Street Talk recently caught up with Formula Drift Co-Founder Ryan Sage to find out more about the series, its growth, and some exciting changes for the 2013 season. Here’s what he had to say.
Ryan Sage: The sport’s growth has really been fun to watch and be a part of. It’s grown not only in terms of fan base, but also in reach. We have been doing global events now for some time and they continue to be an important part of our portfolio.
The factors [responsible for growth], ultimately, I believe have come down to the fundamentals of the sport—exciting on-track action. It’s really hard not to fall in love with this type of motorsport, and when you combine that [action] with good product distribution via TV, live stream, web, social, etc., this is what you get. From the early days until now, it’s really been about that.
ST: What does the 2013 season look like, and looking further down the road, discuss where you see the series going.
Ryan Sage: I think we are going to have another tremendous year. We have only begun selling tickets for the season and some are already close to selling out. As far as the long-term perspective, we feel we have some room for growth in the U.S. We see our brand having similarities to that of Super Cross, and we love that series. We don’t try to emulate what they do, but we think we have many of the fundamentals that they have.
ST: The sport appears to be growing in the U.S. How do you measure growth? Is it by attendance at events? Number of competitors? Media coverage? All of the above? Share some numbers that illustrate that growth.
Ryan Sage: All of it really. In terms of drivers, we have close to 90 licensed drivers in 2013. 60 of those will travel to all of the rounds. In four-wheel motorsports, there isn’t really anything that compares to that. Our attendance has averaged about 15% growth year-to-year with four out of the seven events in 2012 actually selling out.
Our biggest event is around 18,000 people. We have 200 individual media at our big rounds and about 150 at the others. The high number of media is directly related to the series’ growth. We have over 1.5 million unique viewers on our live stream year after year and it keeps growing.
Our fans watch for an average of 34 minutes per broadcast and that is pretty much unheard of in the web space. We produce 12 original TV shows that air domestically on NBC Sports, and internationally we’re seen in over 300 million homes around the globe. So in short, we have what we feel is a very compelling program.
ST: Being part of the Long Beach Grand Prix this year has to be a big deal for Formula Drift and the sport’s credibility. Talk about how that opportunity came about and what you think the national exposure is going to mean for your organization and for the sport.
Ryan Sage: Long Beach is great for us! We had been doing some small exhibitions at the Grand Prix for a year or so when we approached the Grand Prix Association about doing an actual Formula Drift round the week before.
The Grand Prix Association, with Jim Michelian and Dwight Tanaka, helped put the whole thing together and now it’s been going strong for 6 years. This year, we have added a night competition round on their weekend – one weekend after our standalone event.
It’s a first for night racing of any kind in over 30 years, I believe, and the prize package is the largest since the Red Bull Drifting World Championship. So – two weekends of drifting craziness in downtown Long Beach.
ST: What do fans have to look forward to in the 2013 season and what are you most excited about?
Ryan Sage: Really, I think the biggest thing to look forward to is where the competition is going. The drivers and fabricators have been taking things to all-time levels in recent years and we’ve been seeing some of the closest, most aggressive drifting ever. I think we are in for a treat in 2013.
ST: Is Formula Drift racing and drift racing in general a misunderstood sport?
Ryan Sage: I would say that there is some misunderstanding of what we do and how things are judged, but I think some of those things have been corrected. I also think that the sport’s evolution requires that we adjust criteria and how the sport is judged, and when we do that, it requires that we re-educate fans.
It’s not as easy for us to say, “You win if you get from point A to point B in the fastest time.” That [type of racing] is actually easy to understand. When you have a nuanced sport [like Formula D] that is constantly evolving, it takes greater pains to have the fans understand how to judge a battle. We can’t, for example, do backside 720’s and actually submit someone.
With that said, we are employing a whole new barrage of tools in 2013 that are really going to be game-changing in the sport of drifting. This will really help people see things better, more transparently.
ST: Formula Drift has several well-known national tire sponsors. Tires are obviously an important component of Formula D cars. What other parts are critically important, and perhaps typically modified or experimented with, on Formula D cars?
Ryan Sage: Clutch, brakes, LSD [limited slip differential], suspension, weight, power plant, zip ties, zip ties, zip ties, tape, oil, cleaning products. All are relevant and at some level of importance in drifting.
ST: How can young drivers and drift enthusiasts break into the sport? Can their “every day driver” car also double as a competition drift car, particularly at some of the smaller, regional drift car series?
Ryan Sage: Definitely. I can count on two hands the number of drivers that came through our Pro-Am series and now are drifting full time. This is probably the most accessible sport out there and definitely the most accessible motorsport. A list of our Pro-Am affiliates is on our website as well as regional resources.
Editor’s note: Whether you’re building a drift car, modifying one, or simply driving to a Formula D event this season, be sure to visit Advance Auto Parts for great deals on parts and tools that help get the job done.
Photos courtesy of Formula Drift.
Street Talk gets the inside track from Ford on one of the year’s hottest upcoming releases!
The Ford Fiesta ST has arrived…almost. Fiesta enthusiasts should expect no less than the following this summer: 197-horsepower with 214 foot-pounds of torque, all rolling on ultra-shiny 17’s. To top it off, it’ll be available for the first time in the USA in the coming months.
While the Fiesta’s no stranger to the import tuner crowd or fans of drifting—having been reintroduced in these parts in 2010, and adopted by Ken Block and Tanner Foust as their rally car that year—don’t confuse that Fiesta with the new 2014 Ford Fiesta ST.
“The Ford Fiesta ST has a completely different target customer than [the traditional] Fiesta, which is a young, millennial-generation female or male who is driven by different purchase reasons than the ST buyer,” explains Liz Elser, Fiesta/Fiesta ST Marketing Manager, Ford Motor Company. “The [traditional] Fiesta’s target customer is a city dweller that loves being where the action is, and they are constantly out and about. They see the vehicle as an extension of themselves. They appreciate the prized fuel economy, value, and quality when making their purchase decision.”
All well and good, if you’re into that kind of thing, but sounds a little tame for my high-octane blood.
The Fiesta ST’s target customer, in comparison, is “a 24- to 28-year old single male who’s always wanted to own a true performance car—and now can—thanks to Fiesta ST’s affordability,” adds Elser.
Did someone mention performance? Now I’m listening.
Perform it does. The new Ford Fiesta ST specs begin with a 1.6L Ti-VCT EcoBoost I-4 engine featuring a single turbo for the power of a V6, with the fuel efficiency of a four cylinder. Sustained torque output is achieved through an over-boost feature that extends peak torque through a higher RPM range. Keeping all this fun under control are four-wheel disc brakes with high-performance pads, a sport-tuned suspension, and 17-inch wheels flaunting Bridgestone Potenza 205/40R17’s that are W-rated (168 mph) high-performers.
Ford is targeting drivers who have an interest in performance and drifting, who are younger and might consider themselves part of the import tuner crowd, while at the same time, are price conscious. The Ford Fiesta ST starts at $21,400. As for what makes Fiesta ST so appealing to this demographic, Elser says “there’s a new generation of enthusiasts emerging and they define performance differently.”
“Fiesta’s history and heritage as a performance vehicle in Europe is one factor driving demand [among the import tuner scene],” Elser explains. “The target customer for Fiesta ST in the USA is savvy—they want fuel economy and performance with a European-inspired performance pedigree. The shift to small, fun-to-drive performance cars is happening now and will only continue to gain momentum when you consider the growth projected for the B- and C- car [size] segments globally.”
Helping the Ford Fiesta ST deliver on the “fun-to-drive” reputation that Elser promises, is a 6-speed manual transmission and three-mode AdvanceTrac electronic stability control that allows drivers to select the degree of intervention they want. Even when backed into a corner, other Ford Fiesta ST specs are equally impressive, namely its enhanced Torque Vectoring Control.
Yeah, I know, that’s a mouthful, but it gets the job done.
“G-forces in a corner transfer more traction to your outside tires than to your inside ones,” Elser explains. “Our Torque Vectoring Control exploits that by transferring torque to the wheels that have the most grip, virtually eliminating understeer and forcing the front end to hug the inside of each curve.”
And, while we all know that actions speak louder than words, what’s performance without looking and sounding good? Ford achieves what it’s calling the “desired Fiesta ST sound” inside the car through an “engine sound symposer” that uses “good” engine-generated frequencies from the intake system and transmits them to the passenger compartment.
As for looks, the accelerator, brake and clutch pedals are all clad in racing-inspired aluminum, while the shifter knob and steering wheel are leather-wrapped. Headliner and pillar trim are black and standard seats are outfitted in charcoal black sport cloth with the ST logo or upgrade to RECARO partial leather-trimmed and heated sport front bucket seats.
For added style, the ST logo is emblazoned on the front door sill plates, while exterior mirrors with the RECARO package are heated—so you can see exactly whom you’ve left in the dust.
The Fiesta ST is capitalizing on a trend toward downsizing, to deliver a higher power-to-weight ratio and better cornering, and “is seen as replacing Ford’s SVT Focus as the consummate Ford tuner vehicle in the USA,” Elser says. “When Ken and Tanner migrated to the Fiesta from their previous vehicles, it gave the Fiesta the ultimate validation in the tuner community.”
That validation, coupled with the ST’s buzz, specs and style enhancements, should help drive major sales when it finally becomes available this summer. I’m saving up as we speak.
Editor’s note: As you’re gearing up to test drive the hot, new Ford Fiesta ST, be sure to visit Advance Auto Parts for great deals on parts and tools for just about any project you can dream up.
In spite of the fact that I live for speed approximately 22.5 hours out of the day, I’m probably the happiest when I can finally relax with a healthy selection of reading material to choose from. Nearly all of my reading is done just before I crash out. And you’ll always find a pile of car magazines next to my bed. Forget the classics, I’m all about fixating on the latest models, gear, tips and tricks, and on some days, that’s what I look forward to most.
This brings me to my latest dilemma—deciding on which print and online media to consume. There are tons of custom car magazines out there targeted to the import tuner enthusiast. Take, for example, the list of media sponsors on Formula D’s website. There are about 40 print, online, and radio media outlets linked there, each one just as interesting as the next. It’s a great selection, and overwhelming at the same time. I could spend days reading them and checking out all the unique cars, but I can’t.
Some of my favorite custom car magazines include Import Tuner, DS Sport, LoweredLifestyle.com and MotorMavens.com, in part for their photography and countless project car profiles. These media outlets are a great way to stay up to date on the latest news too. Recently, I found out that Walter Wilkerson’s Formula Drift car, truck and trailer were stolen and last spotted in Carson, California, and that driver Ryan Tuerck now has his own show on YouTube called The Ultimate Game of Drift.
Most online media is heavy on video content, making it even harder for me to tear myself away from my tablet. Then again, it is winter, and what better way to spend a chill winter’s night than inside, cozying up to a car magazine or two, or eight.
I’m always on the lookout for new online sources geared to import tuners or drifting, so let me know what some of your favorites are. Because let’s face it, when it comes to this stuff, there’s no such thing as too much reading material, or too many cars.
Editor’s note: As you study up on the latest and greatest developments in the automotive world, be sure to read all about the latest and greatest deals at Advance Auto Parts.
Street Talk catches up with Daigo Saito – 2012 Formula D Champion.
For the first time in Formula Drift history, a rookie has won the Series Championship, leading me to believe that maybe there’s hope for my drifting dreams after all! I recently caught up with Daigo Saito for a brief chat, to get his take on winning the championship, practicing his craft and more.
After climbing out of his racing harness and removing his racing helmet, Daigo Saito was crowned the 2012 Formula Drift Champion at the series finale at Irwindale Speedway in California. Saito, while a rookie in Formula D, is no stranger to drifting, having previously won both the Formula DRIFT Asia Championship and the D1 Championship. His win here in the U.S. as a rookie, however, is sure to inspire drifting enthusiasts everywhere with dreams of a professional racing career.
Piloting the Achilles Tire/Bridges Racing Lexus SC430, Daigo said that winning the Formula D championship and his other victories haven’t come easy. “I know it’s very hard to win any championship so I wouldn’t say one is easier than the other,” Daigo explains. “It was just very hard to get everything ready since I don’t live in the states and do not speak the language.”
When asked if he had any plans on winning the Formula D championship in just his rookie year in the US series, Daigo said, “Of course I had high hopes of trying to win the championship, but it was not easy at all. I had doubts at times during the season but it all came together at the end. I think I concentrated on doing what I had to do, and thanks to my sponsors, they made it a lot easier for me.”
Despite the impressive string of drifting wins, Daigo seems like he’d be more comfortable talking about his car’s sway bar control or polyurethane bushings instead of about being called the best drifter in the world—a description that’s being used more frequently to describe him. “I wouldn’t say I’m the best, but I would like to find out; [maybe] if there were a world championship somewhere where everyone was able to compete at their best and go head to head.”
As for advice to future drifting enthusiasts—beyond the common sense practice of wearing a racing harness and other safety equipment—Daigo offered his opinion about the most important vehicle component in a winning drift car.
“There are a lot of things [that are] important, but the most important thing would probably be an LSD (limited-slip differential). And I would say you should practice a lot. Practice makes perfect.” And for drivers working on a drift car on a budget, Daigo recommends they concentrate their limited resources on tires.
Removing any doubt surrounding his plans to return to Formula D in 2013, Daigo says, “Definitely, yes!” when asked if he’d be returning for another season. Formula D fans will have to get through the winter first, though, before they can see him back in his racing harness or their favorite drivers in racing helmets, as the series doesn’t return until April 12, 2013.
Editor’s note: Advance Auto Parts offers a wide variety of quality auto parts, whether you’re driving a drift car or the family minivan. Got a DIY’er on your Xmas list? Visit our Holiday Gift Guide for great ideas. —JK
For many import/tuner enthusiasts, how their baby sounds is just as important as how she looks and performs—whether on the street or on the track. That sound and performance share a common bond, and you happen to be sitting right on top of it—the exhaust system. If you’re still using a stock car exhaust system—muffler and catalytic converter—you’re sacrificing engine horsepower and the sheer, unbridled pleasure of hearing your import/tuner’s true expression. And if you’re considering achieving an engine horsepower increase by flaunting the law and going catless, or have already gone down that road, read on for why not running a cat on your exhaust system isn’t the best route to choose, in addition to it being illegal and costly.
Stock mufflers are designed to absorb sound. With all their twists and turns, they get the job of dampening the noise done, but in doing so, they’re the most restrictive component of the car exhaust system. That air-flow restriction is robbing you of engine horsepower and your vehicle’s natural sounds. So if you’re looking to improve engine horsepower and harmonics—without going broke—your first consideration should be to replace the stock car exhaust system with a performance exhaust system (the muffler and catalytic converter).
Why replace the catalytic converter too? Second only to the muffler, a stock catalytic converter is a big engine horsepower thief. But you have to have one, if you want to avoid big fines and possible impoundment.
So, what’s an enthusiast to do? Replace that stock cat with a high-performance one. ImportTuner magazine featured a great study that shows how they netted an extra five horsepower from their ’99 Civic SI, simply by moving from a stock cat to a metallic core Magnaflow OBDII cat. While a ceramic core might be cheaper, it delivered slightly less of an increase in the test. More worrisome for import/tuners, though, is its lower melting point and the resulting failure in high performance, or boosted applications. And, when it comes to removing the cat entirely, that same dyno test showed only a one-horse increase as compared to running with a cat—hardly worth it, given the risks and considerable cost of running afoul of the law.
If you’re still running a stock exhaust system, sounding better and staying legal is easier than you think, and who doesn’t want that?
Editor’s note: Your new, robust sound and increased horsepower are bound to turn a few heads. Switching exhaust systems is easy with quality auto parts from Advance Auto Parts. Buy online, pick up in store.
If you’re like me, you obsess over car trivia and stats much like a kid does with a new set of baseball cards, or in my little cousin’s case, Pokemon cards. That leads me to NASCAR driver Tony Stewart. Stewart’s nickname is “Smoke.” His early skills for smoking the right rear tire and later for blowing up engines, has earned him the famous moniker. While he may not be known for drifting theatrics, or for a coveted collection of pimped-out street imports, I’m a fan. Recently, Mobil 1 asked their fans to vote on Facebook for which of four vehicles they’d like to see him drive in an exhibition. They voted him into Formula D driver Tyler McQuarrie’s Mobil 1 Formula Drift Chevy Camaro SS. My reaction? “Wow.”
Tony’s NASCAR season will be winding down in a couple more months and that got me to wondering what his winter plans are. Now that he’s driven Tyler’s car, has he ever given any thought to competing in Formula D? Maybe, he’ll spend the off-season building the ultimate drift car—in my dreams. But, if he did ask for my opinion, I might steer him toward an AE86, perhaps an RX-7, or maybe even a 944 Turbo. What are your thoughts on the subject? Regardless of what he would choose in this fantasy project, he’d be wise to pay some attention to car tires, like I do.
When you think about your import’s high performance parts, car tires have to be part of that equation, much like adjustable shocks, performance suspension, lowering springs or other performance upgrades. Whether you’re driving a 2012 Scion tC that’s been Optimized, or an old-school Mazda RX-7 SA/FB with a performance suspension, the rule applies – neglect your tires, and you’re sitting on the side of the road—instead of driving to one of this year’s Wekfests to check out the latest in suspension tuning or aftermarket performance auto parts.
Car tires matter—as much to your tuner’s performance as to its overall look—and should be included within your vehicle’s high-performance parts equation. Running the wrong tire pressure can seriously undo investments made into a performance suspension, or for several other aftermarket performance auto parts you may have installed. Checking tire pressure regularly is the best way to ensure that your car tires deliver long, reliable performance, and will help you save money at the gas pump. So, when you’re shopping for aftermarket performance auto parts, add a good digital tire pressure gauge to that list.
Look for the recommended inflation pressure on your driver’s side door-jamb or in the glove box, and check the pressure when the car tires are cool. You can improve fuel economy and reduce wear. Of course, if you’re smoking your tires every weekend, you’re not going to be too worried about wear. It’s already happening.
Watch Tony Stewart drive Tyler McQuarrie’s Mobil 1 Formula Drift Chevy Camaro SS here.
Editor’s note: Advance Auto Parts carries a wide selection of car tire accessories, and high performance parts. Get your order fast—buy online, pick up in store.
“This guy’s insane, and so is San Francisco for letting him do it.” That’s what I thought after stumbling upon this car drifting display in the new Gymkhana FIVE: Ultimate Urban Playground – San Francisco video from DC Shoes and Ken Block.
I love imports, drifting cars, Formula D and extreme driving, so I entered “car drifting” on YouTube and up pops this 650-horsepower Ford Fiesta HFHV engaged in some serious hoonage. I was hooked, and obviously wasn’t alone, since this video that showcases professional driver Ken Block drifting in hi-def had more than 25 million views.
The City had closed down several streets for the shoot. Good thing, this was the ultimate display of drifting cars engaged in a zero-to-60-in-1.8-seconds performance…and it was a massive undertaking. I followed this car drifting performance through a seemingly, never-ending off-ramp, launching across the Golden Gate Bridge, pirouetting around two moving trolley cars, and using Potrero Hill as a personal landing strip. The Fiesta with Ken Block at the helm made for one killer, high-performance event that brought new meaning to the art of drifting. As I watched in amazement, I wondered how many tires they smoked, how many car shocks they replaced, and how much equipment was destroyed just for the sake of the shoot. On that note, not even the cameras were safe, as one got ejected from the rear bumper—even the best car shocks can only help so much! I especially enjoyed the camera shots delivering the view of the car suspension and wheels on takeoff and landing.
Witnessing the abuse the car suspension withstood got me to thinking about my own car shocks. Automotive experts recommend replacing car shocks every 50,000 miles, but according to an article in Modern Tire Dealer, 86% of vehicles arriving at junkyards still have their original shocks and struts. That’s crazy, especially when you consider how car shocks impact braking and cornering ability, as well as tire wear. A study by Monroe found that even if one of four car shocks is degraded by 50%, stopping time can increase by 4.3% and stopping distance by 5.7%. That’s major.
While I’m sure Ken Block can get new shocks and equipment whenever he’s in need, I need to start planning my next purchase—my ride’s been bouncing around a little too much these past few days!
If you want to see some crazy moves, watch Ken Block’s Gymkahna spectacular. However, if you want the scoop on how he drives it and other background on Ken,driving and motorsports, watch this Shakedown interview with Ken and Leo Parente.