D1 Grand Prix: Round 2 in Odaiba
Formula Drift makes us all wait at least a month in between rounds, but not the D1 Grand Prix. For two consecutive days, Odaiba, Tokyo played host to the two opening rounds of the series. While Round 1 was a rain-filled event with a lot of sliding and a couple accidents, there was not much speed or smoke. Round 2, on the other hand, was the exact opposite with no rain, moderate temperatures and a return to drifting that we all associate with D1 Grand Prix.
Taking the top 24 qualifiers from Round 1, the day started off with the Tanso session which are solo runs to narrow the field down to the top 16. Each driver gets two passes in order to try to secure a spot in the tandem battles.
In Round 1, Takahiro Ueno had an unfortunate accident with his Toyota Soarer and was unable to qualify. With only 24 hours in between rounds, Ueno was able to make repairs in time and qualify into the top 24. Seimi Tanaka in his Nissan S15 took the top seed while teammate Masashi Yokoi took the second seed. Team D-Max was looking to make it a one-two finish.
Brackets to the Final Four
A big upset in the opening tandem battles was only a tease of things to come. #1 Seimi Tanaka in his Nissan S15 was defeated with some very aggressive driving by #16 Kazuya Bai. Bai is definitely looking to make a statement this year in his Nissan 180sx. The rest of the top 16 was full of upsets with five of the eight tandem battles going to the lower seed. This included Round 1's top qualifier and eventual winner, #14 Hideyuki Fujino and his Nissan 180sx, making it past #3 Tetsuya Hibino and his Toyota Supra.
In the quarter finals, Fujino continued his run to back-to-back podium finishes by defeating #11 Tsuyoshi Tezuka, piloting a Toyota 86. Fellow Round 1 podium finisher, #2 Masashi Yokoi, was also still in the fight with his Nissan S15 our drifting #10 Yoichi Imamura who was also piloting a Toyota 86. On the other side, Bai continued to be aggressive, but his Cinderella story would come to an end after being a bit too aggressive, making contact with #8 Kazuya Matsukawa's Toyota AE86.
The semi finals saw two of Round 1's podium winners battle it out with Yokoi topping Fujino this round. #5 Masato Kawabata was looking poised to take top place on the podium but had to withdraw due to problems with a left front link in his Nissan Skyline R35. This allowed Matsukawa and his Toyota AE85 an opening to podium.
While Fujino was unable to repeat with another first place finish, he was able to easily return to the podium and claim third place. A free run is all he needed to complete due to Kawabata's earlier mechanical issues.
The Final Battle
Back-to-back podium finishes, but with better results — Yokoi always does well at Odaiba, and today was no different. His consistently fast entries and smooth driving allowed him to edge out Matsukawa. Their runs were the best of the day as they were awarded the Best Tandem Award.
D1 Grand Prix 2016 champion Daigo Saito seems to be having some teething problems, but we are sure the team will get everything sorted out soon.
Kawabata also seemed to run into bad luck in Odaiba — first running into Kohashi during the Round 1 quarter finals, and then today suffering the mechanical failure. Nevertheless, he still earned enough points to be third in the points race.
Matsukawa and his V6 powered AE85 were able to put the huge power-to-weight ratio to use, securing a second-place finish. He is now in fifth place in points.
Fujino was able to win Round 1 and place third in Round 2, resulting in a tie for first after Yokoi finished third in Round 1 and first in Round 2.
Quietly consistent during the first two rounds was Tezuka and his Toyota 86. Placing seventh and sixth nets him fourth overall in points.