After a successful professional drift season stateside in 2005, D1 Grand Prix made their return to Irwindale Speedway to pit Japan’s best drifters against America’s best drifters. As a surprise to many, the traditional drifting course at Irwindale Speedway was flipped backwards for this event. This caused a lot of havoc as many notable cars were totaled even before Saturday’s competition. Much to everyone’s dismay, Rhys Millen wouldn’t compete Friday or Saturday after a mishap in the championship winning Pontiac GTO. Other victims would include Tony Schultz of Team Toyo Tires and a vastly improved Stephan Papadakis in the AEM S2000.
But focusing on the event, Saturday’s qualifying narrowed the competition field to five American drivers and 11 Japanese drivers. Japan was represented by Hiroshi Fukuda, Toshiki Yoshioka, Naota Suenaga, Tatsuya Sakuma, Masao Suenaga, Yasuyuki Kazama, Youichi Imamura, Michihiro Takatori, and Masato Kawabata. While America would be represented by Rhys Millen’s father Rod Millen, Samuel Hubinette, Team Falken’s Vaughn Gittin JR, Alex Pfeiffer, Tanner Foust and Daijiro Yoshihara.
After just one round of competition, the four American drivers were eliminated and Vaughn Gittin JR in the Team Falken Mustang would be the sole representative for US. That meant nothing to JR however, as he fiercely out drifted D1’s 2005 Champion, Yasuyuki Kazama in round one. He would then meet another former D1 Champion, Youichi Imamura. Imamura’s unfortunate spin out would give JR an easy nod to the top four. After another tough tandem competition, JR was guaranteed a podium finish as he met Japan’s Tatsuya Sakuma and his S15 in the finals. The crowd went wild after a sudden death match that left JR the first US winner at a D1 GP event. Huge congratulations go out to Team Falken, Xtreme Mustang Performance and Vaughn Gittin JR on their dedication and determination in showing Japan’s drivers that America is more than ready to battle on the drifting circuit.