Guest Blog: Shift to Top 32 by Jacob Leveton

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Shift to Top 32
by Jacob Leveton

One of the greatest competition changes made by Formula D over the years was the shift from top 16 to top 32 tandem back in 2009. This shift has doubled the opportunities for up-and-coming drivers to compete in tandem competition side-by-side against the biggest names in the sport, as well as shaken up points structure. Qualifying for the tandem battles used to be reserved for the experienced and elite, with the occasional rookie making the field. Now, the majority of the drivers at any given event will be proving themselves in a judged tandem battle on Saturday, not packing it up early Friday evening. Because of that additional experience, names like Odi Bakchis, Ryan Kado, Matt Field, and Walker Wilkerson are quickly rising up the points standings.

As part of earning Rookie-of-the-year honors, Odi was interviewed for the 2012 Fan Guide. One of the questions we asked him who he gets excited to tandem against. Odi mentioned that he would prefer to get paired up against a top-10 driver because he knows he will learn something new in those tandems. Last year, Odi faced Dai Yoshihara (Long Beach), Vaughn Gittin Jr (Atlanta), Rhys Millen (West Palm Beach), and Joon Maeng (New Jersey) in his first four top-32 tandem battles, all of them ended in a losing effort. After Bakchis finally won his first tandem battle in a tight matchup with Robbie Nishida in Seattle, he was rewarded with a rematch against Gittin Jr. The experience of the first 5 rounds would finally pay off in Vegas where Bakchis was able to defeat Otto Graven, Justin Pawlak, and Toshiki Yoshioka before falling to Rhys Millen in the Final 4 and losing to Matt Powers in the consolation matchup. Odi’s run of success in Vegas almost single-handedly earned him the Rookie-of-the-year honors.

This year’s rookie class is looking to be the biggest one to date. As a result, you may see some unexpected names winning a few tandem rounds. Two rounds into this season, eight different rookies have made top 32 and fifteen more have made a qualifying pass. Daigo Saito is undeniably the most well-known rookie this season, but don’t sleep on the rest of the rookie class. Back in 2008, Michihiro Takatori used a 2nd place finish in Atlanta and a pair of 4th place finishes in Vegas and Irwindale to earn the Rookie of the Year honors. Also in that rookie class, a pair of drivers by the name of Justin Pawlak and Pat Mordaunt ran as privateers, trying to prove their abilities. Fast forward a few years and both Pawlak and Mordaunt are driving with some of the best teams in the series.

In 2009, the first year in which Formula D expanded to top-32 tandem format, we caught an early glimpse of how awesome the tandem battles can be in the round of 32. Mike Essa had a great battle with Tyler McQuarrie, unfortunately not having enough to move past the Falken Tire 350Z. But the most exciting tandem battle came between 2nd qualifier Dai Yoshihara and 31st qualifier Pat Mordaunt. Pat put on four stellar runs, two in the original battle and two more in the one-more-time battle, to knock out Yoshihara’s Discount Tire IS350. Entering this year’s event, it seemed that it wasn’t a matter of if there would be first round upsets but who they would be.

If the names Dai Yoshihara, Chris Forsberg, Tyler McQuarrie, Ken Gushi, Darren McNamara, Robbie Nishida, and Conrad Grunewald ring a bell, they should. Between them, they have 10 event wins, 16 other podium finishes, and 2 championships over the last 3 seasons alone. In any given event, any of these drivers could be in the top 8 or beyond. However in Atlanta, this was the list of drivers who were watching Top 16 opening ceremonies from the stands, eliminated in the round of 32. Just a few short years ago, today’s FD freshmen and sophomores were looking up to these drivers. Now, they’re ranked higher than them in the points standings. All thanks to top 32 tandems.

Formula DRIFT Malaysia Pre-Race Conference Highlights

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The VIP panel for the press conference included Encik Zulkifli Bin Ibrahim, Deputy Director General of Planning for Kuala Lumpur City Hall (Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur is the local authority charged with the administration of Kuala Lumpur); Mr Edward Mamahit, Head of Global Marketing & Business Development, PT Multistrada Arah Sarana Tbk (Achilles); Mr Harvey Davis, Vice President (Event Management Group), ESPN STAR Sports; and Mr Marcus Lim, Co-Founder of Formula Drift Asia and Driftpac.

Joining the panel on stage were drivers Daigo Saito, Robbie Nishida, Kiki Sak Nana, Josh Boettcher, Muhammad Rulli Armando, Manabu Orido, Ariff Johanis, Lim Zee King, Tan Tat Wei and Ivan Lau.






























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Vaughn Gittin Jr. Main Character in NFS SHIFT 2 UNLEASHED

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Vaughn Gittin Jr. main character in NFS SHIFT 2 UNLEASHED, with Monster Energy Falken Tire Ford Mustang and NFS RTR-X as boss cars

BALTIMORE, Md. (February 23, 2011) – The most successful racing video game series in the world, Electronic Art’s Need for Speed, is releasing the highly-anticipated SHIFT 2 UNLEASHED to the public March 29th, and 2010 Formula Drift Champion, Vaughn Gittin Jr., is excited to announce his huge involvement with the most realistic and immersive racing game on the market.

The Monster Energy Falken Tire 2011 Ford Mustang that Vaughn piloted to win the 2010 Formula Drift Championship will be the “boss car” for the Drift element of UNLEASHED. All players have the opportunity to have Vaughn’s competition car in their garage and drift it at famous tracks such as Irwindale Speedway and Ebisu Circuit. “Not only does it look the part,” says Vaughn, “but it’s handling and throttle response are as much crazy in-game as it is in real life.”

The Team Need for Speed ’69 Mustang RTR-X is the “boss car” in the Muscle element of the game and every player will have the opportunity to get behind the wheel of this amazing vehicle. “Just don’t scratch the paint!” Vaughn says jokingly.

Besides his vehicles being in-game and his personal contributions to the physics and other elements of SHIFT 2 UNLEASHED, Vaughn is honored that he is also the main character in the game. “I am each players’ friend and coach in the game,” Vaughn explains. “I am the guy that gives the player confidence before and during the races, I applaud players when they are killing it, and I yell at them when they are making mistakes.”

Not only is Vaughn in the player’s corner throughout the game, but he also works with them to teach them how to drift during the drift tutorial. “Being the frequent Sim player that I am, I truly believe that having a proper virtual driving experience translates to a shorter learning curve when the opportunity arrives to hit the track in real life,” says Vaughn Gittin Jr.

“Working on SHIFT 2 UNLEASHED has been a true project of passion for me,” Vaughn continues. “I am very excited for the world to have the opportunity to get behind the wheel of my cars virtually. Who knows, it could turn into reality for a few gamers one day! I sincerely hope everyone enjoys SHIFT 2 UNLEASHED. The team has put a lot of passion behind each element of the game to offer in my opinion what is the best console driving experience to date!”

Read Vaughn’s blog on for more details and pictures. Stay tuned to for updated news, pictures, and videos.

Bridges Racing Signs Robbie Nishida For 2011 Season

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Bridges Racing of Huntington Beach, CA to collaborate with Internationally Renowned Drifter, Robbie Nishida for the 2011 Formula DRIFT Season.

Huntington Beach, CA – February 20, 2011 – Bridges Racing is proud to announce their return to the Formula DRIFT series this year with one of the most respected drivers in the series, Robbie Nishida.

With years of professional racing experience, team owner, Bryan Bridges takes his talents to the world of drifting. Using the age old formula of a lightweight chassis and a high powered motor, Bridges Racing mates a 240sx with a VQ35. They didn’t stop there; with the help of Brian Crower, the Bridges Racing team took the 3.5L motor, bored and stroked it to 4.0L, strengthened the internals and added a Vortech supercharger to produce 630 whp and 580lb/ft of torque. Having piloted a VQ powered Nissan 350z and R35 Nissan GTR before, Robbie is no stranger to this motor.

Although his roots stem from motorcycle racing, Bridges attributes much of his racing experience and knowledge to drag racing. Bridges began tuning high performance Honda’s eventually becoming crew chief for the Castrol Syntec Acura Integra. The team went on to win numerous championships including the first NHRA Sport Compact Championship, as well as setting a number of world records.

During his tenure with Castrol, Dunlop Tires called upon Bridges to assist them in their efforts to enter the sport compact market. Bridges assisted in developing import drag slicks and tires as well as trackside marketing.

With a successful track record in drag racing and an admiration for drifting, Bridges decided to take a shot at professional drifting. In 2009, Bridges Racing campaigned a car in the Formula DRIFT season with Michihiro Takatori behind the wheel. Having obtained a lot of data from that season, the car has gone through various changes to become more competitive and reliable. In its current form Bridges Racing believes that with Robbie Nishida, they have found the winning combination.

Robbie Nishida has become one of the most watched for drivers in Formula DRIFT. Nishida has been competing in Japan since 1998 and professionally in the Formula DRIFT series since 2005. His skilled driving has earned him a podium and numerous Top 8 finishes the in the Formula DRIFT Series. In 2009 Nishida finished 8th in overall points.

Robbie Nishida will be making his debut with the Bridges Racing 240SX during Formula DRIFT Round 1 in Long Beach, CA on April 8th 2011. “I want to thank everyone that has helped me over the past few years to get to where I am now, but I am proud to say that I have a new start with a whole new team. This year I will be in a familiar chassis with a familiar motor in it. Hopefully we could move on with more success and I will be driving even more aggressively than ever” said Robbie Nishida.

Bridges Racing and its current sponsors are already looking forward to watching Robbie Nishida this Formula DRIFT season. “Robbie and the Bridges Racing 240SX is definitely a team to watch for. I am looking forward to the synergy of Robbie Nishida behind the wheel of the supercharged VQ powered 240SX. A car that all drifting fans can relate to” says Andrew Modena, President of Marketing for Button Marketing & Consulting, a Bridges Racing sponsor. Bridges Racing is excited to be working with Nishida this year and believes that their partnership will bring competition to other drivers and excitement to the fans. “Robbie is a class act and a top driving talent. I believe that if we provide him with the correct tools, we will see a string of podium finishes for the 2011 season” says Bryan Bridges, team owner of Bridges Racing

Current sponsors for the 2011 Formula DRIFT season include:
• S-Max Intercoolers
• Spec Clutch
• K&N
• HPS Silicone Hoses
• Brian Crower
• Neo Synthetic Oil
• Baker Precision
• PAC Auto Body
• Button Marketing & Consulting
• Steen Chassis

Bridges Racing would like to thank their ongoing sponsors for their loyalty and continued support. Bridges Racing is currently in negotiations with a title sponsor and is working to bring in additional sponsors for the season.