and stay in drift. On the exit of turn nine my door was about five inches from his front fender. I slowed to allow him to flick back prior to Turn 10 and, unfortunately, I had to slow too much which forced me on a shallow line and almost fully straight. The judges awarded him the win.
I was definitely not thrilled about the situation; his newly found braking point sure did mess me up and put me out of the event. All the drivers know I enter as fast and as hard as I can, however a few drivers try to take advantage of someone that goes all-out, and change up the pace to try to get a cheap advantage by forcing a mistake. So here's my new rule for all drivers that want to play around: If you don't enter hard and fast, plan on getting a Ford Mustang front end branded on the side of your car. That's for serious. This is PRO drifting, and I'm done playing games. Drive hard or go home!
In a shocking move, Dai jumped the JDM fence and is now campaigning the ' 08 season in a USDM GTO-Rhys Millen's old ride. Will Dai be able to do as well in his new ride as he did in the Pac Rim S15?
I was anxious to start my fifth season since there were so many changes and adjustments. My first and major concern was adjusting to the left-hand drive of my new American V-8 GTO. I was also excited to work with my brand new team, RMR.
Before the season started, I still felt a little uncomfortable with my new car even after a few practices. It wasn't until that Saturday, that finally felt more confident and ready to kick some ass with my GTO!
I felt pretty good during qualifying rounds and was satisfied finishing in Fifth Place.
For the Top 16 round, I was going up against Formula D newcomer Takatori. I knew he was a great driver in Japan and felt like it would be a challenge since it was my first time going against him. I guess Takatori had a hard time keeping up with me, and he spun out on the last turn which allowed me to move on to the next round.
In Top 8, I went against Tanner and I felt like it was a rematch of last year's Championship round and this time, I was going to win. Tanner's a competent rival and in the end his scores were better than mine. WTF!
Overall I wasn't satisfied with Fifth Place, but on a positive note I feel like it wasn't that bad considering all the changes, and for Round One. The GTO is a very reliable car, but I still need more time to figure out the best way to drive it at 100 percent.
Rhys Millen Motors
Two time winner of Formula D, Sam lost the title in 2007 to Tanner Foust and is back in 2008 dead set on reclaiming his horned crown.
It felt great coming back to Long Beach in the Mopar BFGoodrich Dodge Viper. Because of our development of the new Mopar Dodge Challenger, we decided to use the Viper until the Challenger is ready to launch. With a Formula Drift championship in 2006 with the Viper, I felt very confident that we would have a good outcome. The fans were wild as always at Long Beach, and the track was tight and technical. This year the Formula Drift judges, Ken, Andy, and Alex were asking for more angle and not as much speed, like in the past. It was still important to have the speed up, but if you lost the angle they ended up giving big deductions. And to be able to hug the walls in Turn 9 was also very important.
I ended up qualifying First, and it had been awhile since I did that. So for me to be back in a competitive car is very exiting. Overall we finished Second with a one more time battle against Chris Forsberg. I learned something new over the opening race weekend, and now we will be prepared for the next event. Drift ya later!
The Second Place winner of the '07 season, Chris came on surprisingly strong with his Z33. In the same vehicle, with more seat time, the results speak for themselves.
Coming into Long Beach we knew that there were going to be new things to watch out for. Every new season brings newer, better, faster cars, and a longer list of driver's names. Our overall game plan didn't change much from last year, but with the addition of NOS Energy Drink as our primary sponsor, we now had a budget that we could work comfortably with and we had a faster, more reliable setup.
In the Top 16 round we were paired off with Conrad. He definitely got a handle on that Vette and he showed the crowd that he meant business. I got to lead first lap since we qualified higher and just ran as hard as I could. Moving into the chase run I was trying to stick to him through the big sweeper and as we flipped into the hairpin I saw his car over-rotating. I threw it in Second and rotated my car around his front end and avoided the collision.
Top 8 paired us off with Kazu Hayashida in his powerhouse Skyline. Like the first round, I ran the lead lap as hard as I could to put distance down through the sweeper. As we turned back around for the chase lap, I wanted to really push hard and earn that Final 4 spot. Going into the first turn, I flicked the Z at full throttle trying to close in on the Skyline, and as we rotated to the left I literally felt the hot exhaust gases blazing from the muffler on my face for a split second and I knew I was close. I pedaled through the big turn getting ready to flip in the hairpin and tighten up the gap. As we set into the hairpin it must have been inches away, cause when he lifted off the gas at the finish, the back end of his car almost swung into mine. With that, we were declared the winner and moved into the Final 4. I could hear my team and the crowd going absolutely nuts as I drove back to the start line.
In the semi-finals I got the call on the radio that we were paired up with a newcomer. Kyle Mohan and his RX-7 were doing well in the tandem rounds. On the first lap I was running lead and checking his speed into the corners. I noticed his car was very far behind and the cause being a broken gearbox. He decided he was going to go for it anyway for his lead lap. I was very nervous and did not know what might happen. His car could crash, snap straight, or anything else out of the ordinary while trying to use the next highest gear.
In the first corner I could see him kicking the clutch trying to get the car to light up the tires, I was losing speed trying to stay in drift behind him. Finally his car lights and flips into the main corner. I kicked the clutch two or three times and got my car back going just enough to clear the link. I closed the gap in the main corner, flipped through the hairpin, and we were done. I had a pretty good feeling given the big mistake in his first run. A crewmember pointed at me and gave me the thumbs up. I almost cried. I was so happy to be in the Finals at the first event I didn't know what to do with myself. What I did know was I had to haul ass back to the start line for one last run.
I get to the start line and it was Samuel Hubinette sitting there with his new Viper. I got out, went over and shook his hand and wished him good luck, just as I did with each competitor I ran against. At this point, nothing mattered. We were on the podium in our first event of the year. Win or lose, we were going home happy.
Samuel had qualified First so he was the only competitor that I had to follow on the first pass. This generally gives a huge advantage. We tore down the straight away, I was going as fast as my car will let me but that Viper makes almost twice as much power as our car. We flipped into the first corner and switched back left for the main sweeper. He had about three car lengths at this point; I was not too happy about it, but I wasn't about to give up. I stayed on the gas through the transfer into the hairpin and closed the gap without hitting him. We won the advantage in the first pass. As I was going back to the start line I was so amped up and ready to lay down a good lead pass, which is what I did, and Samuel followed and followed well resulting in a one more time!
I was nervous about the one more time, but had a better idea of what I had to do in the chase run. I got my car up to speed as fast as I could within the restrictions of the pace cone. We hit the first corner and I was a little closer than in the first pass, but still not close enough. I had to try and stick the hairpin at full speed again. We transferred in and my Z shot into a hole that felt like it was about two feet narrower than the car. I came out unscathed, but without the advantage.
Going back to the start line I was trying to come up with an idea on how to beat him in the lead lap with the disadvantage. The only thing I could do was try to beat him with angle and line. I turned into the first corner and stood on the gas making a whole mess of smoke and flipped to the left hugging up on the wall and stood on it all the way to the next wall and into the hairpin. As I flicked in for the hairpin, I felt the car wanting to spin out. I was full throttle in Fourth gear approaching a Second gear corner. I hit the brakes hard trying to slow the car down without blasting past the apex and missing the clipping point. I successfully regained control of the car without spinning out and quickly got back on the throttle and powered out of the corner.
What I didn't think about was what Sam was doing while all this was happening. I later found out he flipped in with me and probably thought that he had it. When my car finally regained control and was back on throttle, Samuel had nowhere to go and he scraped the whole right side of his car from front to back trying keep his drift.
As we went to the podium I was all smiles knowing that I had a spot up there. All my friends and family were there to support me and I could not have asked for anything better until they announced my name for First Place! I was blown away and could not believe what just happened. All I can say is that I could not have done it without the help of my crew, Kevin Wells and Sergio Ramirez, my friends and family, and the entire Drift Alliance crew!
Nos Energy Drink