"One more time, one more time." If you were in attendance at the inaugural D1 Grand Prix, you were probably one of the 10,000 excited spectators who shouted these ever-so-powerful words.
Considering the hype surrounding the event in the months before, the action at Irwindale lived up to the heightened expectations and then some. The 16 pro drifters from Japan and the eight U.S. drivers put on a great show. And in the end, Katsuhiro Ueo in the Revolver Toyota AE86 was able to nudge out Nobuteru Taniguchi in the HKS Nissan S15 Silvia for the win.
The finals were just a sneak peek of the action-packed event. For starters Keiichi "Dorikin" Tsuchiya and Orido Manabu took the wheels of fellow drifter S15 Kei-Office Silvia and RSR 350Z, treating the spectators to some tandem drifting around the track. Right before the pair stopped, crazy Tarzan Yamada jumped on top of the Kei-Office Nissan and, without skipping a beat, Tsuchiya began performing donuts as Tarzan wedged his monkey claws to the roof of the vehicle holding on for dear life.
Of the 16 Japan drivers and eight U.S. drivers six of the Japan drivers (Ueno, Ueo, Imamura, Koguchi, Taniguchi and Nomuken, would advance while two of the U.S. drivers (Fixmer and Yoshihara) were able to squeak into the second round.
Of the two U.S. drivers, Ernie Fixmer gave Imamura a run for his money; they had to perform a second duel because the judges couldn't decide who should advance. In the end, Imamura was able to beat out Fixmer, but the crowd and judges gave him a standing ovation for his awesome driving skill.
The final four would include Ueo (Corolla), Ueno (Soarer), Toniguchi (S15 Silvia) and Imamura (RX-7). Ueo (Corolla) would face off against Imamura (RX-7) while Ueno (Soarer) battled Toniguchi (S15 Silvia). We were surprised that Ueo was able to make it this far, considering the AE86 was the only non-turbo vehicle in the competition and obviously had the least horsepower. But Ueo (Corolla) brought the heat and was able to take out Imamura (RX-7) to advance to the finals. Toniguchi (S15 Silvia) was also able to take care of his opponent, Ueno (Soarer), taking the win and advancing to the finals.
The final competition was worth its weight in gold as the two would go head to head, both smoking the tires. The Corolla kept up with the high-powered Nissan, bringing the crowd to a frenzy, screaming "one more time, one more time."
On the judges' request, the two went out again. This time, Taniguchi was out front; as if the Silvia was pulling away, the Corolla would reel him in. After the first turn, the Silvia went wide for the big left-hand sweeper, giving just enough room for Ueo to sneak past Taniguchi.
In the second round, Ueo would be up first. After the first turn, Taniguchi tried to redeem himself and tried passing Ueo on the outside, but there wasn't enough room, causing him to crash into the concrete barrier destroying the right front of the vehicle. After the emergency crew made sure Taniguchi was safe, Ueo celebrated jumping on top of his vehicle while pumping his fist as the crowd roared in appreciation.
The excitement emanated from the grandstand. For any who missed the inaugural D1 Grand Prix, we feel sorry for you. Since the Irwindale event sported the highest attendance ever at a D1 event, the JDM drivers will be back in 2004. You can bet we'll be there to cover it.
|U.S. D1 Grand Prix Drivers |
|Ken Gushi ||Nissan S13 coupe |
|Ernie Fixmer ||Nissan S13 hatch |
|Rich Rutherford ||Nissan S14 coupe |
|Samuel Hubinette ||Nissan 350Z |
|Daijiro Yoshihara ||Nissan S13 coupe |
|Hubert Young ||Nissan R32 Skyline |
|Calvin Wan ||Mazda Rx-7 FC3S |
|Bryan Norris ||Nissan S13 Coupe |
|Rhys Millen ||Toyota Supra |
| Japanese D1 Grand Prix Drivers |
|Katsuhiro Ueo ||Revolver Toyota AE86 Levin |
|Nobuteru Taniguchi ||HKS Nissan S15 Sylvia |
|Yoichi Imamura ||APEX'i Mazda FD3S RX-7 |
|Ken Nomura ||Blitz Nissan Skyline Sedan |
|Nobushige Kumakubo ||ADVAN/APC Nissan RPS13 180SXtruck |
|Takahiro Ueno ||ADVAN/Vertex Toyota JZ30 Soarer |
|Yuuki Izumida ||ORC Nissan R32 Skyline GT-R |
|Kazuyoshi Bai ||Signal RPS13 180SX |
|Fumiaki Komatsu ||Signal RPS13 180SX |
|Akinori Utsumi ||C-West Mazda FD3S RX7 |
|Kazuhiro Tanaka ||ADVAN/APC Nissan RPS13 180SX |
|Koichi Yamashita ||Tomei Nissan S15 Sylvia |
|Yasuyuki Kazama ||Bridgestone Kei-Office S15 Nismo |
|Yoshinori Koguchi ||Falken Nissan RPS13 180SX |
|Seigou Yamamoto ||Falken S14 Toyota |
|Murao Gui-Gui ||Tein Nissan 350Z |