It's amazing how fast time flies when you're having fun. Seems like it was just yesterday that Mainstream Productions, in association with On the Scene Video Magazine brought the first-ever professional Drift Showoff event to Irwindale Speedway, CA. The event set precedence on March 2, 2003, exposing an estimated 7,000 attendees to the world of professional drifting. Spectators lined up trackside to witness four D1 Grand Prix drifters from Japan perform exhibition runs. Feeding off the crowd's excitement, Seigou Yamamoto, Signal Auto's Fumiaki "Drifter X" Komatsu, Kazuya Bai, and Yoshinori Koguchi ("Koguchi Power") didn't disappoint, running in excess of 80 mph with Komatsu in the blue Signal Auto 180SX tagging the wall with his rear bumper, as it precariously dangled off his car while he continued to drift around the track. Seconds later, Bai in the orange Signal Auto S15 followed suit, tagging the same wall, mangling the same section of his car. Many fans cheered on while others cringed in horror as their picturesque dream cars were being demolished right in front of their eyes in the parking lot just adjacent to the infield oval. As crazy as it seems, previous to this event, the only professional drifting any of us witnessed was relegated to watching Option videos or reading magazines from Japan.
Not only was Drift Showoff an exhibition, it was also a competition, drawing in many of the top U.S. amateur drifters to battle it out amongst their peers. Before they competed drivers were given the opportunity to ask judges Koguchi and Yamamoto questions. It was interesting to look back and notice that most U.S. drifters were unfamiliar with the terms competitive drifting. Here's a quick rundown on some of their queries:
Drifters: What type of engaging would you like to see? Clutch kicking or e-braking?
Instructors: Doesn't really matter what type of techniques you use, as long as you can enter and exit the turns smoothly, maintaining your line.
Drifters: Because cars like the AE86 are considered by some to be underpowered, will horsepower be a determining factor?
Instructors: We'll look at certain situations, such as whether or not the car is turbocharged, and factor them into judging each competitor and vehicle.
Drifters: What tire pressure do you prefer, and how important is it?
Instructors: Tire pressure is a very important aspect in drifting. We prefer the tires to run about 34 psi in front and 30 psi in the rear. If the car is understeering you should raise the pressure in the rear. If you want more grip, you need to lower the tire pressure.
Time does indeed fly by as drifting has taken the world by storm and prevailed as the fastest growing motorsport in the United States. It's been eight years since the first Japanese drivers lit up their tires on U.S. soil. During that time, Japan's D1 Grand Prix's popularity has declined and become and a skeleton of its former glory, while Formula D has continued to expand, becoming the dominant series in spectator size and popularity. By the time you read this column, FD will have already crowned this year's champion. Our chips are down, betting that Daijiro Yoshihara in the Discount Tire/Falken Tire Nissan S13 will pull off another dramatic season ending run to defend his 2011 crown, but he needs to get past tough competitors like 2010 champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. in the Monster Energy/Falken Tire Ford Racing Mustang, who's determined to take his title back. But the one thing I will say is that it will be an interesting scenario to say the least.