Formula Drift USA 2011 champion Daijiro Yoshihara, also the first Asian driver to win the FD USA series, is a resident on the FD Asia judging panel alongside FD USA judge Andy Yen. In between the smoking runs over the weekend at FD Indonesia, I managed to find some time to catch up with Dai and find out if life is any different after winning the championship.
Q: How did it feel winning the championship?
A: I was actually feeling mad at myself for a few days following the last round in Irwindale. I didn’t perform well in the last two rounds (including Vegas) of the championship where I got knocked out of the Top 16. I went into the last round still leading the championship but I didn’t win the overall title the way I wanted to.
I was knocked out early so I was sitting around waiting for the other title contenders to get knocked out. But after that I realise it wasn’t just about the final round but about being consistent the entire season. Winning the title has been my dream for eight years since I joined Formula Drift in 2004, so it’s a big deal to me!
This year I finally managed to put it all together for one complete season with the perfect combination of the right pit crew, race engineers, business managers and a dosage of luck! Now the challenge is actually preparing to defend the title for the next season. It is always harder the second time round as now everybody is pretty much going to give you their all each and every time I line up against them at the start line.
But it has definitely been a very special time for me! More importantly, during my chase for the championship, I was able to garner a sizable amount of exposure both in the States and in Asia for a cause close to my heart – the “Relief for Japan” charity. The generosities of the fans and spectators have been really overwhelming.
Q: Did you have any celebrations?
A: Right after the series ended I went to get my (lingual) braces done so I couldn’t really eat, and even now it still hurts when I talk, so there wasn’t really any huge huge party or anything.
Q: Which was the toughest round of the 2011 FD season?
A: It has to be the final round in Irwindale. I was still holding the lead going into that last round and winning the title depended on how I did there, so there was quite a lot of pressure on me. As you know I got knocked out in the Top 16 and that sucked. Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t because of the pressure that I performed badly. I still did my best but I couldn’t see in all that smoke and it was quite dark too.
Q: Will you compete again next season?
A: Prior to being champion, I thought I wouldn’t be hungry for the title anymore after winning it but because of my poor performance in the last two rounds I want to come back bigger and stronger than ever and put on an exciting show for the fans.
Q: As a judge for Formula Drift Asia, you get to see your fellow drifting countrymen like Daigo and Orido compete in the Series. Does it not make you want to drive instead?
A: I am a pro driver and every time I see those guys drive at the Asia events, it gets my competitive juices running… but I really enjoy judging in the FD Asia series. In fact, I think it actually makes me a much better driver – it provides me with a totally different perspective on the sport; at least now I always know what the judges are looking out for!
Also, the judging role provides me with an opportunity to share my humble experiences with all the local drivers in the Asia series. I really admire the commitment those guys have. Before I got all these professional success, I too was one of the guys trying to make my mark round in and round out. It really takes a lot of self-belief and the harsh truth of the sport is that we have over 40 participants at each round, but there can only be three podium spots.
So, I do whatever I can do in my role to provide some insight and encouragement to all of the community out here. I have also been able to provide some technical drifting clinics to some of the drivers to help them fine-tune their techniques. It is really the unique interaction that I get with the teams in my role as a judge that gives me the greatest satisfaction.
And then I put Dai through my ever-famous driver trivia! If you’ve read my previous interviews with racing drivers, you would have noticed how I put them through my trivia whenever I can!
Q: iPhone or Blackberry?
A: iPhone – I’m using one and because it’s cool. I need a phone that can switch easily between the English and Japanese languages and the iPhone does it perfectly.
Q: Piercing or tattoo?
A: I don’t have a tattoo, but I had a piercing in my left ear almost 15 years ago and there’s still something of a hole left though I’ve not put an earring in for a long time. When I was searching for a job after completing school, it looked bad to have a piercing hence I stopped wearing it. I was wearing suits and looking for a real job! I was a sales man for Pachinko, then a truck driver for half a year then a used car dealer for three years. I met a guy in Japan who has a car in the United States and he offered me a drive so in 2003 I went to the States to compete. I seriously considered a career in driving and for the next five years I was going back and forth between Japan and the States. I finally got my visa in 2008 and moved to the States. (Cheryl: Ok, back to the trivia please.)
Q: Boxers or briefs?
A: Boxers! More freedom…
Q: What do you think of women drivers?
A: Some girls can drive better than guys and believe it or not, but I’m not that good a driver on the streets. I used to have an ex-girlfriend who was good and could multi-task while driving!
Q: Jeans or berms?
A: Jeans – I don’t like to show my hairy legs!
Q: Short or long hair on women?
A: Long hair – it’s more sexy! Well, I might date a girl with short hair and some girls look cute with short hair so I can’t say 100% no to short hair. Anyway, I look at a girl’s hair, hands and big hips!
Q: What’s your type of girl?
A: A girl with long hair and not into cars. I don’t really fancy girls who are super obsessed with cars. For example, I can’t have a female drifter girlfriend. I have dated such girls before and they always have an opinion, especially about my drifting, and it distracts me. You know how some drifters take girls drifting round the mountains? I have never done that for any of my girlfriends. Man, you just asked me what type of girl I don’t like instead!
Well, I also got Dai to autograph the same set of stickers so I could have a contest to give them away to one very lucky reader!
So, what do you have to do to get this set of Dai-autographed stickers?
Dai sits on the Formula Drift Asia judging panel and is coming to Formula Drift Malaysia next weekend to judge. My question is:
Q: What and when was the first Formula Drift Asia event that Daijiro Yoshihara judged?
Send in your answer to email@example.com before 19 December 2011, Monday, 2359hrs and one lucky reader with the correct answer will win this set of exclusive Dai-autographed stickers!
Remember to include your full name, I/C no., mailing address, contact no., DOB, nationality and email address. This contest is open to worldwide readers and postage costs will be covered by me. Results will be announced on 20 December 2011, Tuesday.
*Terms and conditions for the winner include the agreement to keep these stickers for personal usage and not for commercial or publicity purposes.