When we first heard that GT Live was coming back in 2006 it wasn’t long before we made every arrangement to be in attendance. After all, the JGTC/D1GP GT Live event in 2004 was nothing short of automotive euphoria, and we expected nothing less than that same experience once again for 2006. Unfortunately, as the event drew closer, we received word that the all-star race that was originally held back in 2004 would not take place. Furthermore, it was doubtful that any JGTC cars would be in attendance by the time the Phoenix event was officially formalized. With no JGTC cars in attendance, GT Live made the move over to the Grand Am and Rolex Cup series and combined an XDL like theme for the entire weekend, hoping to draw new fans as well as some of the original supporters of the 2004 event.
It was clear from the moment we arrived that this definitely not the same GT Live we witnessed in 2004. On what was statistically the hottest weekend of 2006 to date in Phoenix, AZ, many would be fans were either put off by the heat or were simply not enthralled by the unfamiliar racing action. However, attendance figures aside, we can say that there was no shortage of action throughout the weekend. In an effort to reach out to the original JGTC market, GT Live brought over several of Japan’s fastest Time Attack cars including the ZERO/SPORTS BTZ601R Impreza and the Sun Automotive CyberEVO, piloted by Yasushi Kikuchi and JDM Superstar Eiji “Tarzan” Yamada. Alongside these purpose built speed demons would be the HKS Toyota Aristo and RS*R Nissan S15 Silvia drift machines, piloted by Nobuteru Tanaguchi and Manabu Orido.
Kicking off the action on Friday were several drift and stunt demos from the XDL Stunt Team, qualifying and practice sessions from the Grand-Am and Rolex Cup cars, and the GT Sim Race and Track Attack sessions throughout the day. Both Orido and Tanaguchi slid to perfection in each of their demos while the XDL Stunt Team pulled off some impressive feats on two wheels as well. Qualifying and practice sessions for the Rolex and Grand-Am Cup races were extremely competitive, with teams battling and jockeying for positions throughout their sessions. The GT Sim Races drew long lines in the infield from fans hoping to get a hot lap or two in several of the Japanese Time Attack cars, and also gave the drivers some additional track time before the GT Track Attack Championship later that evening. Later on Friday evening the GT Track Attack action was in full swing, with Tarzan and the Cyber Evo blasting out in front with a 2+ second lead to take the overall win.
Saturday drew more fans, vendors, and car show participants as GT Live kicked into high gear. The US Stunt Riding Championship wowed the crowds with several unbelievable sessions, while NOB and Orido continued to repave PIR’s Drift Paddock area with fresh rubber. The GT Sim Races fit in as many fans as possible early on, and later the main Grand-Am races finally kicked off. Starting with the GS, then the ST, then the GT, and lastly the Daytona Prototype classes, Saturday afternoon and evening were filled with nonstop racing action on the infield. It’s certainly a shame that these racing series do not get more recognition from fans, as the breakneck speeds, dangerous passes, and full lineup of diverse entrants certainly has all the right ingredients for a tremendously exciting formula. Finishing up the event at the GT Live Paddock, the US Stunt Riding Championships saw a scary moment from one of the participants, who had a nearly 30mph run in with the front concrete barrier in front of the main stage. As the safety officials and medical personnel worked to ensure the driver was ok and the event could continue, NOB and Orido were finally given the green flag to rip off some high speed sideways passes to be sure the crowd left on its feet. Concluding the event, the GT Live girls dished out tons of free gear to the audience as NOB and Orido took some time to pose for pictures and thank the crowd. Check out an upcoming issue of Modified Magazine for more on the event!