To everyone's surprise, Imamura lacked the finesse and skills he displayed earlier in the day, running much slower and struggling to run consistently. Tanaka, on the other hand, tore up the tarmac, smoking the tires and showing exactly why he placed eighth in the 2003 D1 series.Nobushige Kumakubo followed in his teammate Tanaka's footsteps and rose to victory over Ken Maeda in the yellow Up Garage-sponsored AE86. Although it was apparent the horsepower game was in favor of Kumakubo, Maeda put on a valiant effort in keeping pace with Kumakubo throughout the course.
Elite 8The best eight drivers were Kazuhiro Tanaka (Team Orange S15), Nomura Ken (Blitz Skyline E34), Nobuteru Taniguchi (HKS S15), Gen Terasaki (black AE86), Ryuji Miki (Top Secret S15), Nobushige Kumakubo (Team Orange S15), Atsushi Kuroi (Signal/ Tanabe S13), and Yasuyuki Kazama (Kei-Office S13) respectively, tried to advance to the top four.
Tanaka and Nomura were the first to head out in a classic battle of weight vs. power. Although the S15 is known as the more agile of the two, Nomura powered his way through the apex in his four-door Skyline and displayed the classic "Nomuken" style of drifting he's known for, and took the win.
It was almost unfair to watch Gen Terasaki and Taniguchi go head-to-head, but many newcomers to the drifting scene didn't know Terasaki was a force to be reckoned with, who'd competed in a number of top four eliminations in D1. Terasaki in his AE86 was at the mercy of Taniguchi as the HKS S15 exhibited drift lines that were once again flawless.
Miki, who had been on a tear the whole day, running the Top Secret S15 to the ragged edge, squared off with Kumakubo in a nail-biting elimination. Kumakubo, not one to shy away from danger, drifted door-to-door with Miki, coming within inches from Miki's rear bumper as Kumakubo rode him from start to finish. Ultimately impressed with Kumakubo's drifting, the judges advanced him to the next round.
The final tandem in the field of eight were Kuroi and Kazama. Both drivers were running exceptionally well the whole day and this one lined up to be quite a battle. In an uneventful turn of events, Kazama spun out while chasing down Kuroi during the second run but was awarded the win, perhaps due to the previous run that impressed the judges.
Final 4Nomura Ken and Nobuteru Taniguchi have been in the drifting scene for more than a decade and are two of the bigger names in the drifting scene. They faced off to determine who would advance to the championship match and who would end up capturing third place. Taniguchi once again laid down a flawless exhibition of speed and line control as he took the advantage over Nomuken and advanced.
The second battle was a classic S15 vs. S15 battle between Kumakubo and Kazama. Both runs were too close for the fans to determine a winner. The judges selected Kazama as the victor to head to the championships, while Kumakubo was left to battle Nomuken for third place. Kumakubo made a crucial mistake, miscalculating a turn that caused him to go wide into the infamous J-turn and giving the third place finish to Nomura.
D1 Grand Prix FinalsTraumatic memories of last year's D1 USA swirled in the head of Taniguchi, as the 2003 finals against Ueo ended up in a climactic accident for Taniguchi. Once again, the HKS S15 was back in the staging lanes, but with a different competitor by the name of Yasuyuki Kazama. In the 2003 series, Kazama was coming on strong in the D1 Grand Prix series, perhaps to impress his boss and main sponsor, Keiichi Tsuchiya.