D1 GP USA CHICAGO 2009
Midwest round in the books amid more controversy
by: URC Staff and Ryan Belville, Photography by Ryan Belville
8/6/2009
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It has been almost four years since D1 Grand Prix USA visited Chicago, and the Midwest welcomed the event on August 1 at Soldier Field with open arms and ears. To some, the sound of drifting is described as music to the ears - there is nothing quite like the audible assault of constantly burning rubber and high-revving engines.

D1 GP USA Round 3 (of 4) was easily the biggest professional drift event in the Midwest area since the now-defunct NOPI Drift came through last year. Grassroots drifting normally dominates the region, so it was nice to see a big-time series put on an event.

D1's troupe of regular J drivers was on the premises - Rounds 1 and 2 winner and 2008 D1 Japan champ Daigo Saito, Keiichi Tsuchiya, Ken Nomura, the Team Orange duo, etc. - as were some the best from at home and abroad. Up-and-coming American hotshots like Forrest Wang (who took third in Anaheim), Quoc Ly and Chelsea DeNofa were suited up, as were Harri Hokkanen (Miami's silver medalist) and Juha Rintanen from Finland, and Tania "Spooky" Bourbonnais from Canada.

Ahead of D1 Chicago, the series announced a change in the judges' box, namely that Adam Andretti had been replaced by Rob Flemming. Flemming is an ex-NOPI drifter and apparently will remain on as a jurist for the last D1 USA event of the year in New Jersey next month.

On the Friday before the big show, organizers allowed drivers to sample the course as workers hurried to set up before the masses arrived on Saturday. Between the two days, the event took a considerable toll on a handful of teams (luckily no one was seriously hurt). Among the casualties: Ly rolled his Drift Speed Silvia onto its roof; Bourbonnais stuffed her GTO (Rhys Millen's/Dai Yoshihara's old ride) into a wall; and DeNofa and Zoltan Hajdu both had incidents with K-rails.

Elsewhere in the D1 Dojo, the car show was nearly a repeat of Hot Import Night's just a few weeks ago, only at D1 the exhibitors had a lot more room to sprawl out. And the models were also out in full force, but shockingly asking for money in order to take their photos (WTF!) In a bit of karma, perhaps, one of the girls who was dancing unknowingly lost part of her top for about a minute during her performance until someone from the D1 staff let her know what was going on.

After the qualifying session on Saturday afternoon, Saito led the pack, with Wang not too far behind. Not surprisingly, six of the top eight drivers hailed from Japan.

Pos. Name Points
1 Daigo Saito 76.26
2 Forrest Wang 74.02
3 Nobushige Kumakubo 71.67
4 Takahiro Ueno 70.63
5 Harri Hokkanen 69.6
6 Toshiki Yoshioka 67.64
7 Kazuhiro Tanaka 67.45
8 Ken Nomura 66.25
9 Juha Rintanen 61.39
10 Matt Waldin 60.96
11 King 59.79
12 Pollard 57.2
13 Aaron Losey 56.69
14 Walker 56.63
15 Gary Simmons 55.4
16 Chelsea Denofa 53.4

Evening tandem eliminations was a showcase for two drivers. In spite of a middling qualifying performance in the Blitz Skyline, Nomuken was hitting his marks in pairs racing and slaying all challengers in his run to the Final, even dispatching the winner of the last two events, Saito, in top 8.

Wang has been, to use a tired phrase, killing it all year long in his Full Race/DMax S13, and Chicago was no exception. Unfortunately, he was at the center of what looked like a pretty major dispute that erupted in the Super 8 round.

Wang drew Kazuhiro Tanaka and his Team Orange Impreza in the battle, a match that went to One More Time. As the drivers waited to hear the outcome, confusion descended between the judges and the starting-line personnel, at first announcing a second OMT before retracting it and declaring Wang the winner of the round.

What followed was behavior worthy of classic NASCAR. Incensed at the final decision, Tanaka and Team Orange threw what can only be characterized as a fit at the starting line, with Tanaka roasting his tires in a half donut and flipping everyone the bird as he fumed back to the paddock.

It didn't end there. Wang was to face Tanaka's teammate, Nobushige Kumakubo in the Team Orange GC8 Impreza, in the semifinals, but Kumakubo essentially forfeited the race, giving Forrest the bye into the title round. (Kumakubo also ostensibly gave up the consolation battle, as well, because Hokkanen was awarded third place without having to drive for it.)

The night ended with Wang versus Nomura, a battle that began with what looked like a false start, Wang getting halfway into the three-clipping point course before Nomuken crawled off of the drag strip. The second lap was much closer, and somehow those two runs added up to a OMT.

After the second set of passes, it was clear who deserved the win - Nomura.

What a wild night. We should note that as this entire soap opera unfolded, it extended the evening beyond tolerance for many (there were some fairly long stretches of downtime in between runs). We heard accounts of the crowd getting unruly as the event dragged, a sad similarity to Round 1: Anaheim.

We almost can't wait to see what the drifting circus will bring to the last race on its 2009 calendar. D1 USA returns to E-Town for Round 4 on September 5 at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in New Jersey.

www.d1gp.com

2009 D1GP USA Round 3
Soldier Field, Chicago, IL

Super 16 Super 8 Final 4 Final CHAMPION
1 Saito
Vs. Saito
16 Denofa
Vs. Nomura
8 Nomura
Vs. Nomura
9 Rintanen
Vs. Nomura
5 Hokkanen
Vs. Hokkanen
12 Pollard
Vs. Hokkanen
4 Ueno
Vs. Ueno
13 Losey
Vs. KEN NOMURA
3 Kumakubo
Vs. Kumakubo
14 Walker
Vs. Kumakubo
6 Yoshioka
Vs. Yoshioka
11 King
Vs. Wang
7 Tanaka
Vs. Tanaka
10 Waldin
Vs. Wang
2 Wang
Vs. Wang
15 Simmons

Consolation
Kumakubo
Vs. Harri Hokkanen
Hokkanen

1st place - Ken Nomura, Blitz Nissan R34 Skyline
2nd place - Forrest Wang, Full Race/Dmax Nissan S13 240SX
3rd place - Harri Hokkanen, Nissan S14 240SX

Photo Gallery

Visit the 2009 D1 GRAND PRIX CHICAGO GALLERY for more pictures

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