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It didn’t take long for this Formula Drift season to stir up some controversy. As we mentioned in our Formula DRIFT Long Beach Recap, the Hankook Nissan GT-R was noticeably missing from competition. We knew for a fact there was no way they would let that slide for another event, considering sitting out one event already puts the championship far out-of-reach.
Adams Motorsports Park currently holds Night Drift events every Thursday night and recently the Hankook / Dynamic Autosport team had Robbie Nishida in from Japan to test the GT-R at one of these events out in Riverside, CA. The car looks complete and fully functioning, but how well it performed we’re not sure. We’ll know after this weekend though, once the GT-R makes its drifting debut.
Interestingly, rather than the stock GT-R powerplant, the Hankook/Dynamic Autosport car is VQ35 powered, which may or may not be surprising to some. To us it’s not surprising given the huge success the VQ35 has had on many different vehicles in Formula Drift. In fact, when Rhys Millen didn’t have the Lambda Genesis motor ready, he slugged himself a VQ35 into the Genesis early on last season. One thing’s for sure, this GT-R has one of the finest drivers in the entire series in Robbie Nishida. If anyone can drive the wheels off this car, it will be him. We’ll keep our eyes out on how well he’ll do this weekend!
GALLERY: Hankook Drift Nissan GT-R
Breaking into its seventh season, Formula DRIFT took to the Streets of Long Beach for its trademark season opener. This event is always a fan favorite being one of the only, if not the only, drift event that takes place on actual streets rather than a race track, course or parking lot. Many new cars made their debut at this event, some having great success while others clearly have a lot of bugs to figure out. American muscle prevailed however, as Vaughn Gittin Jr.’s new 2011 Falken Tire / Monster Energy Drink Mustang claimed the top podium spot with its debut.
Rhys Millen and his Red Bull Hyundai Genesis has clearly benefited from an off-season of thorough testing and upgrades as he finished up second place. Two-time champion Tanner Foust found himself in third with his Rockstar Energy Drink / AEM Scion tC. The threesome made for a colorful podium with three different brand of energy drinks being represented.
What made this event even more exciting was the debuts of several new drivers from all around the world seeing their first action in competitive American drifting. “With drivers from 13 nations and 12 current and former drifting champions, Formula Drift continues to grow drifting globally with the most diverse field of competitors than any other drifting series in the world,” said Jim Liaw, president and co-founder of Formula Drift.
Samuel Hübinette’s Dodge Challenger looks to have a few more bugs to work out, but his skill and expertise made sure he wasn’t far from a podium finish. Other new muscle cars included Conrad Grunewald in his Hankook Chevy Camaro and Tony Brakohiapa in the Sam’s Autoboy Ford Mustang. Noticeably missing, and without controversy, was Robbie Nishida’s Hankook Nissan GT-R and Eric O’Sullivan’s Subaru. Both were supposed to be big-name competitors and it must have been truly disappointing for both of these drivers flying over 10 hours to not see any competition.
Round Two of Formula Drift is scheduled to invade Road Atlanta on May 7-8th, 2010. We’ll be keeping a close eye on any testing during the break and will be sure to report on the second event of another exciting season of drifting.