What a setup to the Final 4! Ken Gushi really did his best and proved the new FR-S Chassis well! Kenny Moen did very well to make it to the Great 8 in his Lutz Performance 350Z, but they both had to overcome some stiff, V8 powered competition, too. Saito, however, still proves that experience triumphs over power as he was able to move on to the Final 4!
|The first round of the Final Four was Pawlak and Powers! This is a rematch from Round 1 in 2011! Matt has been absolutely killing it all day, but so has JTP! The 410ci Roush Sprint Car engine shows its power here as JTP is able to pull a half car-length gap against Powers! What's interesting to note here is the proof that these guys are giving it their all. In nearly every picture in turn 10 a, the inside front wheel is pulling up on almost every car! In many cases, it is in the air! It seems that at this track, because of how flat it really is, a soft rear setup was the way to go along with a stiff front setup. Amazing to consider it was a few years ago, many drivers had cars so low and setup so stiff, they wouldn't really pull like this unless they were going into a dip in the track! Now the cars move and flex on their suspensions giving us really cool shots like this!|
|I know, geeking out in the middle of coverage, but look at Matt's inside front tire! It's not even touching the ground here!|
|Just like last year, Matt Powers will have to fight it out for Third Place as JTP was declared the winner amongst the booing fans who wanted to see Matt move on to the First Place round! Matt has had such a good couple of years since getting Costa to work on his car, don't be surprised to see Powers gain higher than 2nd and 3rd place!|
|Now it was the battle of the Dais! Daigo Saito and Daijiro Yoshihara put on a show to prove who was better, a D1 Champion or a Formula Drift Champion! Both Japanese born drivers were really hanging it out, but Daijiro was able to put a gap on Daigo up to the transition of Turn 11, but Daigo was also able to get closer to Bil, too! Bil approved and quickly became a fan of Daigo Saito!|
|However, to Bil and Daigo Fans' disapointment, Daijiro was able to pull off the judges decision and it would be Daijiro and JTP in the fight for first place!|
Here we go, the Battle for Third Place! Daigo Saito in the Achilles Radial SC430 faces Matt Powers in the Nitto Tire/Need for Speed 240SX! This could be a repeat for Matt, as he was in this same position last year! However, he is facing the legend that is Daigo Saito! Saito's experience has really shown what a capable driver is able to do, consdering that he has never seen the streets of Long Beach, let alone driven on them! Can Matt find Achilles' Heel or will Daigo bring kleos to Achilles Radial?
|Poor Matt Powers, not being allowed to be Bride's Maid again at Long Beach! He would have to try and settle for 3rd place. That is, if he could drive better than Daigo Saito whose overpowered SC430 could not only belt out tons of tire smoke, but also pull up against even some of the more powerful V8s in Formula Drift! The choice of the 2JZGTE was a smart one, with it being reliable and able to make lots of horsepower without sacrficing that reliability, it was even the powerplant that Fredric Aasbo used in his legendary Supra!|
|It was a huge hurdle to overcome on Matt's part. One, for the sheer amount of tire smoke Achilles Radials put out and the speed Daigo was still able to achieve in the SC430, it was hard enough for Daijiro to get by him, Matt needed Daigo to make a mistake, but Daigo was on point and took third place from Matt! No podium repeat for Matt here this weekend!|
Daigo takes Third Place! While many will view this as a disappointment, even by Daigo, when you look at the facts that he has never seen this track, never even knew of the surface until this week, never faced many of these Formula Drift veterans, and brought a power-packed I6 to his Achilles Radial SC430 instead of a V8, Daigo Saito and his fans should be very proud of what he accomplished this weekend! Matt Powers should also be very proud of his 4th place accomplishment, considering he only just got the car done at 4am of qualifying morning. Costa Gialamas and the GTI Crew really pulled this off in order for Matt to get 4th place here! Now it was time for a Long Beach repeat with Daijiro Yoshihara and his Falken Tire/Discount Tire 240SX to face off against the Falken Tire Mustang of Justin “JTP” Pawlak!
|You know, we saw this last year! Well, sort of, anyhow, as these two had one of the most nail biting, number crunching season endings ever in Formula Drift! So, in a way this battle could be JTP's revenge for losing the championship by a few points last year. Then again, Dai could look at this as retribution for only getting third last year at Long Beach.|
|However, for Dai, JTP would be as tough an opponent as Daigo was. Justin's car is light and over powered with the 410 Sprint V8. This is Sportsman Drag power in a Road Racing car! Dai's car is still modest bycomparison!|
|However, this is something Daijiro is used to! Even last year, he had only modest power from his LS-V8. What Daijiro had was a crew that knew how to take advantage of suspension settings and getting the car optimized for the power it had in it!|
|However, there is still something that a well sorted chassis and enough power to get it going isn't going to prevent. Pure, outright speed. The Falken Mustang RTR has that in spades and even though Dai tried to use the nimbleness of his S13, JTP's Mustang would just close the gap on exit while still holding the same line that Dai had!|
|In light of all of that, the judges awarded the win to Justin Pawlak and his Falken Tire Ford Mustang RTR! Daijiro would settle for second on the podium, but that is one place higher than last year for Dai as well!|
|Elated to be on top, Justin Pawlak heads to the podium ceremony!|
|Your podium for Long Beach, Round 1 of the Formula Drift 2012 Season! Daigo Saito in the Achilles Radial Lexus SC430 in Third. Daijiro Yoshihara in the Falken Tire/Discount Tire Nissan 240SX in Second. Your Long Beach Winner, Justin “JTP” Pawlak in the Falken Tire Ford Mustang RTR.|
So, there you have it! JTP pulls off a Two-for-Two in Long Beach! This puts him on top of points coming in this year and Daijiro in second! Daigo is third in points and is considered a rookie this year so he will also be the highest rookie in Formula Drift points for now as well. Things look to be a repeat of 2011, but don't worry! This is drifting, anything can and will happen! Daigo shouldn't be declared Rookie of the Year yet! JTP and Dai can't look at this and rest on their laurels either! Crashes, bad drifts, and more can take anyone out for the year and all it will take is one screw up! Things are going hot for Hotlanta, so stay tuned!