USA vs Japan D1 Grand Prix
As the 2005 season comes to a close, the D1 Grand Prix USA versus Japan All Star Exhibition at the world famous Irwindale House of Drift on Saturday proved to be one for the books. With the best American and Japanese drivers hitting the track at Irwindale, anyone and everyone in attendance was treated with performances they'd be sure to remember. This was the second running of the event. The first time it came to town, it was billed as the ultimate match up of USA vs. Japan. This time, that tag line was noticeably absent – except on the minds of all who were present.
With top seeded drivers from both countries on hand, the competition was tougher then ever. The slightest mistake meant losing your chance to advance to the next round and ultimately your chance at becoming the top dog at the end of the night. The set up for this year’s event put the top 16 drivers from each country head to head in two bracket battles which proved to be exactly what the crowd wanted.
From the beginning, it seemed as though the deck was stacked against the Americans. Before the practice sessions and qualifying on Thursday, Drift King Keichi Tsuchiya revealed the course layout. The one major change: drivers would run the course backwards; a mirror image of what had become familiar in Irwindale's House of Drift.
The Top 16 driver’s were chosen, of which only 6 US pros made the cut. Xtreme Mustang Performance with the Falken Sponsored 2005 Mustang GT driven by Vaughn Gittin Jr. qualified at 14th place. JR’s first tandem battle was against this year’s current D1 Champion driver Kazama in the 500 horsepower Nissan Silvia S15. JR threw down consecutive perfect lines with incredible angle showing the Japanese champ what Americans are made of and advancing to the next round. JR and the XMP Mustang were the only Americans to make it past the first tandem rounds.
Next up JR faced last year’s D1 Champion, again, not an easy feat. Back to back he raced champions. This time the turbo FD (RX-7) was on point causing JR to push the limits of the Mustang even further with entry speeds in excess of 100 mph near sideways against one of Japan’s quickest cars! JR tied this match which went into a sudden death One More Time rematch. JR’s speed and aggressiveness proved too much for last year’s champ as he spun out giving JR the win.
Next up was another D1 finalist piloting the Greddy Silvia S15.
At the end of the night, Falken Tire's own Vaughn Gittin Jr. behind the wheel of the Xtreme Mustang Performance/Falken Ford Mustang GT took home not only top honors but bragging rights being the first American driver and American car to not only see the podium at a D1 Grand Prix event but be the man at the top. With stellar driving throughout the day, JR. was able to out maneuver the Japanese competition and make his way in to the history books. Congratulations to Vaughn Gittin Jr., Xtreme Mustang Performance, and Team Falken for putting on one of the best performances we've ever seen.
We cannot wait to see what the 2006 Formula D season brings! This year’s first event will be held on the Long Beach Grand Prix course the week before the Grand Prix in Long Beach CA. We hope to see you there!!!
Congrats to our friends Eric and the XMP crew and thanks for sending us the info, you guys did it ! - MW