Ueo is also very particular when it comes to tire selection. Last year, he switched between Advan's Neova and Falken's Azenis.
"My tire choice depends on the track. On some tracks I would run Falken in the front and Advan on the rear, and on others I would run the Advan Neova all the way around. The surface of each track varies," according to Ueo. "At Irwindale, you need a harder compound because the track surface is designed for high-grip slicks. It is like sandpaper. If you use a soft compound the tire won't even last one lap."
A new sponsorship at Irwindale put the car on Bridgestone Potenzas, but the change in tires has done nothing to disrupt his game. Just like last year, the tires are mounted on 14-inch Volk TE37s.
While this is last year's car, it wears the same livery as the 2003 season car. Last year, the car was known as the D'Sift/Cusco AE86, but this year, the official title is the Cusco/Yuke's AE86. Yuke's is a video game developer that specializes in wrestling games such as Smackdown! 3 and Royal Rumble. This sponsor is fitting, as the Hachi looks as if it just came out of a cage match.
When our boy Boyd shot this car, it flossed some pretty heavy war wounds from its march to victory. There wasn't much left of the j-blood front bumper, which is only attached with a few zip ties, and the driver-side (right) rear quarter panel had an HKS Silvia sized dimple, but that's all part of the game in D1.
"Some people worry about the cars when we crash into each other, but that's what builds the excitement," said Ueo. "Cars can be replaced, but the feeling of the excitement of the people cannot be replicated. The memories of the experience will last forever."
Ueo also had some advice about how to start drifting and the abilities of the US drifters. "Practice drifting with just upgraded suspension, tires/wheels, and LSD before touching the engine side of the car. Brakes and alignment are also very important. Start with an underpowered car and master it first and gradually work your way up. I practice with an AE86 with only suspension modifications."
"I saw the video of the D1 driver's search and the skill level looked like what we had in Japan 10 years ago," Ueo said. "From that time until [the US D1GP], I felt like they improved. Even from the practice session [held one day before the event] to the actual event, they saw the Japanese pros drifting, and they learned and showed even more improvement during the competition. In order for US drivers to get even better, they need a good teacher or leader to help them learn the Japanese style. If that happens, the American drifters can compete with the Japanese pros--no problem."
"But it would be better for a Japanese driver to come to the US to teach here," Ueo added. "An American drifter will have difficulty learning in Japan because the style is so different. It would be easier to have a Japanese coach here."
"The drifting environment for drivers in the US is much better than in Japan [in terms of available circuits]. I can see how much improvement the US drivers have gained in such a short time. In the future, there will be great struggles between the US and Japanese drivers. However," Ueo was quick to add, "drifting originated in Japan, so we are not going to let the US drivers win!"
While Ueo's final comment was a good-hearted challenge to US drifters, it rings true as his tenacity, talent, and triumph over more powerful rivals underscore the soul and spirit of Japanese drifting.