As American enthusiasts unwind from a three-day 4th of July holiday weekend of barbeque, fireworks, and dipping in the pool, they're quickly faced with preparing for a hectic but likely thrilling weekend of drag racing and drifting in Sin City. For the third year in a row, sport compact drag racers will be flying down the 1320 strip at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway while drifters get sideways on the other side of the complex in a midsummer night extravaganza.
Off-season shakeups meant that this year will be the first that Formula DRIFT is set to run the drifting, and also the first trip for Battle of the Imports to Las Vegas. The weekend will be full of action in a city that never sleeps, so we've put together a quick list of things to look for if you're heading to Vegas over July 11 and 12.
1. Formula D's Fan Guide, Presented by Urban Racer
Ok, so this is a bit of a shameless plug, but we worked hard in the off season to build a great fan guide for you to enjoy, and think you should pick a copy up for yourself. These guides will be available all over the grounds, and include a season recap of the 2007 season, a summary of the race tracks on this year's schedule, an interview with reigning champion (and current points leader) Tanner Foust, and profiles of the top drivers in the series. The guide fits conveniently in a back pocket and is perfect for gathering autographs or fanning yourself when sitting in the scorching Vegas heat.
2. Max Orido Makes His Formula D Debut
Famed D1 Pro Drift driver Manabu "Max" Orido will make his Formula D debut this weekend in the Yokohama/3T Motorsport Toyota Aristo. Orido has driven this car in the States before during demos, but hasn't competed here in the US since the 2005 D1 event in which he rubbed his RS*R Supra along the inner wall at Irwindale, taking several sponsor banners with him. Orido's 2JZ-powered Aristo will be one of a very few four-door cars competing in the event, and although Orido may not be favored to win, his return to competition will be exciting.
3. Alex Pfeiffer Back Behind the Wheel, A New Judge Sits Atop the Judging Booth
Alex Pfeiffer took a few years away from the drivers seat to judge alongside Ken Takahashi and Andy Yen in FD, and has decided to make a return to driving. He was last seen in the RS*R S2000 during the ‘05 season, and will return to driving in his personal RHD 180SX, which he competed in select NOPI Drift events last year as a privateer. Replacing Pfeiffer and joining Yen and Takahashi will be former driver Ernie Fixmer, who last drove in FD in '05, was a judge for NOPI Drift last year, and has driven in demos around the world. Many will recognize Fixmer, long a fan favorite, as the pilot of Rotora's former RHD S13.5.
4. Turbocharged Corollas Set to Stun in Vegas
Three separate turbocharged Corollas will be entered into the Formula D event this weekend, with engines from three completely different manufacturers, and we expect to see at least one of them crack the Top 16. Taka Aono's Hasselgren-powered AE86 is pushing nearly 400hp, and after a lot of testing and tuning the Falken machine should be ready for a Top 16. At the same time, John Ruskakoff's F20-powered Corolla has been missing since the Irwindale stop last year, but now is sporting a custom-fabricated T28 turbocharger pushing over 300 ponies to the wheels. John did all of the fabrication work himself, and from what we've seen Toyota is very well engineered! Finally, Tommy Suell will be returning to competition in his SR20-powered Corolla, which has also been converted to RHD, a throw-back to when Tommy learned to drive in Okinawa, Japan. Tommy finished last season with 110 points, tied with Hiro Sumida for 22nd place. His new power plant should be much more competitive, and with Las Vegas being his home track, we can expect a loud cheering section for Tommy.
5. Mazda vs. Scion, FWD and RWD
Battle of the Imports will be running an event on the drag strip simultaneously, and the highest competitive class will feature the Pro FWD cars of drag racing icons Chris Rado (World Racing NOS Energy Drink Scion tC) and Ed Bergenholtz (Bergenholtz Racing Nitto Tires Mazda 6). Both cars have run 7-second quarter-mile passes, a feat which was unheard of just a few years ago for FWD cars. At the same time, the RS*R Toyo Tires Scion tC driven by Ken Gushi will be facing off against the Bergenholtz Racing Nitto Tires RX-7 driven by Ryuji Miki, Tony Angelo's Maxxis Tires RX8, and a pair of FC RX7's driven by Justin Pawlak (National Wave/Maxxis tires) and Kyle Mohan (Mazdaspeed/Cooper tires). All seven of these cars are capable of great performances, and fans should enjoy checking out both brands competing on both tracks.
6. Open Pits
Formula D and Battle of the Imports both have an open-pit policy which allows all fans to interact with the drivers up close and personal. Standing just a few feet from your favorite driver and talking shop between rounds is a rare opportunity in motorsports today, one that both sanctioning bodies encourage. Take the opportunity to swing by the pit of your favorite drag racer or drifter and introduce yourself, get an autograph, and get to know the driver you cheer for loudest.
7. Flag Girls
We're car guys at heart, but we all enjoy a little eye candy every now and then. This year, Catherine Kluthe was crowned Miss Formula D and she will be joined by the Formula D Flag Girls, as well as the umbrella girls from Falken, Hankook, and several other teams. While you're in the pits, be sure to snap a few photos with your favorite flag or umbrella girl.
8. Kart Racing on Thursday Night Against Your Favorite Drivers
Formula D has always planned activities for their fans in the week leading up to the event, but Vegas should prove to be one of the most exciting. 13 of the top drifters will be facing off against 13 Battle of the Imports Drag Racers to see who is the fastest around the Go Kart track at Pole Position indoor karting track. The event runs from 7:00 to 9:00 pm on Thursday at Pole Position Raceway Indoor Karting, located at 4175 S. Arville in Las Vegas. It's yet another opportunity to meet and greet your favorite drag and drift drivers, and cheer for your favorite to win.
9. Sunday Pool Party at Red Rock Casino and Resort
Another Formula D first, Miss Formula D will be hosting the official Formula D pool party on Sunday, July 13th, at the Red Rock Casino. This event is free to everyone and should be a great chance to relax and splash around while enjoying a few poolside cocktails.
10. It's Vegas
Need we say more? SEE YA THERE!