Yoshihara supreme in Formula Drift Long Beach
Daijiro Yoshihara practices on Saturday morning under cloudy skies – Anne Proffit photo
Formula Drift began its 10th anniversary season on the streets of Long Beach, CA this past weekend, putting this beachside city in race mode one week before the 39th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
The Formula D contingent use only a few corners on the Long Beach street circuit and pack the people in for a sell-out celebration of burning rubber, monstrous horsepower and balletic synergy in their racing.
The action started early when two-time and defending Long Beach winner Justin Pawlak (JTP) managed to stuff his Falken Ford Mustang into the barrier right near the long-and-white-bearded corner worker the drivers all call “Santa”. Local driver Kyle Mohan then clouted the unforgiving barriers on both sides of the racetrack – and both drivers came back after their practice gaffes to qualify for the Saturday Round of 32!
On Saturday, Chevrolet Camaro driver Tyler McQuarrie was unable to make the call to race in a brand new 2014 model that’s powered by Chevy’s COPO 427 engine (previously used only in drag racing applications), due to a rear-end problem. McQuarrie’s second Mobil 1/GoPro Camaro was intended for Indy car star JR Hildebrand, who arrived too late from England to race.
McQuarrie’s problems handed the bye to Daijiro Yoshihara, who advanced to the Round of 16, then to the Great Eight and Final Four. Yoshihara beat Vaughn Gittin Jr’s Ford Mustang by the slimmest of margins, late on Saturday afternoon to take the win!
Anne Proffit photo
While Long Beach is known for its gorgeous weather for the Grand Prix each year, the Formula Drift contingent had to deal with overcast skies and even some drizzle on race day. None of that stopped a boisterous crowd from taking over the grandstands and watching from any vantage point they could find. As usual, the balconies of the surrounding condominiums were crowded with fans wanting to see what they could hear and smell.
Yoshihara and Gittin’s battle was a popular one with the well-developed Nissan 240SX sponsored by America’s Tire getting the better of the Monster Energy-backed Mustang. Along the way the crowd witnessed some grand battles for position and saw quite a few cars leave mementos along the walls. Bet it will all be cleaned up in time for the IZOD IndyCar Series, American Le Mans Series, Pirelli World Challenge, Firestone Indy Lights, Toyota Pro/Celebrity Series competition that begins on Friday.
If you missed this opportunity to see the stars of Formula Drift in action, there will be another chance this coming weekend as the series puts on night-time exhibition passes for the first time in history. Imagine that: Long Beach under the lights? It ought to make the jam-packed Long Beach race weekend even more colorful and exciting.
By Anne Proffit