Wow. What. A. Weekend.
The week started with Smoky Nagata from Top Secret Japan tuning Nissans from Monday all the way through wednesday late night, and it closed with Import Reactor Unlimited and Anime Matsuri. But before the official and epic weekend got started, Import Reactor Drift was to be the opening ceremonies to Import Reactor Unlimited.
Import Reactor Drift is the first time that Import Reactor/Anime Matsuri has incorporated a new aspect of Japanese culture: Drifting. This is significant here in Texas, as most all organized drift events take place when the sun is bright and shining, the polar opposite of IRDrift. This also marks the first time in Texas drifting history that car clubs and teams will be sponsoring most of the drifters as they battle it out for a $2000 first place prize and bragging rights for their respective crews.
The formula worked great. Teams immediately drafted the drivers they wanted, and in exchange for buying the drifters their way into the event, the drivers would sport the car clubs’ Team Logo. Refined Elegance, Import AllStars, ProjectM, 16Niss, Ikon, Sunworks, Epik, Kazoku, StanceWorks, and 5star all snatched up the drifters they wanted, and the drama began.
The day started with practice runs, ride-alongs, and working the kinks out as drivers dialed in suspension settings and tire preferences. It was also a great opportunity for me to check out the pits before the hordes of spectators got to it. Our newest photographer, Donnell McAllister, joined me as we took pictures of drift cars and talked to the drivers.
But it wasn’t only just the local drifters giving ride-alongs. Falken Tires’ ace driver, Vaughn Gittin Jr of Drift Alliance hall of fame, was also kind enough to not only travel all the way from California in the Team Falken truck, but to also give a few lucky people a few brushes with death in his green and blue Ford Mustang Demo car.
Of course it wasn’t all peachy for everyone. Some drivers had a few issues with some mechanical failures such as Victor Sun’s unfortunate power steering issues on his S13. It was a very normal thing to see the drifters working diligently on their own cars. Everything from adding new vinyl stickers to complete engine teardowns could be seen in the pits. Luckily, most everyone worked out their kinks and were eventually ready to throw down some smoke.
Speaking of adding Vinyl…
And then the screeching began. One by one, the drifters took to the track, with each run getting progressively better than the last. There was one thing very different about this course than what you would normally see at a Texas drift event. K-Rails, aka, concrete barriers. The K-Rail brings a very crucial element to the event which is danger and chaos. Only the best drifters would get close to the barriers, as this gave them a ton of points to get as absurdly close to what would seem like suicide.
After 5pm, the track went “cold” and no one was able to drift until the qualifers at 7pm. The bleachers began to fill for what was sure to be an epic evening. Even as the wind became more prevalent, slowly, the crowds began to show. It was definitely an interesting sight to see as each sponsoring crew came to support their respective drivers and it was great to see the hardpark crews cheering for the drifters. It was something Houston hasn’t seen since the original Formula D that was held at night time over 5 years ago. This was definitely the place to be on this thursday night. This also marked when I could finally put down my camera and let the real photographers for Mayday take over. In addition to Donnell’s pictures, DFan and Khiem had made their way to Gulf Greyhound park to snap some photos for MaydayGarage.
The festivities officially began at 7pm with a 13 car tandem, and the mayhem was something to see and hear. One by one, the sounds of turbocharged JDM four cylinder SR20DETs mixed in with turbocharged european six cylinders and the rumble of normally aspirated V8’s filled the evening air as the crowd cheered and yelled at the top of their lungs.
This was Import Reactor Drift.
After all 13 cars made their qualifying runs based on speed, style, angle, how close they could get to the K-Rail, and overall excitement factor, it was time to narrow down the field to just 8. These 4 sets of 2 would do Tandem, with each winner moving up the ranks. Only the podium finishers would get any prize money with first place pocketing an astonishing $2k, unheard of for any Texas drift event. But what did you expect? Go big or go home. Competition was fierce to say the least. But before the battles for top 3 would begin, Vaughn Gittin Jr. was kind enough to take a few spectators for some runs while the judges figured out who was moving into the great eight. With DJ Tito spinning the vinyl, and J-Rod of Formula D fame announcing, no one was bored.
This also gave the spectators a little time to also check out the local heroes as they got ready for round two.
After the small intermission, it was back to the drifting. This is the most exciting part of the competition as drivers are put to the test by trying to close gaps and maintain both their racing lines and drift momentum as the other trys to escape the car following them. Mix in that K-Rail, and it’s a recipe for both drama and excitement. There were more than a few drivers who ate the K-Rail, as expected, and most just shook it off, and continued bumpers and fenders falling off, the show must go on.
As the last battles are fought out, Ameen clenches 3rd place for a podium finish, and the winner of IRDrift is to be announced by the judges table as Stew Leask and Sammy Tiger await the results. First place takes home $2k, and second takes $700.
But before J-Rod announces the winner, we have one more surprise. Out of an SUV pops out John Leigh, the man responsible for everything that is Import Reactor/Anime Matsuri. John is not alone. With him is none other than Smoky Nagata, Top Secret Japan extrodinaire and his main mechanic, Asai. They are here to check out American drifting and also to present the trophies to the top 3 winners. How awesome is that?
The winner is Stewart Leask in his awesome silver colored S13 coupe representing Team Sunworks with Sammy Tiger taking second overall for Project M! Vaughn Gittin Jr. congratulates all 3 winners as does Smoky.
After everyone got their trophies, it didn’t end there. Afterwards, Stew got the chance to tandem with Vaughn as the two eight cylinder powered cars finished off the rest of their tires for the night. The smoke made from both of these cars was nothing short of amazing. It was the perfect ending to a perfect event. Everyone stayed to get a chance to check out the drift cars and get to talk to the drivers and get autographs from Vaughn. I was actually very pleasantly surprised so many people stayed behind to congratulate the drivers. It was a great night to be a Texan.
As we conclude on the first day of Import Reactor Unlimited weekend, we’d like to thank all those involved to make the first Import Reactor Drift a success. Without them, this event would never had come to fruition.
Last thing. While making what would be his last run ever in the Falken drift demo Mustang, Vaughn had lightly tapped the K-rail with the rear bumper of his car. Where did it scrape?
DD= David Do
KP= Khiem Pham
DM= Donnell McAllister
DP= Danh Phan
Stay tuned for our coverage of the show portion of Import Reactor Unlimited, the best car show in TX!
And don’t forget to become a fan of Maydaygarage on Facebook!