Drifting is another data point to support the “Cool Japan” thesis.
Since that first parking-lot event, Irwindale has offered events and exhibitions by the top Japanese drifters, including the 2004 Formula Drift Grand Prix in August, which drew a standing-room-only crowd of more than 8,000.
In the final round of Formula Drift, Dai was pitted against Rhys Millen for the top prize. Mr. Millen, a former world-rally car driver, and his car have shaken up the American drifting scene this year.
Dai learned to drift in the Japanese mountains, where the sport began. His Nissan Silvia is a favorite of Japanese drifters, a rear-wheel-drive compact car with an engine tweaked to add horsepower. General Motors sponsors Mr. Millen. His Pontiac GTO, with its growling V-8 engine and bright orange-yellow paint job, has been a lightning rod in drifting as people struggle with the idea of allowing big American metal to compete against traditional Japanese sport-compact cars.
The sport’s backers say that drifting, American style, has the opportunity to marry the grass-roots appeal it has in Japan with American commercialism. Drifting is still new enough, however, that a great driver can come from anywhere and take a championship. That is the dream for many drivers taking to the Irwindale track.
If You Like Driving Sideways, Drift With Me [nytimes.com]
Previous posts on the topic of Cool Japan are here:
July 2003 – Cool Japan Marches on
Aug. 2003 – Is Japan Cool?
Dec. 2003 – Japan’s empire of cool