Jim Liaw and Ryan Sage
Formula D / www.formulad.com
Responsible For: creating the first US drift competition series
Before the idea of a US drifting series was even conceived, Jim Liaw and Ryan Sage were helping to make the very first D1 event in the US a success. From selling sponsors to marketing and track preparation, their company, Slipstream Global, was the group responsible for the success of D1 in the States, which caused drivers and the entire industry to want more. Turned down by D1 Japan to license a US series, Slipstream announced its own drifting series called Formula D at SEMA '03. "By the time we launched Formula D," says Jim, "we only had two experiences working on a drift event-D1 and a D1 drivers search. It took some time to figure out how to make it work." Now in its third season, Formula D has made superstars of the highest caliber drifters from diverse walks of life, and gives greater credibility to US drivers who often take a backseat to their Japanese peers. Ryan credits their success to the relationships they share with the drivers, adding "This is a business, but because we were friends from the beginning, it's made learning how to do this job a lot easier, plus it's allowed all of us to become better friends in the end."
AEM / www.aempower.com
Responsible For: tuning Hondas and helping them break the 11-second barrier
Long before AEM became a common name as the powerhouse backer of two very successful drag and drift teams, John Concialdi was working in the R&D department of what used to be known as Weber Carbs. He eventually bought out his old company and on October 1, 1987, the day an earthquake rocked Los Angeles county, the doors to AEM opened. John and his employees spent most of their time making small cars like the Acura Integra or 22R-driven Celicas go fast. In fact, that's how AEM's reputation got its start: at the street races. All it took was a sticker on the side of a car to take care of their guerrilla marketing. "From then on, we started to pick up work for guys that were getting their cars featured in magazines," says John. "Guys like Tony Fuchs and Brian Kim from Cyber Racing, Darin Ishitani from Honda Service Center; that's when they really started going fast." AEM moved out of a small tuning shop when they started focusing on the development of their cold air intake kits-the company's long time bread winner-and helping Steph Papadakis reach low e.t.'s with the AEM Drag Civic. In recent years, they've released several bolt-on pieces, a stellar engine management system and have even started their own line of truck parts. Today, AEM continues its innovation by developing the first dry-air filter element and supporting Steph and Tanner Foust with the AEM Drift team. And if you bump into John, you may want to ask him about his Vette fetish.
Mainstream Productions / www.showoffcafe.com
Responsible For: Import Showoff, the first and original import car show; introducing drifting to the States
Let's paint the scene for you. You're a club promoter and you step out onto the street for some fresh air-what do you see? Fixed up cars. Lots of them. And they're cruising up and down street like there's no tomorrow. This was a common sight for Ken Miyoshi during the early '90s, and when one of the premiere events for car enthusiasts in LA (Nisei Cruise, during Little Tokyo's Nisei Week) died off he knew people were looking for another way to show off their cars. "All these guys ever wanted to do was be seen," says Ken. "They would park and not even go inside the club." That's when he came up with the idea for Import Showoff; the concept was instantly a huge success. "There were a lot of shows out there, like Lowrider," he says. "But there was never anything for us, the Asian-Americans. I think catering to that particular demographic since it was predominantly Asian, just really lent to its popularity." Besides Import Showoff, Ken should also be credited as being the first to introduce drifting to the States when he held the first Drift Showoff in '03 before any D1 or Formula D series, bringing over Signal Auto's then star drifters, "Chunky" Bai and "Drifter X" Komatsu, and Falken's Yoshinori Koguchi and Seigo Yamamoto. Ken picked up the idea of exposing drifting to the States after Signal's Kousuke Kida took him to the Osaka street drifts. Import Showoff continues its legacy by attracting the top show cars and clubs to its Nisei and EXC events.
[Little known fact:] Ken helped spark the careers of many industry icons: RJ DeVera was the first to respond to his Import Showoff flier; he recommended Daijiro Yoshihara as a driver to Pacific Rim's Jerry Tsai; he used to fly Ben "Big Smoke" Schwartz out from Florida to drive at his Drift Showoffs. Even crazier, his wife is a former Mugen Japan campaign girl!