The U.S.A. vs. Japan format saw a group of 16 combatants from each country vie for eight spots per country. The lucky qualifiers would then do battle mano a mano. Team Japan was made up of Ken Maeda, Nobushige Kumakubo, KazuhiroTanaka, Nobuteru Taniguchi, Kazuya Bai, Masao Suenaga, Yoichi Imamura and Masato Kawabata. The U.S. squad in this historic showdown consisted of Alex Pfeiffer, Tyler McQuarrie, Chris Forsberg, Ken Gushi, Ernie Fixmer, Rhys Millen, Calvin Wan and Andy Yen.
After a bit of a delay that didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the gathered faithful, the first set of cars hit the tarmac. Pfeiffer squared off against Maeda in a slugfest as the two traded powerslides and went into overtime. In the end Maeda lived to fight another day.
The next pairing was the Jasper Performance Supra and McQuarrie flying the Stars and Stripes against the combo of Team Orange Silvia and Kumakubo from the Land of the Rising Sun. The crowd got caught up in the excitement and called for a rematch even though Kumakubo was far superior, his S15 clearly more nimble and more powerful that the Toyota. Would Team U.S.A. advance anyone into the second round?
The third pairing proved to be the breakthrough round as Forsberg throttled his Falken 350Z to the next level. The next set was a big showdown between the most popular drivers from each country-Ken Guschi and Nob Taniguchi. Normally a steady hand at the wheel, Guschi was uncharacteristically inconsistent going off course and giving the HKS Silvia an easy pass. Japan's Imamura also easily advanced as his A'PEXi RX-7 outmatched Yen's 240SX, which seemed to be the most telling thing to surface at D1 2004. You can't close the car development gap in one season.
Next Fixmer and the Rotora Silvia went at it against Bai and the Signal Auto 180SX. Bai took a commanding lead after the first go-round but in the second Bai came in to the first chicane too hot and spun out Fixmer and, per D1 rules, Bai was DQ'd. The highlight of the first round was Millen vs. Suenaga in which each pushed the edge and Millen won it in a close call. The final tally had Japan with five and the United States with three drivers advancing to the second round.
The ladder setup had Millen and Fixmer going against each other, which could be viewed as fortunate or unfortunate. Unfortunate because two Americans were going head-to-head or fortunate because the United States was ensured at least one player in the final four. Kumakubo was in a zone and the crowd sensed it as he beat down Maeda to advance. Taniguchi out-dueled Forsberg but the crowd didn't support that outcome and let the judges hear it. Imamura advanced the A'PEXi Mazda and then it was Millen versus Fixmer. The Pontiac-backed GTO of Millen edged past Fixmer and his Nissan.
In the semis, Kumakubo ousted Taniguchi, who is the heir to the throne to many D1 fans, and did so in a flamboyant and technically exhilarating performance. The Millen-Imamura contest was a fender-to-fender barn-burner with both drivers getting crazy loose. Millen slid to a stop but did not spin out which, to drift aficionados is of great importance. In the next run Imamura did a full spinout. The judges called for a "one more time" and awarded Imamura the pass to the finals. It seems the fans of JDM were still pulling for the hometown team (in an American V8 car no less) and many thought Millen got dogged. In the final Kumakubo kept the train rolling as he used surgical skill to knife through Imamura and take the win.
It seems America has the skills but just not enough purpose-built, ground-up drift cars; and no matter what the form of racing, equipment is the key to success. How far will the U.S. drift scene evolve in 2005? That's the $64,000 question.
Turbo Magazine Dyno Challenge presented by AEM/DC SportsIn keeping with our grassroots reputation we had AEM/DC Sports bring out its portable dyno to find harcore street cars at the D1 GP. Cars lined up to take their turn at the Turbo Magazine Dyno Challenge presented by AEM/DC Sports. Here is a sampling of horsepower some participants were able to achieve. If you see us at your local event get your car in line and hooked up. We just may show the world how much you put out.
|RESULTS: GT LIVE D1 GRAND PRIX USA VS. JAPAN |
|Kumakubo ||Team Orange Silvia S15 |
|Imamura ||A'PEXi RX-7 |
|Millen ||Pontiac GTO |
|Taniguchi ||HKS Silvia S15 |
|Fosberg ||Falken 350Z |
|Maeda ||Up Garage AE86 Corolla |
|Fixmer ||Rotora Silvia S13 |
|Kawabata ||Trust Silvia S15 |