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22266Some minor internet buzz (including <A HREF="http://my.is/forums/f104/formula-drift-long-beach-track-coverage-386979/">a thread on our Garage forum</A>) was generated by the kickoff of the 6th Season of the Formula DRIFT series at The Streets of Long Beach in California on Friday 10 and Saturday 11 April 2009. But it was a stray comment in <A HREF="http://www.autoblog.com/2009/04/15/rmr-hyundai-genesis-coupe-starts-formula-d-season-with-nissan-po/">an Autoblog article on the RMR Hyundai Genesis Coupe drift car</A> that caught this author's eye: "...you'll see such oddities as a Lexus IS running a Chevy small-block..." Tracking down the significance of that phrase ultimately led down a very familiar path to the Team Falken/Discount Auto Tire Lexus IS 350 Drift Car. But did this Formula Drift stalwart, which was sporting a 2JZ-GTE Supra Turbo inline 6 Motor with a Haltech Engine Management System <A HREF="http://my.is/forums/f47/team-falken-lexus-is350-drift-car-326046/">when we last checked two years ago</A> receive yet another engine transplant? Indeed, it did, and <A HREF="http://speedhunters.com/archive/2008/06/04/car-spotlight-gt-gt-hiro-sumida-s-is350.aspx">a 4 June 2008 article by Antonio Alvendia for the Speedhunters.com website</A> gives us the full scoop. "When it first debuted, (Team Falken IS 350 driver) Hiro Sumida and his car builder, Scott Dodgion from SPD Metalworks in Placentia, Caliornia, proudly unveiled the IS350's gleaming 2JZGTE engine - modified with a GReddy TD07 turbo setup, which helped the 2J make 650 horsepower.

As much as hardcore Toyota enthusiasts like Hiro and I love 2JZGTE engines, Hiro admits, 'It's just kinda heavy up front. You know, the 2J has a big iron block, so it was really hard to set up the suspension for drifting. With so much weight up front, it's easy for the car to spin, and it was really unpredictable in the transitions.' Hiro continued to explain, 'when I tried to flick the car really hard, I didn't have enough control with it... and when the car was near a full lock situation, the front was so heavy, it just couldn't stay at full lock... it just spun out. And I was even running 24.0kg front springs!!!' (This is super stiff! In comparison, [author Alvendia's] AE86 [Toyota Corolla] has 8.0kg front springs, and some people think that is stiff!)

Enter Hasselgren Racing Engines and the 2008 Formula D Championship season. Hasselgren Racing Engines is a name familiar to those who follow the Toyota Formula Atlantic Series (my.IS Editor's note: between 1990 and 2005 the open-wheel racing series used Toyota's 1600cc 4A-GE engines modified by Hasselgren and available in kit form from Toyota Racing Development)...Hasselgren's proposed solution to Hiro's heavy iron block problem was to swap out the motor for a custom Hasselgren-built V8 engine. Since the Hasselgren V8 has an aluminum block, it helped the car's weight distribution. Even though Hiro was reluctant to get rid of his beloved 650hp 2JZGTE, Kevin Chen from Hasselgren promised, 'Our V8 will give you 700 horsepower... No problem... No problem!'

At the start of the 2008 Formula D season, Hasselgren wasn't finished building up Hiro's V8 race engine, so they elected to swap in a temporary Hasselgren V8. Hiro told me that they didn't even dyno the temporary V8 engine in the car, but he thought it felt like it had around 450 or 500 horsepower. 'Now that it has the lighter aluminum V8 engine,' Hiro added, 'it takes more angle and is more forgiving in the transitions! It's a little easier to drive now!'

Even though the IS350 only had the temporary 450hp V8 installed during the (Round 2 of the 2008 Formula Drift season) Road Atlanta event, Hiro's car sounded sooo different from before!...Just imagine what Hiro's IS350 is gonna sound like once it has the real 700 horsepower Hasselgren V8 in it... that thing's going to sound ridiculously loud!" We can only imagine, since here's <A HREF="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywHocDndOWg">a link to video of the temporary "quiet" V8.</A>

Autoblog's description of the custom-built Hasselgren 6.7-liter, 700+ wheel horsepower and 600 lb/ft of torque dry sump aluminum V8 as a Chevy small-block is seemingly not 100% accurate, however, for a visit to <A HREF="http://www.hasselgren.com/">the official Hasselgren Engineering website</A> reveals that they build "Pontiac LS6-based engines for Grand-Am Daytona Prototypes and Pontiac LSx V8s for Formula Drift". Yeah, yeah, it's all in the family, but still...

Then, during practice for the final (Round 7) event of the 2008 Formula Drift event at Irwindale, California's Toyota Speedway, disaster struck. As the caption under <A HREF="http://www.wreckedmagazine.com/watchvideo/hiro-sumida-totals-his-lexus-is350-at-irwinda">the Wrecked magazine video</A> (pun definitely not intended) informs us, "Hiro Sumida comes off the bank strong and misjudges the tricky decreasing radius turn around the judges stand and smashes the Lexus straight into the wall and then throws it into the air!...Hiro Sumida was okay but we have heard the poor Lexus will not return to competition." True enough, and Hiro Sumida didn't return to Team Falken, either. Instead, the team replaced him with Daijiro Yoshihara, a consistent Top 5 finisher who was left without a ride when tiremaker Bridgestone pulled out of Formula Drift. The Lexus IS 350 is Dai's 3rd competition car in 3 years. He's proven his versatility by being able to change from car to car and rank high in Formula D consistently.

To learn more about Daijiro Yoshihara, see <A HREF="http://www.urbanracer.com/articles/anmviewer.asp?a=3529&z=18">the official Discount Tire press release</A> announcing his hiring by Team Falken, his bio on <A HREF="http://formulad.com/drivers/daijiro-yoshihara.html">the official Formula Drift site</A>, <A HREF="http://www.gtchannel.com/user_blog.php?uid=38">his blog on the GT Channel website</A> and the <A HREF="http://www.ilovedaijiro.com/">ILoveDaijiro.com fan site</A>. As for former Team Falken Lexus IS 350 driver Hiro Sumida, both <A HREF="http://www.hiros4door.com/">his blog</A> and <A HREF="http://www.autoblog.com/2009/04/04/formula-drift-returns-for-2009-season-with-opener-in-long-beach/">an article on Autoblog</A> inform us that he's keeping it in the Toyota family by competing in the 2009 season in a Toyota Cressida sponsored by Greddy and OS Giken USA. Also, the January 2008 Sport Compact Car article featuring Hiro's drifting tips, which was the subject of <A HREF="http://my.is/forums/f42/drifting-101-hiro-sumida-discount-tire-falken-tires-lexus-350-a-347826/">a brief my.IS Front Page story</A> is now available online in its entirety in both the <A HREF="http://sportcompactcar.automotive.com/46763/0801-sccp-2006-lexus-is350/index.html">Automotive.com</A> and <A HREF="http://www.modified.com/features/0801_sccp_2006_lexus_is350/index.html">ModifiedMag</A> websites.

22267As implied a little earlier in this article, a new Lexus IS 350 joined its new driver for the 2009 Formula Drift season. The <A HREF="http://www.wreckedmagazine.com/blog/category/daijiro-yoshihara/">Wrecked Magazine blogs</A> feature photos of the build of the new IS 350, and, most importantly, <A HREF="http://www.wreckedmagazine.com/watchvideo/2009-pre-season-sit-down-daijiro-yoshihara">a video where driver Daijiro Yoshihara himself reviews some of the car's fine points.</A> In essence, the 2009 season car is an amalgamation of a new body and chassis with as many parts as possible (including the powertrain) from the old wrecked car. Said new body uses a carbon fiber roof and doors, and is, consequently, lighter than the old one. Another key goal for the new Team Falken Lexus IS 350 drift car is better, closer to 50/50 front/rear weight distribution, to the extent of borrowing a page from the Lexus LFA playbook and incorporating a rear-mounted radiator.

22268Daijiro didn't do particularly well during the practice session for the 2009 Round 1 event at Long Beach, but stepped up his game for actual qualifying and wound up in 11th place. In <A HREF="http://formulad.com/pro-championship/long-beach-results-2009.php">the initial Top 32 Round</A>, Dai competed against Formula D rookie Jeff Jones in a Nissan Silvia S13 (1st-generation Nissan 240SX) and, in an upset, lost to Jones. Overall, Dai finished in either 15th or 18th place, depending on how you view a 4-way tie for 6th place in the <A HREF="http://formulad.com/standings/2009.php">standings</A>, and goes into Round 2 (to be held on Friday 8 and Saturday 9 May at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia) with 50 points.



Photo Credits:
1) Joey Redmond
2) Daijiro's Blog on GT Channel
3) my.IS member xknowonex / The-Perfect-Exposure
 

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That's effing sex
 

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Good God, that's impressive!
 
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