previously the journal.

Browsing Posts tagged KAAZ

I just randomly found this picture of me on a french website.  I guess it’s somehow related to Mulsanne… I remember befriending an older French guy with Mulsanne on his business card.  I think that same business is somehow involved with a local drift team in Southern California.

Anyway, the picture is of me driving the KAAZ car at Irwindale in front of the D1 judges.   Funny – I can’t even remember what event this is!  The combination of me not remembering plus the picture shows barely any smoke tells me that I probably didn’t do very well.  But it’s still nice to see new pictures from the past!

I’m amazed at what my life has turned into since I first started this journal… My life has been so hectic this year, that I can barely have a weekend to just relax and do nothing. It’s been so bad, that I never update this journal until there’s a big event or something, and even that is when I have some time to breathe! I’ve been reminiscing of the “good ol’ days” back when I would write about nothing… just a thought I would have at the time, or about spending a day with the friends doing silly things. Life has changed a lot, and so has the American drifting scene. I’ve been thinking a lot about things lately, and as soon as I finish these crazy event updates, I’ll be sure to do a better job of speaking my mind even if it’s not an event recap!

Here’s my recap of D1 Driver Search at California Speedway, 2004:
Getting ready for the D1 Driver Search was kind of strange to me… Because I’m one of the KAAZ drivers now, I didn’t have to prep the car. All I had to do was prep myself the day before (i.e. – get enough sleep, eat well, drink enough water, etc.) For some reason though, I was really relaxed as if I had no driving event the next day. I’m not sure if it was because the event was at California Speedway and I didn’t care what kind of course they’d throw at me, or maybe I was kind of skeptical of participating in D1 with all of it’s politics, or maybe it was because prepping a car the night before was more stressful to me than I thought. Maybe it was all of the above. Anyway, I showed up to the event and met up with KAAZ. It was cool seeing Barry again… that guy goes through so much to get over here for all these events. I don’t know how he does it! So all the drivers went through the normal procedures… getting the cars tech inspected, unloading the cars, getting everything ready. Keiichi was there, so was Nomuken, Daijiro Inada, Kumakubo, Tanaka, and Chunky Bai. I watched Keiichi and Nomuken set up the course… it was interesting. They would walk the course and then move a cone here or there and when they were finished, they jumped into Bai’s car and did some slow laps in it, with Keiichi in the driver seat. The interesting thing about it was that he wasn’t going very fast… and would initiate late into the corner. I wondered if it’s because he doesn’t need to go fast to figure out if the course is good, or if it was other reasons? Maybe it was because it wasn’t his car and he would put it at risk by drifting it at higher speeds? Well, the course design made everybody mad pretty quickly. It was narrow, and had a long straight into a right hand reducing radius corner, with a chicane at the end of it. At the end of the long straight, there was a plastic barrier filled with water on the left hand side at the entry point was, and the judges table was straight ahead… with concrete barriers in front of it. Looking to the right of the judges table was a nice big light pole with concrete barriers in front of it as well. I knew the barriers would present a problem for a lot of the drivers that day, mostly because the range of experience in the people driving were from beginner to advanced. To make matters worse, they designed the course so that there were huge bumps on the ground right at where the initiation point should be on the first straight. Out of all the places to put the course, they put it THERE. Most of us reacted in the same way… that D1 wanted to see some crashes today, and it would be us.

I was to trying a new setup on the car that day, because I wanted to experiment with more grip on the car. That day, we used 225 Yokohama ES100s in the front and 245 Yokohama ES100s in the rear. The tires were too grippy for the power of the car… It was almost like I had to stay full throttle all the time or else the car would stop drifting… What a time to be testing a new setup! We had about 5 laps as our practice session… The first couple of laps I screwed up. One problem was that the car wasn’t running very smoothly… and whenever I got back onto the gas after letting off, the car would hesitate… and then a split second later the rpms would start moving again… it was frustrating, and I had to learn to try and guess when I’d need the throttle a split second before I actually needed it… and hope that when I got back on the gas, I would actually need it. The next 3 laps were better, but still needed some work… the bumps didn’t seem to bother me, but according to Alex Pfeiffer, my speed and line were good, but I wasn’t coming in with enough angle into the first corner. That was great advice, because I was thinking about so many things that I didn’t notice. I was thinking about what to do during my break time… because the next round was already the qualifying round. If I initiated BEFORE the bumps, I would be able to get more angle. Another thing that helped out a lot was that Keiichi clarified what he wanted for the line… in the morning, he said out out out out, in. To me, that means you stay outside all the way around the corner until you get to the apex! Of course, it seemed very strange to me, because when I originally walked the course, I thought to myself… this is a double apex… it goes out in out in. I was trying to use Keiichi’s line during practice and it just wasn’t working for me… Before our qualifying lap, he said something about a double apex and it clicked… I was practicing the wrong line. I thought about that as well as my initiation point during my quick break. It was a lot of changes to be making for a qualifying round… Usually I would stick to whatever I was practicing, because it’s usually a bad idea to be trying new things during qualifying. I didn’t want to go home unsatisfied, so I did what I thought I should do… take the correct line and come into the corner with good angle… even if it meant making last minute changes to my attack. I guess at this point, it was about self satisfaction instead of satisfying the judges.

So qualifying started… MULTIPLE cars crashed… at least 4, maybe 5. My first run was my practice run, and I let off throttle too much and the fat tires in the back took over and I lost too much momentum… I had to use my ebrake to make it to the apex okay. On my first qualifying run, I did better, but I for some reason, I spun at the very last (easiest) corner. I don’t know why I do that… And on the last qualifying run, I entered at a good speed, initiated early, extended the drift a little bit into the first apex, downshifted to 2nd, and carried it through the rest of the corner… kicking the clutch when I started to lose some speed. My line was exactly where I wanted it to be… the only problem was that I was steering too much with the steering wheel instead of using the throttle to steer the car. This is a problem I’ve noticed a lot with other drivers, and now I find myself doing it every once in a while too… I just have to stop myself before I do it and stomp my foot down on the throttle instead.

Anyway, they called the drivers meeting and announced the top 11… I was suprised to hear that I made it! That was a pretty big accomplishment… since it was out of 83 drivers. To our suprise, we found out that we had to go out again and go through another elimination round! We went out again… and I got it pretty good. We came back to another drivers meeting, and I found out I made the cut again to get to the top 8! But ack… another elimination round. I went out again… and totally repeated my runs over again… it was weird… like a carbon copy of the round before. Feint away from the corner… kick the clutch and start sliding out towards the wall, over the bumps… towards the first apex… lock the rear brakes for a quick second to maintain the line… drop back to 2nd gear and floor it EARLY to compensate for the weird hesitation… continue flooring all the way around and as I approach the 2nd apex, use the brakes and tighten up the line… and get back on the gas to go through the last chicane. Anyway, I was RELIEVED to
find out that this was the last round. I made the top and final 5… I got my D1 competitors license. And I got it the right way too… I know that D1 is a little sketchy when it comes to the way they run things… and originally they wanted me to just be qualified for the D1 competition without qualifying the right way. I told them “no thanks”… and that I would qualify along with everybody else. Well now I have it, and it feels good to earn it. And I’m going back to 215s and 235s haha! Marc just told me that the DVD just came out… Man… they can make a DVD faster than I can write a journal entry. Sorry!

Okay, so here’s the continuation from the Sonoma event…

There’s this feeling I get… when I see a course or walk it, I come up with a plan of attack. This includes line, speed, angle, initiation points, etc… this is the plan of attack that, if I could pull it off like how I imagine, would make me happy, and should also qualify me at the same time. During my qualifying lap, I got pretty close… because when I finished, it felt really good to me. I was happy. At the next drivers meeting, they announced me as a qualified driver in the Top 16 round. I think I placed #13… I was confused, because, by the way it felt, I thought I would qualify a lot higher. I found out later that it was because my feint had too much angle. If I wanted to do it better, I should use less angle on the first feint.

So that was it… I was up against Ken Gushi. On one hand, I was happy… because it meant that I could drive hard… I love driving with Ken. He’s easy to read and I can trust him. And if I lost to anybody, I’d love to lose to Ken. ANYWAY, we go out, and he leads… damn, his car is fast! He gets away from me, and his entry was way different than mine. Instead of feinting, he went straight into the corner. I, not being very experienced in competitive tandem, followed him when I should have stuck to what I knew… and I spun and went off course. Ken’s advantage. Next lap, I lead. I ditched my idea of going straight into the corner, and stuck with what I knew. I feinted. This, however, threw Ken off, and botched up his entry into turn 1. My advantage. We had to do it “one more time”… Ken lead, and I did okay following him… man… he was driving fast! I made some mistakes and I was falling behind… We went into the last left hand sweeper together, and I was coming in really hot… going towards the wall… going too fast… Ken kissed the wall with his rear bumper. I let off the throttle and I was coming in for the wall too… I got pretty close, but I missed it. After getting closer to Ken’s car, I realized that he ricocheted off the wall and hit his front end too. He busted his oil cooler and was leaking all over the place… Well, after trying to figure it out, we realized he couldn’t drive his car… so Rotora brought out Ernie’s car for him to drive. Ken seemed pretty upset… I think because of what he did to his car. Well, we went out again, this time I was leading… Ken messed up on his entry into turn 1… but as I exited and went into turn 2, Ernie’s car and its massive amounts of grip totally took over… and slung shot ken right towards me and my door. It was amazing… however, I guess because of Ken’s mistake, they gave the round to me. Next round was me against Calvin. On the first run, Calvin was having problems entering into turn 1… it looked like he or the car was hesitating to stay sideways. Anyway, he spun into turn 1, and if I was in the right mindset (like I should have been), I would have seen the opportunity to pass him on the inside. Instead, I let off the accelerator and let him get back on his course and I followed him into turn 2. It seemed like it was nobody’s advantage there. 2nd run comes, and I’m leading. I went too wide going into turn 1 and Calvin started to come in on the inside… before I knew it, Calvin was too close to me and was trying to get inside at the corner… I needed to transition to the left for the next corner… If I continued on my line, it could have meant a crash… Calvin would have been where he shouldn’t have been and I would have hit his front end with my rear end… or I could have just assumed he would get out of my way and I could just keep going anyways. It didn’t matter… my initial instincts were to avoid the accident, and instead of maintaining my line and my drift, I straightened out and got out of his way. It was my biggest mistake of the day… But it’s another hard lesson learned… I won’t do it again. Calvin took the win from that round. And now, here’s the videos!

Practice Run
Qualifying Run

Man, it’s been awhile, huh? Well Houston was a fluke… the people were nice as always, and I had a great time meeting new people and getting the chance to drift in a new state. The course was in a REALLY small area, but I guess it wasn’t too bad considering the area restraints. I found it really difficult trying to find my own angle of attack for the course because it seemed like everybody either had less or more power than me (mostly more)… this meant that my strategy for the course was different than everybody else’s. I guess it’s one of my problems that I haven’t really realized until Houston… instead of listening to what people are telling me, I should go with what I feel is right, since I know my car better than anybody else.

I was doing fine during the first day of practice… I was able to go pretty fast considering that some of the people that I was doing tandem with had double my horsepower weren’t able to pull away from me or stay too close either. The second day (competition day) turned into a huge mind game for me… the course changed slightly, and I let it get to me… I spent the entire practice time trying to adjust to the new course. My 4 practice runs were up… and each time I went out, I realized a new thing that I had to adjust in order to perform the way that I wanted to. By the last run, I knew exactly what I needed to change to run the way I was the day before at practice. During my first qualifying round, I did pretty well and I was happy… I was in my zone and my confidence was high. The second round, I did something pretty stupid… my friend suggested that I should get closer to the walls if I wanted to get into the top 16. This totally messed me up, as I was confident already and now I thought everything that I was doing so far was wrong. Well I tried to get it together as well as I could, and I was determined on getting close to the wall. During my practice run, I took notice of the wall and tried to get closer, and I did. I finished my run… not pushing 100%, but then again it was just practice so that I could get closer for the next two laps (which were the judged qualifying runs). On the next run, I went in really fast and approached the wall at the top of 2nd gear while my throttle was floored, and my rpm needle was bouncing off of the rev limiter… I felt the wall getting really close, and as I looked at my clipping point, I realized that getting close to the wall changed my line, and my initiation was too early for this line… my car didn’t have enough momentum or horsepower to bring me around the clipping point… I was about 5 feet short. So realizing that I had to initiate later to clear the clipping point, I went out for my last qualified run… I initiated later… flooring the accelerator again… this time I felt like I had a lot more speed into the corner, and then I flicked the car throwing the rear end towards the wall. The tach was bouncing off the limiter again and this time when I looked at the clipping point ahead, I realized that my car had much better momentum this time and I was going too fast for the corner. I stepped on the brakes and the car immediately went to full countersteer and the steering wheel locked… but I was in good shape… I was in perfect position to approach the clipping point. My line was pretty decent and my adrenaline was high… I clipped the apex of the corner and I was doing better than I did all weekend! Then… I choked. I was having such a good time in my car that I screwed up at the easiest corner of the course! I spun at a low speed 2nd gear corner, and the competition was over for me.

What did I learn? Don’t try new things during qualifying rounds… at least not yet. I also learned that I know the limits of my car better than I thought I did. AND that playing with the walls is a great rush and it makes drifting 10 times more exciting! I love it… and I’ll be doing it a lot more often!

In other news, KAAZ USA has offered me a spot on their drift team! It’s a 2 man team, along with Barry Wong from Hawaii. I have high hopes… the car that I’m going to drive has a lot more horsepower than I have now, and now I get to start saving up some money again… paying for Formula D out of my own pocket has really put a strain on my lifestyle outside of drifting. Being a privateer is really hard work! And my car was never up to par with the other 400hp monsters drifting out there! This way, I get to live a normal life outside of drifting… Kristy, Nadine, and I all need money for our futures. Anyway, we are currently working on sponsors for Team KAAZ… I hope to bring Tanabe on as a sponsor… they have helped me so much that I want to have them with me wherever I go… as long as I’m drifting competitively. If anybody interested in sponsoring us is reading this, please e-mail me!! Well, it’s time to go to bed now… hopefully I’ll have some videos from Houston up soon! Good night!