It’s hard to believe, but it’s been 10 years since a much younger and youthful pair of guys by the name of Jim Liaw and Ryan Sage introduced a new drift series called Formula D to the United States. The long journey began in June of 2003 when the founders of Slipstream Global Marketing organized an international drift exhibition that featured Japan’s top drift superstars. The “Drift King” Keiichi Tsuchiya was among the judges who scored 8 out of 40 U.S. drivers to move on past the qualifying round, which included Calvin Wan, Ken Gushi, Bryan Norris, Hubert Young, Rich Rutherford, Ernie Fixmer, Sam Hubinette, and Dai Yoshihara. The event paved the way for Slipstream to hold its first official drift competition outside of Japan in August 2003 at Irwindale Speedway, where the previous top eight U.S. drivers were pitted against the Japanese drift pros. From the initial drop of the flag, it was obvious that the boys wrapped in the American flag lacked competitive drifting skills in comparison to their Japanese counterparts, ultimately receiving a severe beat down. Regardless of the outcome, the event paved the way toward the once unknown sport of drifting on North American soil. The day’s event and crowd attendance was a good indication that drifting was here to stay. But no one would’ve ever guessed it would become this popular.
While most of the industry remains in recovery mode from the harsh lashings of a worldwide recession, Formula D has amazingly continued to sell out at venues across the state. The international drift series, otherwise known as FD Asia, has continued to sell out tickets with many events witnessing standing room only. There seems to be no indication of drifting slowing down. So what should we expect to see during this year’s FD Championship Series? The most obvious would be new 2013 competition and vehicle rules. By the time you read this column, FD would have crowned the winner of Round 3 at Palm Beach International Raceway. Meanwhile, teams will be preparing for the next round at Wall Speedway, an event that’s guaranteed to be filled with high speeds and dramatic crashes. One thing we won’t see is a sizable points lead in the standings; every year the drift to the championship becomes tighter with each round and offers more twists and turns than your mom’s favorite soap opera. Will the reigning 2012 champion Daigo Saito squeeze out a narrow victory to reclaim his second title or will Vaughn Gitten Jr. in his Nitto Tire–sponsored Ford Mustang or Daijiro Yoshihara in the Discount Tire Nissan S13 reclaim the championship? Don’t rule out the rest of the pack, including this year’s rookie class; drifting is a sport of skill and there seems to be plenty of that in this season’s competitors. We’re looking forward to another exciting year of drifting.