It was during a pre-game warm-up session for the '04 US D1GP event at the Irwindale Speedway that we first met Chris Forsberg. At the time, we didn't know much about the recent transplant from Pennsylvania other than he'd been brought over by Signal Auto to join their US drift team along with Chunky Bai and Atsushi Kuroi (who were driving the Sileighty twins). Chris' 350Z was rumored to have been the first to have a SR20DET dropped into its engine bay. That day, he not only impressed us, but a handful of media and other Japanese D1 drivers who were watching from the infield that morning. For a young, lanky, clean-cut white kid coming from the East Coast literally unknown, this was unexpected, especially when there were names like Nomuken and Taniguchi that we were just starting to get familiar with. So how did Chris Forsberg transform from virtual zero to drifting hero?
Crafting his skills for a better part of the past six years, you could blame a certain Japanese anime cartoon for giving Chris the inspiration to get a car sideways. "I'd watch Initial D videos with my friend (and teammate), Tony Angelo," he says. "After goofing around for a while trying to become better drivers, Tony came up with the idea for a drift crew called Drift Alliance, which I eventually joined and am currently the VP of. I dropped everything in my life to pursue a career in drifting, and sold all of my crap to start building a car." Dubbed Drift Alliance in homage to the rebels from the Star Wars film (Tony thought of this new group of drifters as a rebel alliance), Chris and the crew developed a reputation as the eastern coast's pioneers of drift, creating their own brand of high-speed, sideways tactics to rival their peers on the Westside. "We didn't care that California had the best cars or the best events," he explains. "We made our own parts and basically did our own thing, so we didn't really need the West Coast for anything. The West Coast was more like the Empire to us." Before long, Chris and the Drift Alliance were being invited to organized drift events, and took on the BeaveRun track just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for their first outing as professional drifters; Chris was then driving a SR20-swapped FC3S RX-7.
Chris' drifting life took an unexpected but bumpy detour when Signal Auto stepped into town for a drifting exhibition at New Jersey's Englishtown Raceway late in October '03. Kousuke Kida, Signal's president, had caught word that Chris was already planning to move to California a few days after the event finished and decided to take Chris under his wing, hoping to show the drift world his undiscovered talent in addition to the one-two knockout punch of Chunky and Kuroi. All Kousuke asked of Chris was to give him a call when he got into town where a job would be waiting for him at Signal USA. Chris truthfully admits, "Although I learned a lot during my time with Signal, it was Tony and I who figured out how to get the SR running in my Z without having to spend tons of money on fabrication. When Formula D announced its event series, I found that the support I felt I would need in order to perform successfully wasn't at all what I anticipated [at Signal]. I spent all of my money moving to Cali, living in different hotels just to build this drift car and suddenly I was placed in a position where the monetary support just wasn't there." This turn of events forced Chris into an uncomfortable situation, which left him no choice but to look towards another direction, a road that would land him on MotoRex's door step.
With plans to form a drift team of its own, MotoRex welcomed Chris after hearing about his departure from Signal. This time, Chris would get the support he wanted as MotoRex was willing to give him another 350Z to drive, body kits, as well as tech support from neighboring Blast Racing. But he couldn't get comfortable in his new ride, blowing motor after motor until MotoRex finally told Chris that he would have to start buying his own motors. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise; during a Formula D drift exhibition at the end of '04, Falken entered the picture, re-introducing themselves to the boys after having been turned down by Chris for the MotoRex offer. Although they had been passed over as a primary sponsor, Falken believed enough in Chris' efforts to give him tires all throughout '04, but they were ready to go full speed ahead with him for '05. At SEMA, Falken announced its drift team, which included a majority of the Drift Alliance drivers, and gave Chris the keys to an S15 Silvia.
This newly formed partnership with Falken breathed new life into Chris' professional drifting career. Drift Alliance was suddenly a force to be reckoned with and Chris had no problem showing that attitude off. Dubbed by many as the bad boys of the drifting scene, Chris says that "Drift Alliance has always been about having fun and not caring about [the politics of] the import scene. We're happy go-lucky and we just want to do our own thing. We're just regular kids who want to have fun." This carefree attitude didn't hinder Chris' performance on the track either. Consistently in the top ten throughout the '05 season of Formula D, Chris took First place at the Irwindale finals before retiring the S15. This meant it was time for a new ride, which lead him back to his Z roots-hence the V8 350 you see Chris campaigning today.
Debuted as a concept at last year's SEMA, Chris was given a convertible 350Z with help from Steve Mitchell at Nissan North America-an idea that was proposed early on by Steve in the hopes of getting Chris a different platform from which to build a drift car. Chris looked no further than the VK56 engine out of Nissan Titan, which was a far cry from the two liters of boosted SR power we're used to seeing; the new naturally aspirated setup would be good enough to push him close to 400hp with little modification. "The throttle response is good, almost too good," Chris says. "The wheel speed picks up so fast that it almost wants to loop the car around. You have to be ready for the power and how to handle it." At two hundred pounds heavier than a chop-topped Z, Chris denies claims that the car got off to a troubled start because of the weight. The convertible has proven beneficial on the track, eliminating blind spots and allowing Chris to hear more of what's going on around him.
While continuing to work out the bugs on the V8 Z, it's only a matter of more seat time before he'll rise back to the top of his game. As of press time, Chris is positioned twelfth in points standing for Formula D. As for the future-yes, we realize we ask this of all drifters-Chris is enthusiastically optimistic. "I'd like to see drifting go the way of the X Games," he says. "This is an action sport, not a motor sport or racing. It's all about style and personality. That's where it belongs and hopefully it'll get there some day."
OWNER Chris Forsberg
HOMETOWN Furlong, PA
DAILY GRIND Professional drifter
POWER 362 hp at 5,850 rpm; 402 lb-ft at 3,400 rpm; 17.4 at 68 mph (quarter-mile time)
UNDER THE HOOD 5.6L Nissan VK56 V8 engine; Jim Wolf camshafts; 680cc Bosch fuel injectors; Aeromotive fuel regulator; Walbro fuel pump; Nissan Q45 throttle body; Magnaflow exhaust; JBA header; GM LS1 ignition coils; shortened aluminum pan; custom motor mounts and transmission mount
DRIVETRAIN Nissan six-speed transmission; Driveshaft Shop axles; Cusco RS limited-slip differential; LS Automotive custom shift lever; Exedy twin-disc clutch; custom adapter plate
STIFF STUFF Tanabe Seven coilovers and antisway bars; LS Automotive bushings; Design Craft rollcage and spot-welded frame
STOPPERS Project ? brake pads; LS Automotive stainless brake lines
ROLLERS 18x9.5 and 18x11 SSR SP1 wheels; Falken RT-615 245/40R19 and 295/40R18 tires
OUTSIDE BRS Auto Design Type 2 widebody; custom white/blue/green vinyl wrap by Modern Image; graphics by Euphoric Designs
INSIDE Bride Zeta III seats; custom center console by LS Automotive; Auto Meter Pro-Comp gauges; Sparco steering wheel; Nismo shift knob
ICE Rockford Fosgate RAV DVD2 head unit and 6.5 Power speakers; Painless Wiring kit and switch panel