Round Five of Formula D lit up the night sky above a scorching-hot Las Vegas Motor Speedway late this August, and it must have been in the cards for Falken Tire, who took podium spots one, two, and three-the company's second sweep in Formula D history. Read on to see who hit the jackpot, and who almost lost it all. Man, do these Vegas puns practically write themselves.
Taka Aono doesn't mess around. Dude crushed his leg mid-drift at FD's Monroe event, and what does he do? He goes to the hospital for a temporary fix, heads back to the track to spend time with fans, hitches a ride back to L.A., has his bone set with metal plates and screws, gets 30 stitches, then-not skipping a beat-he drifts at the very next event in Las Vegas. He didn't perform as well as he would have liked, but just give him time to heal-trust us, we'll be hearing much more from this unstoppable badass.
It was the previous event at Monroe, WA. There I was, doing my thing, when I felt my AE86's rear contact the wall. The whole left side of my car was grinding against Evergreen Speedway, and my left mirror got ripped clean off-oh crap! I thought of just trying to minimize the damage, but then it happened.
I heard a big "BANG!" and felt a lot of pain from my ankle. Then my AE86 completely stopped. I shut off the engine and heard my spotter Yoshie's voice from my radio, "Are you OK?" I think I said (I don't remember too well), "My left leg is wedged. I can't get my leg out!" Then, Formula D official Nick and EMS crews came over and got me out, and I was taken into the ambulance. I felt major pain in my whole left leg, but I couldn't figure out exactly where it was coming from. I could feel and hear cracking sounds from my shin when I moved my leg. I was taken to the E.R. for X-rays. Diagnosis: fracture of distal tibia. Ouch.
Since Yoshie and I couldn't drive back to L.A. until the next day, I got a temporary cast, some pain medication, and a pair of crutches and headed back to the track to see my AE86 and kick it with the fans. The damage wasn't as extensive as I thought, so I was confident she'd be back in action soon. A lot of people stopped by our pit area to see if I was OK. One guy asked, "Are you able to drive the rest of this season?" I said, "Sure, three more races to go." "Vegas too?!" he asked. My reply: "Why not?"
The next day, I was drugged out in the back of the pickup while Yoshie drove all the way to L.A. The road conditions were terrible the whole way there. So bumpy. Especially the 405. What a nightmare!
On July 14, I was admitted to a local hospital and had a metal plate and fasteners placed in my left leg to set the bone. Prognosis: four to 15 weeks for healing of the bone, three to six months for complete recovery. The good news was that my fracture was clean and well secured. From my experience as a chiropractor, I had the confidence to regain just enough function of my leg to compete in the Las Vegas event. My AE86 was admitted to the body shop for surgery as well.
At the first doctor's visit after I was discharged from the hospital, I was told to wiggle my toes. At the second visit, the cast and the staples from surgery were removed, and I was told to do some weight-bearing exercises little by little.
The fourth week after the surgery, I was able to put 100 percent of my body weight on my leg, and I was able to walk short distances without crutches. From that day, I started to drive my five-speed Cressida wagon as therapy. BTW, my left leg didn't like L.A. traffic at all (who does?).
The AE86 came back from the body shop and was revived with the help of Alex P., Robert (my mechanic), Naoki, Danny from Megan Racing, and Yoshie. I even had extra time to concentrate on my rehab until the Las Vegas event.
One week before Las Vegas, Formula D official Andy Luk told me I needed medical clearance from the doctor in order to run in the event. I was very nervous going to the doctor, but it turned out great once I got permission to compete! We headed out that same day.
There was a practice event on Thursday, and I started off driving easy. I was so happy to be there and driving my beloved AE86 again! I took several breaks as a precaution. The biggest challenge I found was in the grid, where cars moved inch by inch-not easy with a stiff clutch and sore leg! I was exhausted from the heat and extra adrenaline after practice. I got back to the hotel, did some rehab, and passed out peacefully.
Then came Friday. I was happy to make Top 32, but wasn't satisfied with my runs-I had a tough time getting close to the wall. When I told everyone I was going up against Dai, they said, "Oooohhh."
On Saturday, I was fully charged and was finally able to get the line I wanted. Dai's V-8 S13 is a lot faster than my AE86, so I needed to dive in to his door in front of the judges' station to keep up with his runs. I did what I could do, but lost. Oh well.
I was lucky to get a lot of appreciation from so many people throughout the event, and I realized how much I truly love drifting. Really, thank you so much for your support! To follow the team and to see pictures of me in the hospital, check out: blog.driftpro.com.
Falken Tire must love Tyler McQuarrie right now. They've had two podium sweeps in Formula D history, and Tyler has been a part of both. The man methodically picked off driver after driver, round after round, until all that was left to do was stand on that top step. Read on to hear how this cool cat operates.
The 2010 season has definitely not gone the direction I had hoped. After finishing Third in 2009, I came into this season aiming for the Championship. We made a lot of changes to my 350Z in the offseason to continue developing the car, but it just made it more difficult to drive. The guys at ASD are amazing. They came up with another direction for us to go with the setup for Round Five in Las Vegas. It was genius-it was like I was driving a different car from the moment they took it off the trailer.
The conditions for the Vegas event were like hell! Air temps over 110 degrees and track temps over 140 degrees! But my Z never missed a beat all weekend. I honestly couldn't believe how well my Falken 615Ks dealt with the Vegas heat. I consistently had the highest entry speed throughout practice and qualifying, and when the smoke settled, I qualified Sixth.
My match-up for Top 32 would be Michael Essa in the BMW. His lower qualifying spot was not a reflection of his ability; he was just having an off weekend, and I knew it would be a good battle if his luck turned. I just wanted to play it safe and not run up on him too early. I lead first and had a good run but he had a good run following me and stayed within a couple car lengths. On my follow run I gave him a gap and closed up on him in the last two corners, but the judges felt I needed to be closer as we initiated. One More Time it was. I turned it up a notch and was able to get the win.
My toughest battle of the night would come early in the Top 16 against my Falken Tire teammate Darren "D-Mac" McNamara. On my lead run, he stayed close to me through the first turn, but I was able to pull out a little gap in the infield section. On his lead run, he pulled me down the straight as we approached the first initiation point. I was able to close up on him through the infield, but I really felt it was going to be an OMT because it was kind of a wash in my eyes. The judges said that I did a better job following his line and they gave me the win! This was huge because I knew it would probably have been my toughest battle of the night.
Next up was Conrad Grunewald in the Camaro for the Great Eight. Although he was looking good all weekend and qualified Second, I was confident I could get by him. I was able to stick all over him on my follow run and I knew all I needed to do at that point was lay down an awesome lead run and it would be mine. I came in as fast as I could on my lead run and had a good line. I was also able to pull Conrad a bit through the run, so the win went to me. On to the Final Four!
I was matched up with Tony "Mango" Brakohiapa. He had been looking super consistent all weekend and this was his first time in the Final Four, so I knew he was going to go "all in" on this one. I put down another awesome lead run and knew it was mine to lose on the follow. His line was very consistent, which made it easier to follow. I was able to stick to him throughout the run and the judges gave me the win! Such a great feeling at this point because I know I'm on the podium. It's been a tough season and this was a much needed result.
I was excited to meet up in the finals with my good friend and Falken Tire teammate Dai Yoshihara. He had been killing it all day but I never once thought that he was going to beat me-as long as I didn't make a mistake. We lined up and the lights went out and I could tell that he was having issues as we left the line. He couldn't accelerate, so I slowed down to almost a crawl. Then I saw him turn around. I wanted to just stop, but I knew I needed to continue with the run. They called for five minutes shortly after that, then eventually threw in the towel. The win went to me. Not the way I want to win, but I'll take it at this point.
To top the weekend off, Team Falken Tire swept the podium for the second time in FD history, and I've been a player in both sweeps! Taking the win at Round Five in Las Vegas is a testament to the ASD/Falken Tire teams. No one gave up on this program when times were tough, and they all kept pushing to get it right. I'm so stoked to have a win under my belt in the 2010 season, and excited about the momentum this will bring to my home event at Round Six of Formula D in Sonoma, CA.