Dai Does It!- Formula Drift Round 7 at Toyota Speedway in Irwindale, CA
By Justin Banner
For such a wild season, everyone was expecting the same old Toyota Speedway, the House of Drift, as it's been called. However, the House got a new addition put on that added the second inner oval. It was then compared to Wall Speedway, without the bumps in the middle to add a drastic variable to the suspension setups. What was quickly discovered was that with the new addition and the lack of bumps, vision was at a premium! Without the need to slow their cars down for the bumps, drivers could really stand on the throttle, allow the rear tires to become plumes of smoke and blind the following driver and the fans. Daijiro Yoshihara, for example, made contact with a plastic barrier and launched his car in spectacular fashion after doing a follow run during Thursday Practice. At the time, the SPD Metalworks crew did not know that this would be the perfect indicator of how their weekend would go as the car was fine other than a bent crash bar and lower control arm, but more on that later.
Many drivers also found the walls of Irwindale quickly during Thursday practice and Friday Qualifying, including Jim Guthrie, who hit the wall hard on Friday. He suffered a cracked vertebrae and stretched tendons, but otherwise was OK. Normally, he wears a HANS device and did not have it on because of the lack of being able to smoothly turn his head side to side. Guthrie is now on the hunt for a better neck protector. Guthrie's car, however, was damaged to the point where he will need a new car for 2012, but I've been told one is already in the works!
|A hard crash for Jim Guthrie
Qualifying wasn't very forgiving to many drivers who normally make the Top 32. Aurimas “Odi” Bakchis, in the Feal Suspension Nissan S14 240SX, did not make the show, giving Walker Wilkerson in his Fatlace Nissan S13 Coupe, who qualified in a strong 7th seed, a chance at taking Rookie of the Year. Odi feels that the appeal of the left foot braking technique has left the judging tower and is what gave him such a low score. It also didn't help that he was resting his foot on the brake pedal, either. Joon Maeng, in the Team Nitto/Bergenholtz Racing Mazda RX8 did not qualify at Irwindale. Despite the great looking runs and with Pat Mordaunt's 61 giving him 32nd, you needed a great run to make it this year! Nikolay Konstantinov, who made the show last year and faced off against Vaughn Gittin, Jr. last year, was not able to make the show because of a blown engine.
|17th Qualifier, Matt Field
Matt Field, who is becoming one of the rising stars in Formula Drift and took out Dai last year, was able to make it in at 17th seed in his Fatlace/Blacktrax Nissan 240SX S14. Pat Cyr, coming from Canada in his HSD Suspension Toyota Corolla was also in at 28th seed. Despite his lack-luster season, Samuel Hubinette in his Sam Hubinette Racing (SHR) Dodge Challenger was able to take the #1 seed. The Qualifying results for the Top 5 in points, in order of their place in the standings, were Daijiro Yoshihara qualifying 6th in his Discount Tire Nissan 240SX S13 Coupe, Justin Pawlak in the Team Falken Ford Mustang got 2nd, Darren McNamara in the Team Falken Saturn Sky got 26th, Chris Forsberg got 16th in his NOS Energy 370Z and Matt Powers got 10th in his Team Nitto/Team Need for Speed Nissan 240SX S14. Last Year's Champion, Vaughn Gittin, Jr., placed 12th in his Monster Energy Ford Mustang.
|12th place Qualifier, and last year's Champion, Vaughn Gittin, Jr.
Team Boso's Ross Petty fought engine problems caused by a collapsed hydraulic lifter in their LS3 powered Nissan S15. Ross still managed to make it into the top 16 even with seven cylinders.
Saranon (Non) Pornpatanarak made the long trip from Thailand to compete in the Vegas and Irwindale rounds. Unfortunately he did not qualify.
Even though he did not qualify due to spinning on his first run and an overly conservative second run, Odi Bakchis won Rookie of the Year Honors.
After working hard to disassemble it against the walls in Las Vegas, Emmanuel Armandio looked strong in his Achilles Tire Nissan 350Z at Irwindale.