Even though it was in the middle of nowhere and Mapquest and GPS systems didn’t seem to help out, Formula D Round 1 was definitely worth the trip. With new cars, a new track venue, and new drivers entering the series there was a lot to digest! Even though the parking lot was unpaved, the stands were filled to capacity, as the East Coasters rushed to see the new cars that everyone’s been talking about- Calvin Wan’s new G35, Ken Gushi’s new Mustang, Chris Forsberg’s new S15 Silvia, Ryan Hampton’s RHD S13 180SX, Hubert Young’s S13 240SX, Ben Schwartz’s S14 240SX, Seigo Yamamoto’s SR20-powered FD3S, Tony Angelo’s 13BREW FD3S, Andy Yen’s S15 Silvia, and many, many others.
However, maybe the most talked about new car was that of Samuel Hubinette, a Dodge Viper SRT-10. This car is nearly stock, compared to his car from last year, a Viper Competition Coupe racecar. Since many drivers complained that Hubinette’s Competition Coupe gave him an unfair advantage last year, Samuel and the Mopar team decided to re-enter the series with a nearly stock Viper SRT10 and see if he could repeat his outstanding results from last year as the series champion.
The day was filled with exciting solo qualifying runs and even more exciting tandem matches. The twin-drift tandem matches were, to put it lightly, un-freaking-believable. Simply amazing. Everyone who drove in Formula D last year were just incredible, as they showed there’s no substitute for seat time. They rocked the track with super deep angle, smoky runs, hugging the top of Wall Speedway’s 35-degree banked oval. There were so many awesome tandem matches at this Round 1 event. If you could have taken every single exciting tandem match from last year, and put them all in one single event, it still wouldn’t match up to the tandem battles that occurred at Wall. Those who missed it should truly be sad.
Perhaps the most amazing tandem match was that of Robbie Nishida versus Samuel Hubinette. Nishida is a young driver who is popular in Japan from his numerous appearances in Japanese videos and drifting magazines. Nishida and his AE86 Levin 3-door have been featured, along with his drift team, Hey Man!, as the first “American drift team” in Japan. While the most well known members of Hey Man, Nishida and Shinji, are Japanese, they both speak English, and the other members of the team are American guys who were stationed in Japan during military duty.
A close friend of Team Orange’s tandem drift master Nobushige Kumakubo, Nishida paid for his own plane ticket and hotel costs to come out and drive in the United States, just to see what it was like. Kumakubo allowed him to borrow his famous Team Orange Silvia K-Truck to drive in Formula D competition, which was sponsored by Overboost and Falken in the USA. The car is actually a full right hand drive Nissan 180SX, which was converted to Silvia face and the back trunk half removed to convert it into truck style, to emulate the vehicles in the NASCAR truck series, which Kumakubo loves, along with all things American, like Ford, GM and Mopar.
However, when Mopar’s blue and white met Orange at Wall Speedway, there were some truly spectacular results. There’s no doubt that all the Formula D competitors are a bit intimidated by Mopar’s formidable Iceman, who took all of the 2004 season by storm in his Mopar Viper. Apparently, since this was Nishida’s first time at a Formula Drift event, he didn’t know that he should be intimidated by Hubinette or the Viper. He just drove the K-truck (which the announcer, J-Rod referred to as a Sil-camino) like there was no tomorrow, super fast and high into the steep banked oval, with Samuel’s Viper pressed deep into the K-truck’s rear bumper. The crowd went wild. The pair went again, as the announcer screamed “send it!” and this time Hubinette led the way around the oval.
However, when the duo made their way to the inner horseshoe, Mopar’s mighty Iceman drove the line a bit wide, a decision he would regret later on. Seeing this split-second opportunity, Nishida snatched this chance, and hugged the inside line, putting the front of the K-truck right up next to the huge Jumbotron TV display, and passed Hubinette from the inside. The crowd went insane. So did all the drivers, sponsors, and photographers gathered around the track. Everyone was jumping up and down, and screaming their approval, except for Samuel’s girlfriend and the rest of their team. Nobody could believe that some “no-name” AE86 driver from Japan could ever beat a top ranked, sponsored driver like Samuel Hubinette!!! After all, Hubinette was the unbeatable! The series champion from last year! That was simply incredible. The Viper and K-truck pulled up in front of the judges, and Samuel stepped out of the Viper, regally clad head to toe in his blue and white Sparco armor. To show his great sportsmanship, Samuel walked over to congratulate Nishida, clad in a beat up red driving suit, white gym socks, and old school Nike Cortez sneakers. That was simply amazing. It just goes to show that Hubinette is a man of class, and that the underdog does win sometimes.
At the end of the day, Rhys Millen captured 1st Place with his incredible Pontiac GTO, and Alex “BattleVersion” Pfeiffer took 2nd Place, driving the RS-R Honda S2000. The 3rd Place win was captured by a new podium finisher, Casper Canul, driving his S14 240SX, which was built at his shop, Monstor Fabrications in Glendora, CA. All in all, the event was simply incredible, and we are eager to see how the season unfolds. Everyone better book their plane tickets and reserve hotels now, because if the next few rounds are anything like the New Jersey event was, then you definitely won’t want to miss a single run.