Ideal weather conditions and a capacity crowd pumped up the Hankook Tires / JIC USA team as the Nissan Silvia S15 was getting prepped for another exciting round of the Formula Drift at the Wall Speedway in New Jersey. Kenji Yamanaka, the overall 10th place driver of the Hankook Tire / JIC USA Silvia strapped in as qualifying of the top 32 drivers began. Most drivers were being clocked in at 40 mph and Kenji was able to come in an above average speed of 45mph and clean lines and a white screen of smoke scored him a 89.90 with a judges. That score landed him the number 10 spot of qualifying.
During the driver's meeting, they announced that Kenji will be competing against Ford Racing / Toyo Tires' Ford Mustang driven by Ken Gushi. Kenji was excited to be competing against such an aggressive driver. Both drivers lined up to the starting line as Ken Gushi lead and Kenji followed. Right away Ken Gushi took off in a blaze of torque but as Ken Gushi entered the first bank, Kenji caught up to him and they both went into the course with high speeds. Kenji stuck to the Mustang's rear bumper and as they both went into the horseshoe, the judges noticed that Kenji did do some corrections and because of that, advantage went to Ken Gushi. After the smoke cleared, the second part allowed Kenji to lead and Ken Gushi followed. Kenji entered the bank at high speeds and kept clean lines. Ken Gushi tried to keep up and in the end when the tire smoke cleared Kenji came out with the advantage which meant that the duo had to go for another round of tandem. The Hankook Tire / JIC USA pit team quickly went to work at they slapped on a fresh set of Hankook V212 Ventus Tires and with a quick burnout to warm them up, Kenji lined up against Ken Gushi again for another round.
Ken Gushi took off in his 650hp Ford Mustang and Kenji followed. Into the first bank, Ken Gushi began to drift and Kenji's higher speed drift caught up to Ken Gushi but as they entered into the first corner of the horseshoe, Kenji did not demonstrate a clean drift and that gave the advantage to Gushi. Kenji lead the second part and they drifted into the corner at blazing speeds. Kenji drifted as Gushi fell behind throughout the course. When the smoke cleared, Judges awarded Kenji with the win with a margin of 1 point. It was a close match and Kenji moved onto the Great 8.
In the Great 8 Kenji was paired up against Mopar's SRT-10 Viper piloted by the series points leader, Samuel Hubinette. Kenji was up for the challenge as he has already defeated him at Sonoma. The Viper lead first and took off with its massive amount of torque. Kenji kept up as he caught up to Samuel right away proving that Kenji's skill as a top drifter was the equalizer to the Viper's power. Kenji stuck to Samuel and Samuel kept his clean lines. Both went through the two horseshoes and at the end, the judges agreed that it was a complete tie. Kenji went back up to the starting line and took off and Samuel chased him. Kenji went in as if he had nothing to lose, entering the course at the highest speed in the day. As he entered the first horseshoe, Kenjij came in a bit inside and the front tires hit the gravel causing him to spin. Samuel drifted around Kenji and the win went to Samuel.
An overall 7th place is not bad because Kenji showed that he can go against vehicles that have much more power than the Nissan Silvia and that just fueled the fire for him to dominate at the Formula Drift Finals in Irwindale, CA. JIC USA would like to thank the following companies for their on going support: Hankook Tire USA (http://www.hankooktireusa.com), Tomei Powered, Stoptech Brakes, Exedy Clutches, Works Bell, Meguiar's, 5th Dimension Signworks, and all the fans for always cheering for us.
Photos coutesy of their respected owners. Drift East, Thespeedlounge.com