‘Formula Drift: The First Ten Years’ Preview 2008

For a couple of years now I have been working on a book documenting the first ten years of the Formula Drift series (2004-2014). Whilst I have been enjoying it, it has come to a stalemate in recent months so I thought I would publish a preview to see if it will spur me on to continue with the project.

Below is the entire chapter covering the 2008 FD season and the Red Bull World Championship which was a one off event. Have a read and feel free to leave me some feedback; positive or negative!


The 2008 season was hosted across 7 rounds with an 8th round, the Red Bull World Championship, which was a non-championship event.

Round 1- Long Beach, California- April 12th
Round 2- Road Atlanta, Georgia- May 10th
Round 3- Englishtown Raceway Park, New Jersey- June 14th
Round 4- Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Nevada-July 12th
Round 5- Evergreen Speedway, Seattle, Washington- August 9th
Round 6- Infineon Raceway, California- September 13th
Round 7- Irwindale Speedway, California- October 11th
The Red Bull World Championship- Long Beach, California- November 16th

the 2007-2008 off season saw many changes to their programs. Ken Gushi left the Ford Racing team to drive a rear wheel converted Scion tC for Scion, a budget brand of Toyota who are using Formula Drift as a platform to market their cars to the younger generation. A potential force to be reckoned with this season would be Daijiro Yoshihara who would be driving the Pontiac GTO that Rhys Millen drove to a championship victory in 2005. Samuel Hubinette brought back his Mopar liveried Dodge Viper that he has already won two championships in.

Chris Forsberg and 2007 champion Tanner Foust kept to their 350Z platforms but added new big sponsors, Forsberg’s car now sporting the blue and orange livery of NOS Energy Drink and Foust’s now wore the black and yellow of Rockstar Energy Drink. Several new drivers also joined the grid for the season including D1 driver Michihiro Takatori who would be driving the Autobacs R34 Skyline and a future star, Justin Pawlak, entered the series for the first time in a FC3S Mazda RX7.

Round 1 Long Beach

The semi-final consisted of Samuel Hubinette, who was back in his Dodge Viper and managed to beat Tanner Foust in a Rockstar Energy drink liveried Nissan 350Z for a spot in the final. The other leg of the semi-final should have seen Chris Forsberg in the NOS Energy Drink 350Z battling Kyle Mohan in the Mazdatrix FC3S RX7. This was the first time that Mohan had managed to get into the final four of a Formula Drift event but sadly his RX7 developed a transmission problem which meant he was unable to run to his full potential giving Forsberg the place in the final.

Mohan was unable to get the Mazda’s broken transmission repaired in time for the third place battle against Tanner Foust so Foust was able to take third easily. A good start to the year for the reigning champion.

The final was incredibly close, the Dodge and Nissan running inches away from each other and the concrete walls that make up the feared Long Beach circuit. The judges were unable to decide a winner and called one more time. Forsberg took home the trophy as Hubinette straightened at the end of the course.

Round 2 Road Atlanta, Georgia

 Chris Forsberg came into the second round at Road Atlanta with confidence having taken victory at Long Beach. However second and third place drivers Samuel Hubinette and reigning champion Tanner Foust were eager to make up the points with Foust qualifying first. Rhys Millen also made his return after technical difficulties meant he was unable to compete at Long Beach, giving the fans plenty to look forward to from this developing rivalry in the top 16 battles!

Tanner Foust battled Kenji Yamanaka in the top 16. Foust’s 350Z pulled away from Yamanaka’s S15 easily, confirming him a place in the top 16. Meanwhile, Hubinette and his Dodge Viper lined up against Conrad Grunewald in the Nitto Tyres Chevrolet Corvette C5. Hubinette lead first and Grunewald managed to stay close to him through the first turn but nearly spun in the second corner, planting the Corvette’s rear wheels into the Georgian red dirt. This gave Hubinette a huge advantage which Grunewald was over eager to take away from him, once again dropping one of the Corvette’s rear tyres off the track. Rhys Millen later took on Darren McNamara. McNamara would lead in the first run but made a mistake on the Atlanta course’s fast initiation, sending the Saturn spinning across the grass and Rhys into the great 8.

Forsberg would face Michihiro Takatori in the Nissan Skyline for his top 16 battle. The judges gave Takatori the advantage in the first run despite a shallow initiation from Takatori as the Skyline easily pulled away from the Z in the later part of the course. Forsberg was unable to claw back that advantage in his lead run and was knocked out of the competition by the man DeAnda now called ‘The Villain’. A disappointment for the current points leader but a relief for Foust and Hubinette who still had the championship lead in their sights!

The first battle of the great 8 was made up Tanner Foust and Ryan Tuerck. Tuerck was driving hard as Foust lead on the first run but his nearly stock Pontiac Solstice was unable to keep up with the momentum of Foust’s mighty turbocharged 350Z. Ryan was only down two points though and could still take the spot in the semi-finals. With the rest of Drift Alliance cheering him on Ryan went into his lead run and used his lack of power to his advantage! The Z was all over the Solstice through the first corner but was unable to match the Pontiacs sedate pace through the transition and ran wide, dropping both rear tyres into the dirt! A fantastic tactical drive from this up and coming star against a more experienced driver with a more powerful car!

Hubinette was also given a tough battle in the top 8 against Takatori who had come through by beating Forsberg. Hubinette lead first, Takatori keeping close to the behemoth of a Viper through the horse shoe section but slightly losing ground on the following straight. The judges gave ‘The Villain the advantage of 8 over Hubinette’s 7. Hubinette came out strong and held onto the tail of the Skyline through the majority of the track straightened in the penultimate corner taking ending Hubinette’s weekend and securing Takatori’s title of The Villain.

The next battle in the great 8 was Rhys Millen against Vaughn Gitten Jr in his famous blue and teal Falken Mustang. The snarling Mustang led first but its bulky frame over shot the first corner, spraying dirt into the air before weaving back onto the track forcing Rhys to slow right down. The two cars managed to continue their run and kept and solid drift going. Rhys was all over Vaughn through the rest of the course, confirming his advantage. Vaughn put in an almighty attack on his chase run, drawing so close to the little Pontiac that Vaughn’s wing was torn off against the Pontiacs wing, but it wasn’t enough and Rhys moves on into the semi-finals.

So the semi-final would consist of Rhys Millen battling his team mate Daijiro Yoshihara who knocked out Bill Sherman in the Braille Batteries 350Z in the top 8 and Ryan Tuerck in the low power Gardella Racing Pontiac Solstice against Michihiro ‘The Villain’ Takatori in the Autobacs Skyline.

First up was Takatori and Tuerck. Takatori lead first, initiating very late which through Tureck off and nearly forced him to a stop. The mighty Nissan was then able to pull away from the Pontiac for the rest of the run. Takatori takes a slight advantage of 5 to Ryan Tuerck’s 3. Tuerck tried the same tactic he used against Foust on Takatori and entered the course slowly, however Takatori wasn’t fazed at all and stayed glued to the door of Tuerck’s Solstice all the way through the course earning The Villain a spot in the final!

The Rhys Millen/Daijiro Yoshihara battle was too close to call on the first runs and went to a one more time. The first run was tied at 9/9, a fantastic run from the both drivers, the second saw Millen pulling away from Yoshihara as Yoshihara makes a couple of mistakes finishing off this close fought battle.

3rd place would be contested by the two Pontiac drivers Daijiro Yoshiara and Ryan Tuerck. The battle was close and went to a one more time. Tuerck took the advantage by one point which secured the 22 year old his first ever Formula Drift podium.

The final battle between Takatori and Millen would be another long and close battle going to a one more time. Millen managed to find a little extra speed in the course and pulled away from Takatori giving him the win. Finally The Villain was defeated and Millen was able to take home his first trophy and his first points of the season.

Round 3 Englishtown, New Jersey

The New Jersey round would be held at Englishtown Raceway Park as the regular venue, The Wall, had closed on March 14th 2008 since track attendance had slowly been declining since the stadium changed hands in 2004. The event would be held on the new road racing course that was built next to the famous drag strip.

The new track was unfamiliar to nearly all the drivers and the practise day saw many cars spinning off into the grass. Despite the challenges that a new track created all of the top 16 drivers managed to score above 90 on their judged qualifying runs. Dai Yoshihara qualified 1st with a score of 98.75 followed by defending champion Tanner Foust with 97.50, Rhys Millen with a 97.13, Samuel Hubinette with 96.88 and Michihiro Takatori with 96.75. Chris Forsberg qualified 8th behind Ryuji Miki in a FD3S RX7 and Tyler McQuarrie in the unique Hankook Racing Porsche 993rs/gt2, the only Porsche to ever (at the time of writing) compete in a Formula Drift competition.

Our first top 16 battle would be between Daijiro Yoshihara and Darren McNamara. Yoshihara progressed into the great 8 after McNamara ran wide into the dirt. Chris Forsberg was to battle Drift Alliance team mate Vaughn Gittin JR, unfortunately JR’s Mustang broke down at the line giving Forsberg an easy spot in the top 8. Hubinette would face Blake Fuller’s Nissan 350Z. Hubinette took the win after Fuller dropped his rear tyres into the dirt on both runs. Tyler McQuarrie took out Tony Angelo’s Mazda RX8 that was liveried to look like the famous Mazda LeMans car the 787B, in a close battle which went to one more time. Tanner Foust progressed after beating the RWD converted Impreza of Verdier, Ryuji Miki knocked out Ryan Tuerck and Ross Petty got taken out by Rhys Millen. Conrad Grunewald made great 8 after a messy battle with Michihiro ‘The Villain’ Takatori; Conrad dropped a tyre on his chase run giving Takatori the advantage but on Takatori’s chase run his Skyline slew wide off the track spraying columns of dirt into the air and pull the Skylines bumper off on the rough ground rounding off the top 16.

In the great 8 Dai Yoshihara took out Chris Forsberg. In a battle of the GT cars Tyler McQuarrie took out Samuel Hubinette in an incredibly close battle that went to a one more time and was decided by one single point. Tanner Foust battled Ryuji Miki. Foust put in a clean lead run and managed to pull some distance between himself and Miki giving him a two point advantage. Miki’s rear wheels unfortunately dropped off the track on his lead run, costing him the battle and his rear bumper which was tossed across the grassy infield. Finally, Conrad Grunewald lined up against Rhys Millen. Grunewald spun out on his lead run and Millen was unable to stop in time and pushed the rear corner of Grunewald’s Corvette around like a police car would to stop a felon. Thankfully neither car was badly damaged by the incident and Rhys went through into the semi-finals.
The first leg of the semi-final was Dai Yoshihara in the Pontiac GTO against Tyler McQuarrie in the Porsche. The battle was incredibly close but McQuarrie took the win, the unusual machine surprising the audience with its ability. The second phase was Rhys Millen and Tanner Foust. Another very close battle that saw Foust go through to the finals with a victory of just two points.

Rhys Millen Racing team mates Daijiro Yoshihara and Rhys Millen fought for 3rd place in the Pontiac GTO & Solstice. Rhys put in some of the best chase runs of the day against his team mate, putting the little Solstice right up against the doors of the mighty GTO, and took home the bronze.

So, the final two were Tanner Foust in the turbo-charged Rockstar Energy Nissan 350Z and Tyler McQuarrie in the Hankook Tyres/JIC Porsche 993rs/gt2.  The Porsche was an incredibly fast machine but was simply no match for Foust’s Nissan which pulled a good lead on the Porsche in its lead run and was able to stay right on the Porsche’s doors in its chase run.

This victory gave Tanner a good lead in the championship points wise over rivals Rhys Millen, who missed the first event and Forsberg, who had disappointing results in the last two events, really opening up the possibility of back to back championships for him.


Round 4 Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Nevada

Round 4 saw the Formula Drift circus hit Las Vegas. This round would be held in the car park of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Practise would run throughout the day and the battles would held at night. The fast battles on this temporary circuit, which was lined with concrete barriers, and plenty of off track activities meant that the fans had lots to look forward to from this event. D1GP star Manabu ‘Max’ Orido also made his Formula Drift debut in the Project U Toyota Aristo.

On track, the mix of the Nevada heat making the insides of the cars feel like ovens and having to learn a new course, a course which many of the drivers said was the fastest in Formula D this year, really pushed the drivers to their limits! Veterans Kyle Mohan and Ryuji Miki were not able to qualify into the top 16. Vaughn Gittin Jr was also unable to compete due to engine failure and Darren McNamara was unable to attend.

Top 16 was kicked off with points leader Tanner Foust against Robbie Nishida who was driving a Hankook liveried 350Z. The two Nissans danced through the stage, door on door, for both runs. The judges were unable to make a decision and called for one more time. Nishida showed an advantage in the one more time and went through to the great 8. A worryingly early exit for Foust.

The next battle would be between D1 driver Toshiki Yoshioka in his Toyota Corolla AE86 and Stephan Verdier in his Impreza. This was Yoshioka’s second Formula D appearance and he was eager to make an impression! The first battle was close, Yoshioka following the Impreza around without too much drama. On the other hand Verdier hit a tyre wall on the outside of the track when he was chasing which badly damaged the rear of his Subaru. He was able to cobble the car back together in the five minutes allowed but was unable to beat Yoshioka who went on to the great 8.

Daijiro Yoshihara also progressed to the great 8 after Chris Forsberg tapped the wall in front of the grandstand with enough force to pull the Nissan’s rear bumper off and end his drift.

Dai then sailed into the semi-final after defeating Nishida in the great 8. Orido faced up against Hubinette for a spot in the semi-final. The big red Toyota looked impressive going round but the judges gave the spot to Hubinette. Yoshioka and Takatori also made it to the semi-finals after both their opponents, Rhys Millen and Tony Brakiohapa, fell victim to the concrete walls and tyre walls that surround the circuit.

The final 4 was kicked off with a battle between David and Goliath. The little Corolla of Yoshioka squared up against the mighty Viper of Hubinette and won. The other leg was of course Dai Yoshihara against Michihiro Takatori, which Dai was able to win.

This means that the final would be between Yoshioka and Yoshihara and the battle for third would be between Hubinette and Takatori.


The battle between Hubinette and Takatori was tight. Hubinette mirrored Takatori beautifully in the first run but Takatori made a small error and tagged the wall giving Hubinette third place.

Once again Yoshioka’s little Corolla would face a mighty American giant, this time in the guise of Yoshihara’s Bridgestone Pontiac GTO. The two cars were inseparable for the first two runs and a one more time was called. Yoshioka put in a fantastic drive in the one more time and really got under the larger, more powerful car’s wing securing his first ever Formula Drift victory!

Despite Foust’s early exit he was still in first place in the championship by the end of round 4. Hubinette had managed to close the gap considerably though and was only 8 points behind the leader. Yoshihara’s podium cemented his third place and only 13 points separate him and Foust. So everything would be to play for in Seattle!

Round 5 Evergreen Speedway, Washington

Evergreen Speedway near Seattle in Monroe, Washington is by nature a difficult track with its fast 4th gear initiation on the NASCAR banking followed by a tight technical infield section. This year the track was made even more difficult by the weather. It was dry and bright for the practise day on the Friday but the weather was not ideal for qualifying and competition on the Saturday. Black clouds brought showers throughout the day but the August heat was quickly evaporating the standing water meaning that track conditions were fairly unpredictable which caught many drivers out, including Falken driver Vaughn Gittin Jr who slid into the wall of the banking badly damaging the Mustangs suspension and taking the crowd favourite out of competition for the weekend. This is the second event in a row that Vaughn was unable to compete in following his engine failure in Vegas.

The difficult conditions played to the advantage of some drivers. Tanner Foust (who knocked out Kyle Mohan in the top 16) and Rhys Millen (who knocked out Hayashida) had both competed in Rally and Rally Cross events so were used to competing in the wet. Darren McNamara was used to drifting in the wet having come from Ireland and took out Tony Angelo in his Mazda RX8. Top qualifier Samuel Hubinette had competed in ice racing back home, however by the time he came to race Ken Gushi the track had nearly dried out so his experience was not as useful here as it was in qualifying. Gushi’s TC also had an issue with its clutch which aided Hubinette’s progression.

Elsewhere in the top 16 Robbie Nishida defeated Justin Pawlak. The battle was close but Pawlak was slightly off line in a couple of corners so the judges decided Nishida should progress. Hopeful championship contenders Chris Forsberg and Daijiro Yoshihara were both knocked out in the top 16, respectively Forsberg was knocked out by Ryujji Miki and Yoshihara was knocked out by Ryan Tuerck. To round the top 16 off Michihiro Takatori defeated Conrad Grunewald.

The first battle of the great 8 would be Rhys Millen vs Darren McNamara. The two GM cabriolets were door to door through both runs across the, once again, wet track and the judges were unable to decide a victor and the battle went to one more time which saw Millen pull away from McNamara and take the spot in the semi-final. Ryan Tuerck lined up against Robbie Nishida. Tuerck led first and the more powerful Nissan of Nishida pushed the little Pontiac around the banking. Tuerck aquaplaned into the infield section of the track causing the Pontiac to spin right in front of Nishida who forced his Nissan into a spin to save hitting the Solstice. Nishida then led and pulled a comfortable advantage over Tuerck confirming his place in the semi-final. Ryuji Miki would fall victim to the diabolical track conditions and spun his Mazda in both runs against Hubinette.

So the semi-finals would see Hubinette battle Nishida and Foust battling Millen. Both Hubinette and Foust would be giving it their all to get into the final. If Hubinette could win Round 5 he would take over the points lead for the championship and if Foust could win the event it would extend his lead greatly. Hubinette’s determination and experience on slippery surfaces from ice racing allowed him to progress against Nishida. Nishida battled well though and did not allow Hubinette through with a huge advantage. The battle between the two rally experienced drivers Rhys Millen and Tanner Foust would be an incredibly close affair which the judges couldn’t decide a winner from. They went back out for a one more time which decided Millen as the victor after Foust made a couple of minor mistakes.

Therefore Nishida would battle Foust for third place and Millen would battle Hubinette for first and second. Foust pulled a slight advantage over Nishida in his lead run but spun out in his chase run giving Nishida the spot on the podium. The battle between Hubinette and Millen went to one more time and Millen was able to pull a slight lead on Hubinette which meant that Millen took the victory. However Hubinette was able to take the championship points lead away from Foust. The points standings at this late stage in the season for first, second and third place, which belonged to Millen, were incredibly close which mean that the championship could go a number of ways! All three drivers would certainly be coming out strong in the final two rounds in California!

Round 6 Infinion Raceway, California

Round 6 takes us to the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, northern California. In stark contrast to Round 5, the weather at Sonoma was hot and bright. The track layout wasn’t too dissimilar to that encountered at Seattle. There was no banking to contend with but the track saw the cars initiate at over 90mph before moving into a tight and technical section of track. Too add to the difficulty, there was no practise day which meant the drivers had to learn the track, and set their cars, on the morning of qualifying.

The first match of the top 16 saw Samuel Hubinette, who had qualified first which put him in a fantastic spot to extend his lead over Tanner Foust in the championship, take out Ryuji Miki.

Next, Ryan Tuerck would take on Ken Gushi. Tuerck led first with Gushi chasing. Tuerck set himself up from a wide angle to get in close to a right hand front clipping point but Gushi went in shallow and was unable to correct himself before the two cars made contact. The contact was only slight and both cars were able to maintain their drift, although the impact was enough to break the quick release mounts on the Scion’s bumper. Since Gushi should have been mirroring Tuerck’s line the judges put Tuerck through to the great 8.
The next battle between Rhys Millen and Robbie Nishida also saw Nishida run wide on his chase run, taking out several track markers and sending his Nissan spinning into the dust. He was unable to reduce the points deficit his mistake had made and Millen went through to the great 8.

Kazu Hayashida put up a strong fight against Conrad Grunewald but the Corvette was able to keep on the door of the little Nissan on Grunewald’s chase run and pulled away from the S-body on his lead run getting him through to the top 8.

Tanner Foust seemed to be confident on this tight circuit and easily managed to take the win over Takatori who appeared to be wrestling the large Skyline around the tight circuit.

The next battle would be between two cars that also looked massive on this tight circuit, Daijiro Yoshihara’s Pontiac GTO and Vaughn Gittin Jr’s Ford Mustang. The two behemoths slugged it out in what was a very closely fought and entertaining battle to watch. Vaughn had the edge though and was able to secure a place in the top 8.

Bill Sherman, competing in his old Retaks Lifestyle 240sx, made it through to the great 8 after Stephan Verdier spun his Subaru Impreza into the dirt on his chase run.

The last battle of the top 16 would be Chris Forsberg in the NOS Energy Drink convertible 350Z against Kyle Mohan in the white and gold Mazdatrix FC3S RX7. Mohan put in a fantastic chase against Forsberg but on his chase run he lost grip in a tight corner, Mohan lost momentum and his place in the top 8 which went to Forsberg.

The top 8 would see Samuel Hubinette face Ryan Tuerck, Rhys Millen battle Conrad Grunewald, Tanner Foust face Vaughn Gittin Jr and Bill Sherman against Chris Forsberg. Hubinette put in a fantastic chase run against Tuerck but a mistake in his lead run scored him a zero which put Tuerck into the semi-finals and increased Foust’s chances of taking back the lead in the championship.

Another mistake cost Grunewald his battle against Millen. On his chase run the Corvette slewed wide and Millen was able to pull a huge lead on Grunewald, securing his place in the final four.

The next battle between Vaughn Gitten Jr and Tanner Foust also saw sloppy mistakes. The first run, with Foust leading and Gittin in chase was good and Foust came away with a slight advantage but the second run saw both cars score zero as Foust straightened and Gittin ran wide into the dirt. Foust had the advantage in the first run though and progressed.

Finally Bill Sherman would battle Chris Forsberg. The first run saw both drivers making mistakes and scoring low points. Bill seemed to gain his composure and put in a solid run in the second leg of the battle and proceeded into the final four.

The first battle of the final four would be the familiar sight of the Pontiac Solstices of Rhys Millen and Ryan Tuerck. The battle was close but the judges gave the victory to Millen. In the other leg of the semi-final Bill Sherman lined up against Tanner Foust. Sherman put up a good fight but the 350Z of Foust over powered the 240sx and put a healthy gap between the two cars on its chase run, securing Foust’s place in the final.

The final at Round 6 of the 2008 Formula Drift Championship would therefore be between now first place Tanner Foust and third place Rhys Millen. First came the battle for third between Sherman and Tuerck. Sherman simply out drove Tuerck and earned his place on the podium. The final itself would be a much more closely contested affair. Millen and Foust drove a fantastic, door on door tandem but the judges decided that Foust put in the better run and gave him the victory.

At this stage Foust had taken back control of the points table and Millen had scored well which closed the gap between him and Hubinette. For these three drivers it really would be all to play for at the final round of the championship in Irwindale!

Round 7 Irwindale Speedway, California

The Formula Drift judges decided to alter the clipping points for the Irwindale round this year as the course hadn’t really been changed since its inaugural use in 2004 and it was decided that the drivers needed a challenge. Those taking the previous years line through the track would be at a disadvantage.

Tanner Foust enters this round as championship points leader but Hubinette and Millen are close on his tail and tensions are high leading into the final round of 2008.

Kicking off the top 16 top qualifier Rhys Millen would face 15th place qualifier Ryuji Miki. Both drivers attacked the course at 100%, literally at times, both cars tapped the wall on the outer banking but maintained their drift. It was a tight call but the judges gave the round to Miki, ending Millen’s championship hopes. Chris Forsberg ran against Drift Alliance team mate Ryan Tuerck. A crash between the two broke Forsberg’s car so Tuerck went through. Michihiro ‘The Villain’ Takatori picked off crowd favourite Daijiro Yoshihara. Vaughn Gittin Jr knocked the Retaks Nissan 240sx of Bill Sherman out of the running. In a battle of the pop-up lights ‘80’s coupes Justin Pawlak in the Drift Alliance FCRX7 beat Taka Aono in the Falken liveried Toyota AE86. Samuel Hubinette progressed by default as Conrad Grunewald’s Corvette broke down during the opening ceremony. Mitsuru Haraguchi attempted to throw off Tanner Foust by brake checking him but was unsuccessful and Foust went through. To round off the top 16 Robbie Nishida in the Hankook 350Z defeated Max Orido in his Aristo.

In the great 8 Vaughn Gittin Jr out classed Ryuji Miki and earned himself a place in the semi-finals. Takatori faced Hubinette, when Takatori was leading the run was close but on Hubinette’s lead run he straightened out allowing Takatori to go through into the semi-final. A gutting mistake by a very talented driver which effectively gave Tanner Foust the 2008 championship. Tanner himself faced Ryan Tuerck and defeated him after a one more time. The championship victor was clearly still fighting to win this event. Robbie Nishida battled Justin Pawlak. The little Mazda driven by Pawlak gave the Nissan one hell of a fight through the first battle and the judges called one more time. In the one more time Nishida straightens slightly on his chase run which put Pawlak into the final four!

The first leg of the semi-finals saw Vaughn Gittin Jr battle Michihiro Takatori. The Mustang vs the Skyline. Takatori put in a valiant effort but was simply no match for Vaughn who seems to be totally at home on the Irwindale circuit. The other leg would see Tanner Foust defeating Justin Pawlak.

Michihiro Takatori and Justin Pawlak would therefore fight for third place. The two blue cars lined up. Pawlak would lead first and Takatori would give chase. As the two cars entered the left hand sweeper created by the banking Takatori tagged the wall with the rear of his car, slightly straightening out. Takatori was able to keep momentum though and finished the run with the drivers side corner of his rear bumper flapping around behind the R34 Skyline. The two cars swapped places and Takatori lead Pawlak into the second run. Takatori tried to use the Skyline’s mighty power to pull away from the little Mazda but Pawlak was having none of it and was able to stay on Takatori’s door securing his third place and his first ever Formula D podium finish.

The final battle would see arguably two of the greatest drifters in the world, at this time, going head to head. Both Tanner Foust and Vaughn Gittin Jr gave the battle 110%, staying each other’s doors and tagging the walls and clipping points they went round. After some deliberation the judges gave the victory to Vaughn Gittin Jr, giving him his first Formula Drift first place finish.

All in all the 2008 championship was an exciting one. Tanner Foust was consistently putting in fantastic performances all season and his second consecutive championship. Samuel Hubinette was also driving brilliantly, he just lacked the consistency of Foust. Rhys Millen also put in a great performance and did well to finish third after a bad start to the season. Once again the bar was raised in terms of the professionalism of the teams and the quality of the cars throughout the season. However, the professional drifting season wasn’t over yet and founders of Formula Drift had organised one last California based event which would see a lot of Formula Drift drivers in attendance, The Red Bull World Championship!

The Red Bull World Championship

The Red Bull World Drifting Championship was a non-championship one off “All Star” drift competition. The event was, of course, sponsored by Red Bull and was hosted by Slipstream Global Marketing, the company behind Formula Drift.

It would be held on a picturesque 900 acre site on the Port of Long Beach known as ‘Port S’. The temporary venue borrowed the grandstands from the Long Beach Grand Prix which could hold up to 25,000 spectators with 2000 more VIPs. The entire venue was towered over by these huge red and white cranes which made for some fantastic photographs (especially in the sunset) and gave the event an almost underground street drifting feel. The atmosphere was also heightened by the ash falling from bush fires from the more rural parts of California.

The track starts on a long straight to allow for a rolling start the cars then initiate into a fast right hand sweeper (initiation speeds were up to 104mph) along a wall where the first clipping point was located. The sweeper then tightened into another right hand 180 degree corner housing the first inner clipping point slowing the cars down. They then transition into a left hand 180 before carrying on along a small section of straight and into a left hand kink. The kink the track led into another sharp right hand corner which was followed by a long left and across the finish line.

Only the best drivers in the world were invited to take part. To be eligible for an invitation a driver had to have finished in the top 16 of the 2008 Formula Drift season or have won one of the following overseas championships:

-Drift Mania Canadian Championship
-NZ Drift Series
-Drift Australia
-European Drift Championship
-International Drift Series
-Nordic Drift Championship
-D1GP (If a driver had been a previous title holder at D1GP they were also eligible.)

33 drivers were entered into the competition with 8 declining the invites.

From Formula Drift were:

Driver Name Sponsors Car
Tanner Foust Rockstar/AEM Nissan 350Z
Samuel Hubinette Nuformz/Mopar/BFG Dodge Viper
Rhys Millen RMR/Red Bull Pontiac Solstice
Daijiro Yoshihara RMR Pontiac GTO
Robbie Nishida Hankook Tyres Nissan 350Z
Michihiro Takatori Super Autobacs Nissan Skyline R34
Conrad Grunewald Tanaka Racing/Nitto Tyres Chevrolet Corvette C5
Chris Forsberg NOS Energy Drink Nissan 350Z
Vaughn Gittin Jr Falken Tires Ford Mustang
Darren McNamara Sears/Falken Tires Saturn Sky V8
Justin Pawlak   Mazda RX7 FC3S
Ryuji Miki Apexi Mazda RX7 FD3S
Stephan Verdier Crawford Motorsports Subaru Impreza
Ken Gushi RSR/Scion Scion TC
Bill Sherman Retaks/Bridgestone Nissan 240sx S13
Kyle Mohan   Mazda RX7 FC3S

Representing the New Zealand scene were Garry Whiter from D1NZ in the Toyo Tyres Nissan S14.5 and Carl Ruiterman from NZ Drift E&H Motors Nissan S14

Travelling in from Australia and representing Drift Australia were:
-Leighton Fine in the Toyo Tyres Nissan S14
-Luke Fink in the Holford Motors Nissan 180sx
-Robbie Bolger in his privately entered Nissan 180sx

Ben Broke-Smith in the Driftworks Toyota Chaser and Tim Marshall in Apex Performance Chevy V8 powered R33 Skyline for entered from the UK’s European Drift Championship

From neighbouring Ireland and ProDrift was the up and coming James Deane in his Nexen Tyres sponsored Nissan S14.5 and Eric O’Sullivan in his Honda powered Toyota Corolla.

Freddy Girrard and Marcos Santos were both entered from the Canadian DMCC

From the German IDS were the two Dutchman Remmo Neizen in his V8 powered BMW E30 and Paul Vlasblom in the Driftking.nl sponsored M3 powered BMW E36 Touring.

Another up and coming star Frederick Aasbo was there from the Nordic Drift Championship in his Japan Auto sponsored MKIV Toyota Supra.

From Formula Drift Singapore were New Zealander ‘Mad’ Mike Whiddet in the famous Red Bull sponsored 4 rotor Mazda RX7 FD3S and Tengku Djan Ley.

Finally from D1GP we have the 2002 Champion Katsuhiro Ueo in the Drift Speed sponsored Nissan S15.

As we can see at this stage throughout the international drift scene the car of choice was still Japanese, many of the entrants to this contest driving either Nissans Toyotas or Mazdas. However some American drivers by this stage were using V8s in GM/Ford chassis and the BMW E30s and E36s which are still very popular to this day throughout Europe are clearly competitive with the Japanese machinery. The top 3 spots in qualifying were actually taken by non-Japanese cars. Rhys Millen taking top spot in his Pontiac GTO followed up by Sam Hubinette in the Dodge Viper and Paul Vlasblom in the M3 wagon. Katsuhiro Ueo qualified 4th and the rest of the field was fairly mixed. Showing that drifting throughout the world at this stage was fairly equal and that talent was being produced worldwide.

The battles proved to be just as diverse until the top 8 which was largely made up of drivers from Formula Drift, Australia and New Zealand. Rhys Millen lined up against Vaughn Gittin Jr who knocked himself out of the competition by slamming into the concerete wall of the fast sweeper on his chase run at nearly 100mph totalling the Ford Mustang and allowing Millen to proceed to the semi-final.

The battle between 2008 champion Tanner Foust and Mike Whiddet was also a destructive affair. On Whiddet’s chase run he clipped the same wall as JR did after a late initiation tearing the rear wing off of his RX7 and pulling the car around into the wall. Whiddet somehow recovered and was able to finish his run but dropped back several car lengths giving Foust a huge advantage who put in a neat run. Whiddet’s lead run was no more successful. The screaming Mazda flew from the start line. Whiddet initiated at 99.2mph trying to make up for the advantage he had given Foust in the first run but again he over cooked it and backed into the plastic barriers that make up the start of the wall, spraying white plastic into the tyres behind! He managed to hold momentum but Tanner Foust put in another clean run and earned himself a place in the semi-final!

Next up was Samuel Hubinette and Chris Forsberg. Forsberg stalled on the start line allowing Hubinette to put in a clean run uncontested. Forsberg would lead the next run which he did cleanly, however Hubinette put in a good chase run too and the advantage from the first run was so great the judges let Hubinette through into the semi-final.

The final battle of the top 8 would therefore be Daijiro Yoshihara in the Pontiac GTO and Katsuhiro Ueo in the Nissan Silvia. The two were inseparable for the first two runs and the battle went to one more time. Ueo led first and made a massive entry into the first corner but the monstrous Pontiac was nipping at it’s heels the whole way through the first corner! Ueo then physically touched the first inner clipping point knocking it over but if it had still been there Dai would have hit it as well! Ueo did pull away slightly towards the end of the run but was way off the last clipping point… The battle goes to the next run! Daijiro leads away, the mighty V8 pulling away from the little Nissan four cylinder but Dai touches the wall with the back of his car allowing Ueo to reel him back in… A little too quickly, Ueo has to let off to avoid hitting Yoshihara and straightens. A costly mistake in an other wise close battle. Yoshihara goes through to the semi-final.

The semi-final was therefore an all Formula Drift driver affair with Millen battling Foust and Yoshihara battling Hubinette featuring the two Pontiacs, a Viper and the Rockstar 350Z.

The first battle would be Millen vs Foust. Millen led first. Foust initiated slightly early on his chase run but managed to maintain momentum and was all over Millen throughout the rest of the run, the judges were impressed! Millen then counterattacked with a brilliant chase run which saw him door on door at times with Foust. Millen’s run had the proximity advantage which got him through with two of the judges voting for him and third voting for one more time.

The other half of the semi-final was Daijiro Yoshihara vs Samuel Hubinette in an all GM battle. Hubinette leads first, the Viper pulling a massive 101mph initiation but the Pontiac of Yoshihara keeps up nicely through the sweeper and managed to pull the Viper in for the rest of the track whilst maintaining a perfect mirror run of the Dodge. Hubinette needs to pull off something spectacular in his chase run to get through but the Pontiac pulls the Dodge a little too quickly into the first corner forcing the Viper to spin and back into the wall.

The Viper’s boot was clean ripped off of the car but mechanically it survived meaning it could do battle for third place against Tanner Foust’s 350Z. Samuel put down a clean lead run, unsurprisingly keeping his car under the 100mph mark but Tanner also put in a clean chase run and was given the advantage. Foust also managed to pull away in his lead run, Hubinette clearly a little shaken by his rendezvous with the wall in his previous battle.

Which leads us to a final of Rhys Millen against his Rhys Millen Racing team mate Daijiro Yoshihara in an all Pontiac final under a beautiful California sunset. Millen had the psychological advantage over Yoshihara here as he had previously defeated his team mate at Englishtown earlier in the year. He would be the first to lead and put in a huge 102mph entry into the sweeper. Yoshihara seemed to misjudge the entry allowing his team mate to pull a considerable lead on him and keeping him well away from the wall and he was never able to recover. This put Millen at a huge advantage! Dai clearly wanted to make up for his mistake and attacked the course on his lead run at 103mph but Millen was right on his door! Dai tries to gain a little ground on the left hand transition but over does it and spins, Millen skilfully manages to avoid the spinning GTO and cleanly finishes off his run crowning him the official Red Bull World Champion!

I hope you enjoyed reading this! As you can tell the book has become a monstrous project. As above, please feel free to leave me feedback it would be very much appreciated!

Thanks for reading!

Leave a Reply