On July 19, 2009, I went to Nihonkai Maze Circuit to compete in a D1 Street Legal Divisional East round. This marked the first time an American driver to ever compete in an Japanese D1 competition. It was quite a memorable experience to see how it is like to participate in a J-Style drift comp.
My trip started with the car all loaded up on the infamous Team Orange Double Decker car transporter in front of the Team Orange Headquarters – K Style. That S13 is Naoto Suenaga’s ’08 D1 Street Legal Championship car. They got a Yokomo Drift R/C replica of that car. It’s his street car now, straight gangster.
Keigo and I got to roll to Maze circuit in luxury style in Kumakubo’s baller daily Lexus. Maze is about 2 hours away from Ebisu towards the oceanside between Japan and China. It was real country out there. We had to drive through a small town with real narrow streets and some touge style road to get there. I can see why people can’t use trailers like how we do it in the States, their no room for that in Japan.
Maze Circuit has two paddock areas, we pitted in the center of the main lower paddock area. The cars that were competing where pretty high level builds and many of them looked fully sponsored even at this level.
The roster list showed 55 competitors with horsepower ratings averaging about 400hp. My car still had a stock turbo and stock fuel system with the boost turned up. Igusa of K-Style did a quickie boost setting check to see how much I can turn up the controller. I ended up turning it up to 1.08 bar which I’m guessing it made about 260hp if that. So I knew I was way down on power compared to the J-guys, but I just wanted to push myself to see how I would do with this car setup and to experience a Japanese D1 comp.
The judges for this D1 Divisional series are D1 GP champions, Kumakubo and Kawabata. They did the driver’s meeting and explained the course layout. I was relying on their hand signals and Keigo to understand what they were saying.
The track gives you number plates for you to put on your car, which you had to return at the of the day. I was number 26 that event. They also give you a cool sticker that you had to rock that shows what D1 Division you are competing in and their sponsors.
Here is the main part of the track that they judge you from which consist of 3 corners. The track layout is pretty cool cause you can watch a lot of the action pretty close from around this side of the track. This picture was taken form the upper paddock area.
The way D1 formats their competitions is much different than how we do it here in the US. They start off by splitting the field into 2 groups, A and B. There are two 15 mins. practice sessions for each group where you just do laps around the course. There was a section on the course before the start of the first judged corner that everyone would all slow down and give space to run solo passes. There was no starter regulating the flow, the J-guys just knew the proper etiquette.
After the practice sessions, the first round of qualifying ran the same way. 15 minute session of just doing laps and they just picked the top 30 to run in the 2nd round of qualifying. They announced the result of the first round by posted up this result paper on the wall for people to look at. I was relieved to see my number 26 making top 30 which meant I got to run in the 2nd round of qualifying. During that round they gave you 3 judged passes with a starter present this time. From there they pick top 16 to run tandem. You get so much more track time with this format. I prefer this way compared to Formula D’s stop and go style format.
The judged course starts with a tight right turn into a slight left which I am going through in this pic. That inner left hand berm was the first main inner clip.
They then wanted you to drift wide onto the outer clipping zone berm. The judges paid special attention to this section of the track and watched how smooth you rotated during the slight left corner and how aggressive you rotated onto this main right corner entry.
The final section of the course requires you to be full throttle, clipping the inner berm and drifting out to the track out exit berm. Overall it was a fun technical track layout. It rained on and off throughout the day. I was actually hoping it would rain during the qual sessions so that my lack of power would not be as apparent, but it stayed dry during both rounds of qualifying.
I ended up finishing 17th, just 0.05 point shy of top 16. The judges said that I drove very well for how my car was setup. They said that I just needed a bit more power and I would have been able to make it through.
Here is my JDM mechanic that helped me out the entire time. Thanks Keigo!
At the end of the event they had a couple of large tables of prizes which were given away for random categories like the best drift going reverse course during the tandem return run and many other categories I wasn’t able to understand. I even got a little prize for being a “gaijin” (foreigner) competitor. The rest of the prizes where given out little by little with multiple games of “rock-paper-scissor.” This really made the event for the people that attended. Overall I was really impressed with the level of the drivers and cars, how much driving time you get at these events and how quickly they went through the event. It started at 8am and ended at 3pm. It was a great experience and got me thinking about building up my S14 over there to compete in the high level D1 Street Legal series in the future.
K-Style Car Shop