[Las Vegas stringer Curtis Walker, who hasn't yet sublimated in the desert heat despite short odds to the contrary, brings us day two of the 2007 D1 Grand Prix.]. Narratively, we're always drawn to both underdogs and classic, rear-drive Japanese cars. So we caught up with John Russakoff to get the lowdown on his 1984 Toyota Corolla, the oldest drift car competing in this year's D1 circuit. The AE86 entry started out as a $200 "piece of shit." Twenty-five thousand bucks and a year- and-a-half later, the car was track worthy. Gone is the original Toyota powerplant, in favor of a 2006 Honda S2000 engine and matching six-speed tranny. Russakoff says he's done all of the work on this 1900-lb., 220 hp slider himself. As for his opinion of the searing heat, he says it more of a problem for the intercooled turbos, as they seem to be losing about 10 percent or more of their power. But it makes for a stickier track, and he's happy to have the extra traction.

During eliminations, however, Russakoff fell on hard times. In the most spectacular crash of the weekend, he powered into the tires, and the car launched several feet into the air on the rebound. Russakoff says he wanted to push the limits and please the judges. While Russakoff's first two passes were adequate, he says, his entry speeds were low. With a dearth of horsepower to play with, entry speed determines the entire run for the smaller cars. Despite this catastrophe, Russakoff managed to qualify 16th of 16. The crash took out his radiator and tweaked the front suspension, but he said it wouldn't be too expensive to fix. Though, even with parts from a friend's car, Russakoff couldn't get it back on the track in the four-hour window before Eliminations.

Twenty-four racers competing for 16 slots in the final leads to all manner of carnage. Weekend-ending crashes from Russakoff and Tiger Racing's Chanin earned them "good job" reprimands from the judges. Battles of attrition from Tiger teammate Jaytir and Kure racing's Fixmer's cars left a rich potpurri of car parts across the track from each of their three passes. But that wasn't enough to guarantee anyone a spot without fighting for it. In the end, the highest qualifying score was 99.9 and the lowest a hair's-breadth 99.0, with entry speeds ranging from 79.5 mph to 89.5 mph. Newcomer Forrest Wang made a crowd-pleasing drift, but only earned a 98.5. We have no doubt he's someone to keep an eye on in the future.

It wouldn't be a car show/race without a standard collection of garden-variety bikini babes. In addition to typical arm candy these events encourage, there was a bikini contest right after the main event. But it may have been most notable for its crowd-control benefits; the on-stage proceedings kept the crowd from migrating en masse to the parking lot like at most other events.

With eight pairs of drivers selected for the elimination round, the entire event shifted in tone. Where the qualifying round was like a demolition derby, the main event was more like The Magic Flute with burning rubber. All in all, only one bumper went flying, and that was due to unsportsmanlike contact between Ueo and Yoshioka. Apparently, Ueo has a reputation for taking opponents down with him, but tonight it only cost Yoshioka a rear bumper.


Because of the way that elimination pairs are chosen (#1 with #16, #2 with #15 and so forth) pitting both Team Orange drivers against each another provided counterpoint to the two's tandem runs they'd been practicing all weekend. Unfortunately, it made judging the two similar drivers with similar cars virtually impossible, causing seemingly endless sudden-death matches with neither driver flinching. Finally, Kumakubo, last year's series champ, slipped up and let his teammate progress to the semi-finals.

Ryan Hampton and his Corvette spun out, leading to a score of zero and his elimination, which was something of a disappointment, because his car was probably the best sounding car on the track and the only domestic model.

The final came down to Yoichi Imamura's widebody Nissan Z and Hideo Hiraoka's Silvia. In the end, Imamura made an unpopular victor. The crowd turned on him during the semi-final showdown against Yoshioka. He'd been passed spectacularly on the inside of a tight drift, only to have his opponent spin out and lose the heat. Regardless, to the victor goes the spoils. In this case, a $5,000 purse.


Best 16
Toshiki Yoshioka defeated Ernie Fixmer.
Katsuhiro Ueo defeated Kazuyoshi Okamura.
Yoichi Imamura defeated Michihiro Takatori.
Ken Nomura defeated Justin Pawlak.
Kazuhiro Tanaka defeated teammate Nobushige Kumakubo.
Tetsuya Hibino defeated Ryan Hampton.
Hideo Haraoka defeated Daigo Saito.
Takahiro Ueno defeated Quoc Ly.

Best 8
Toshiki Yoshioka defeated Katsuhiro Ueo.
Yoichi Imamura defeated Ken Nomura.
Kazuhiro Tanaka defeated Tetsuyo Hibino.
Hideo Hiraoka defeated Takahiro Ueno.

Yoichi Imamura defeated Toshiki Yoshioka.
Hideo Hiraoka defeated Kazuhiro Tanaka.


Yoichi Imamura defeated Hideo Hiraoka.

(Results courtesy LVMS.com.)

Jalopnik at the D1 Grand Prix, Day One: Practice [internal]