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DANCING WITH THE STARS

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, May 29, 2011

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

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Dancing at Formula Drift, part of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

DANCING, FORMULA DRIFT STYLE Words and pictures by John Grafman Some ask, “How does a sport like drifting, just eight years old, share the limelight with IndyCar”? But for some the bigger question still remains, what is drifting? Unlike other traditional racing events in motorsports, drifting is about style and execution, not crossing a finish line first. By its very nature it makes it difficult as a spectator to know who’s leading. However, this is one of the most engaging race car events. The drivers intentionally push the cars sideways, sliding the cars deftly around the course, more often than not narrowly missing the walls or the other competitors. On occasion, contact happens. It’s sort of an occupational hazard.

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Formula Drift was created as an outgrowth of the sport that started its roots in the late 80’s in America, but really was originating from street racers or "hashiriya" for more than 15 years before that on the canyons and roads of Japan. Formula D brought together 32 drivers, 17 past and present championship, from 12 nations, representing 12 series for the first ever world championship, which now has seven races in the series. The demographics tell the story on the sport, 87 percent of Formula Drift fans are between 18-34 years old. The fans are young, but then so are the drivers. Tanner Foust, Vaughn Gittin, Jr. (first place in 2010), and Rhys Millen (second place in 2010) are well known within Formula D, and have been making waves outside the series too. This year at Long Beach the results are Justin Pawlak (13) in first, Matt Powers (665) in second, and third place goes to Daijro Yoshihara (9). Both Justin and Matt are from the USA, Dai is from Japan. This year Rhys didn’t make it out of the quarterfinal round. And Tanner isn’t in the competition at all this year.

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The team competition was won by Team Mazda

Justin’s ride through the race is a 2011 Ford Mustang, sponsored by Falken Tire. The motivation comes via a Ford Racing / Roush Yates engine with a healthy 845 HP. HRE Wheels and Wilwood brakes are also sponsors. Matt races with Team “Need for Speed” Nitto Tire in a Nissan 240SX that sports 500 horsepower. Dai Yoshihara also races as a part of Team Falken. His rig is equipped with a 6.7 Aluminum V8, spiting out 570hp. But those here on grand prix race weekend might find the action to be lacking. The reason is the series actually races the week prior. With track time at a premium with the various race series, it just makes the Formula Drift impossible to squeeze in.

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Nevertheless, fans are treated to the Team Drift Challenge during the Long Beach GP weekend. This is even less similar to what most race fans are comfortable with. If drifting is comparable to skateboarding or surfing, Team Drift is most similar to synchronized swimming. The teams are judged using a 15-point scale, where the maximum score is 15 points. What those attending witness are groups of three on a team as they slip and slide their way along the course. At given points on the track drivers’ preform coordinated displays that have the drifters act like earthbound jets from the Blue Angels. The near collision-inducing dance among cars is almost circus like. Perhaps this makes the most sense considering that with Indy, ALMS, and WCC in the center ring, drifting really takes on the appearance of a sideshow act. But it isn’t the only race that’s second tier, the Toyota Pro/Celebrity race also is fighting for its day in the sun. Race Results (finals) First place: Justin Pawlak (No. 13) USA Second place: Matt Powers (No. 665) USA Third place: Daijro Yoshihara (No. 9) Japan Team Competition Winner: Team Mazda More race results at formulad.com/schedule/results

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William Fichtner's winning car

WITH THE STARS AT THE PRO/CELEBRITY RACE Words by Kurt Fuhrmann Pictures by John Grafman To demonstrate their appreciation, and to gain a little free PR, the celebrities race the streets of Long beach for a good cause. Toyota donates $5000 to the Long Beach Memorial Hospital’s Miller Children’s Hospital. To the winning celebrity Toyota will donate another $5000 to the winner’s charity of choice. Although the race will be tenacious in and of itself, the winner has bragging rights and a special charity will as well. Some of the celebrities up for the challenge include returning champion Brian Austin Green from Desperate Housewives and Beverly Hills 90210; AJ Buckley from CSI Miami; Jillian Barberie Reynolds , the host of Good Day LA; two-time Academy Award nominated actor Djimon Hounsou from Amistad and Blood Diamond; Kim Coates from Sons of Anarchy; William Fichtner in Armageddon, Contact, and Crash; Pop Superstar Kevin Jonas; Ultimate Fighter Tito Ortiz; Stephen Moyer of True Blood and Malcolm in the Middle fame; actor Mike Trucco, and Actress Megyn Price. Not only are all the celebrities racing against each other, they also have pro racers such as Chris Rado who set a track record and win at Willow Springs in 2008; Kody Swanson a national midget car racing champion, and Ken Gushi is one of the nation's top competitors in the sport of drifting. The pros will be looking for the smallest of openings to take any racing advantage they can throughout the streets of Long Beach. Stephen Moyer did not compete in the race, because he flipped his car in a horrific crash during qualifying. He’s okay, but he didn’t compete in the race due to concerns for his well-being. He did, however win the pole position garnering a $15,000 donation for his charity. Perhaps the other celebrities are glad he is not racing given his ability. Throughout the 35 years that the Pro/Celebrity races have been navigating the street course of Long Beach, there has been quite a few thrills, fender benders, and perhaps even more cars piled up in the tires somewhere along the race course than Toyota would care to count. As the 2011 race started, Jillian Barberie Reynolds is the first to crash into a tire barrier, her car then drifting to a stop near the far wall of the track. It seems as though she starting a trend with celebrities bumping into each other, or even crashing during the brief 10-laps of the race. William Fichtner gets an early lead in the race and never gives it up, not even succumbing to the pressures of pro Ken Gushi. After Jillian's crash, ultimate fighter Tito Ortiz and Kevin Jonas hit the tire wall in turn six, losing bumpers and crunching their Scions along the way. Djimon Hounsou also crashed his car during the race, as did number 6 Kim Coates creating a new design to the left side of his Scion, including the elimination of his side view mirror. Unfortunately, the Ultimate Fighter Tito Ortiz seems to have trouble navigating a race car during qualifying, and also during the race. As long as racers are not injured there’s a little humor when the bent and crumpled Scions are towed back. Returning champion Brian Austin Green’s driving is aggressive, clipping several cars, plus a slight run in with a wall along the way, and he didn’t win this race, but somehow he finished respectably.

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FINAL RACE RESULTS

Pos.

Class

Name

Laps

Time

1

Celebrity

William Fichtner

10

18:25.109

2

Pro

Ken Gushi

10

18:28.900

3

Celebrity

Michael Trucco

10

18:32.232

4

Pro

Frankie Muniz

10

18:34.923

5

Toyota Dealer

Mike Sullivan

10

18:39.185

6

Celebrity

Kim Coates

10

18:42.729

7

Celebrity

Daniel Goddard

10

18:44.721

8

Pro

Brian Austin Green

10

18:47.289

9

Pro

Kody Swanson

10

18:48.915

10

Charity Auction Winner

Jerry Westlund

10

19:04.896

11

Celebrity

Megyn Price

10

19:05.388

12

Celebrity

Tito Ortiz

10

18:05.389

13

Celebrity

Kevin Jonas

10

19:12.154

14

Celebrity

Djimon Hounsou

10

19:25.930

15

Celebrity

AJ Buckley

10

20:02.946

16

Pro

Chris Rado

6

11:28.896

17

Celebrity

Jillian Barberie Reynolds

4

7:50.173

.

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