Formula Drift 2013 Long Beach Daijiro Yoshihara and trophy girls

2013 Formula Drift Long Beach: Daijiro Yoshihara Takes the Round 1 Crown

2013 Formula DRIFT Long Beach

The 2012 Formula Drift season was as exciting and unpredictable as any in memory, and when the last of the tire smoke settled over the finale at Irwindale Speedway, Formula D newbie Daigo Saito found himself winner of the event and the championship. Not too long after that, Saito grabbed the Formula Drift Asia championship, too. So naturally, most of the Formula Drift community spent the winter trying to figure out how to dethrone the likeable Lexus driver from Japan in 2013.

And judging by the results of this past weekend’s season opener on the streets of Long Beach, California, it looks like more than a few of Saito’s rivals have stepped up to challenge him. And while some of the names that managed to best the defending champ are familiar, there were a few who weren’t. Make the jump to see who made it the deepest into eliminations.

Formula Drift 2013 Long Beach Daigo Saito and Fredric Aasbo

The field of 32 qualifiers was topped by 2011 champion Daijiro Yoshihara in the Discount Tire Nissan S13; Saito, piloting the title-winning Achilles Tire Lexus SC430, was on the same side of the ladder with the eighth best qualifying run. Most of the other heavy hitters, like Justin Pawlak, Ken Gushi, Vaughn Gittin Jr., Ryan Tuerck and Chris Forsberg, lined up on the other side of the ladder. All of the aforementioned pilots made it past their first round matchups and into the top 16.

Saito’s second round opponent was Fredric Aasbo, fresh off what appeared to be a fun and relaxing offseason in his native Norway. After the two super-close regulation battles, the crowd called for “one more time,” and the judges and competitors obliged. When that matchup was too-close-to-call, Saito and Aasbo lined back up and went at it again. This time, Saito bobbled at Long Beach’s signature hairpin, handing the win to the Hankook Scion tC driver. On the other side of the ladder, Tuerck dispatched Pawlak.

Formula Drift 2013 Long Beach Chelsea DeNofa

As all this was happening, Yoshihara, Gittin and Forsberg were marching their way through round after round: Yoshihara knocked Matt Powers and Aasbo out, Gittin sent Patrick Mordaunt and Gushi packing, and Forsberg defeated Darren McNamara and Tuerck. Who was the last member of the final four? That would be sophomore sensation Chelsea DeNofa in his distinctive purple-and-black, vertical-stabilizer-equipped U.S. Air Force/BC Racing BMW E46 3 Series sedan.

2013 Formula DRIFT Long Beach

Unfortunately for the BMW buffs in the crowd (We’re sure there had to be a few in the house.), Yoshihara gave DeNofa a firsthand demonstration of why he’s a former series champion and perennial championship contender. And in the Gittin/Forsberg showdown, the Monster Energy Ford Mustang man proved to be too strong for the NOS Energy Drink Nissan 370Z and its skipper.

2013 Formula DRIFT Long Beach

In the subsequent consolation round, Forsberg handed young Mr. DeNofa another defeat, though the transplanted Pennsylvanian certainly has no reason to hang his head.

Formula Drift 2013 Long Beach Daijiro Yoshihara and trophy girls

So with Forsberg taking home third place honors, all that was left was to decide who would grab the winner and runner up positions. And despite Gittin being in rare form, Dai’s desire to notch his first win in the LBC carried him to the top of the podium and, because this is the first event of the season, the point standings.

2013 Formula DRIFT Long Beach

So the defending champion has a lot of ground to make up, some former champs are looking strong, and a new star in an unorthodox ride looks set to scramble the Formula D pecking order. Makes the wait for the next round (May 10 and 11 at Road Atlanta) that much harder, doesn’t it? But if you need something to help pass the time, check out our galleries focusing on the cars and the babes from this past weekend’s goings on.

Formula DRIFT Professional Championship Presented by GoPro 2013 Standings After One Event
1. Yoshihara, Daijiro America’s Tire / Falken Tire Nissan S13 112 Points
2. Gittin Jr., Vaughn Monster Energy / Nitto Tire Ford Mustang 92 Points
3. Forsberg, Chris NOS Energy Drink / Hankook Nissan 370Z 79 Points
4. DeNofa, Chelsea BC Racing BMW 3 Series 75 Points
5. McNamara, Darren Falken Tire Nissan S14 64 Points
6. Tuerck, Ryan Team Retaks Scion FR-S 64 Points
7. Gushi, Ken Greddy / Hankook Scion FR-S 62 Points
8. Essa, Michael GSR Autosport / Yokohama BMW M3 62 Points
9. Moen, Kenneth Nexen Tire Nissan 240SX 58 Points
10. Saito, Daigo Achilles Tire / Bridges Racing Lexus SC430 57 Points
11. Aasbo, Fredric Hankook Tire Scion Racing tC 56 Points
12. Bakchis, Aurimas Nexen Tire Nissan S14 56 Points
13. Kado, Ryan DNA Motoring / Nexen Tire Nissan 350Z 55 Points
14. Powers, Matt Nitto Tire / Fatlace Nissan S14 55 Points
15. Mordaunt, Patrick Apexi / PM Racing / Diamon Lexus SX430 54.50 Points
16. Pawlak, Justin Falken Tire Ford Mustang 54.50 Points
Round 1: Streets of Long Beach Event Results
1. Yoshihara, Daijiro America’s Tire / Falken Tire Nissan S13 Winner
2. Gittin Jr., Vaughn Monster Energy / Nitto Ford Mustang Second Place
3. Forsberg, Chris NOS Energy Drink / Hankook Nissan 370Z Third Place
Manufacturers Championship Standings After One Event
1. Ford 146.5 Points
2. Nissan 137 Points
2. BMW 137 Points
4. Scion 126 Points
5. Lexus 111 Points
Tire Championship Standings After One Event
1. Falken 176 Points
2. Nitto 167 Points
3. Hankook 141 Points
4. Yokohama 116.5 Points
5. Nexen 111 Points

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