9tro issue #6
Text by: Cheryl
Photos by: Cheryl
When I first heard that Daigo Saito was competing in Formula Drift Malaysia 2010, I told myself I must meet the guy and secure an interview with him.
Daigo is the 2008 D1 Grand Prix (D1GP) champion and he may not be the first D1GP champion to compete in Formula Drift Asia (2004 D1GP champion Ryuji Miki was the first to compete at the inaugural Formula Drift Singapore which he won), but he is a big name and an idol to many.
Unable to converse in English, his good friend Robbie Nishida (Formula Drift USA drifter) helped to translate the interview questions back and forth between Daigo and me.
It’s Daigo’s first Formula Drift competition and first time in Malaysia, but that did not stop him from winning. He aimed to win and win he did.
With a love for Indian curry, Daigo ate curry for breakfast every morning when he was in Malaysia as spice is no issue to him.
Quiet by nature, Daigo does not talk much but the things he does are absolutely crazy. His drift manoeuvres are insanely heart-in-mouth kind – that is how cool Daigo is. What is the story behind Daigo? 9tro finds out more…
Q: What was your first encounter with drifting?
A: My dad was into motorbikes so I was more interested in motorbikes from a young age. I got my riding licence when I was 16 and often went riding with my friends. One day we saw some cars drifting at the touge, one of which was a white Mercedes-Benz sedan. I liked how this oversized car was sliding around gracefully so in that instant, I knew I wanted to go drifting. It is also why I compete in a four-door sedan today.
Q: So did you get a Mercedes-Benz as your first drift car?
A: Nope, I got my driving licence at 18 but my dad refused to get me a car suitable for drifting and got me a MINI Cooper instead. But the front-wheel-drive car is totally not a drifting type of car and I totalled it while trying. Then I went to buy a Nissan Silvia S13 without my parents’ knowledge. I did not realise it was a naturally aspirated car, as a turbocharged one would have given me more power for drifting.
Q: How was your first ever drift?
A: I took the S13 to some corner in the mountains and tried drifting for the next 36 hours straight. I stopped for fuel and food in between but I was so engrossed in practising my left and right turns, as well as slamming on the emergency brakes. This S13 did not last too long either; I crashed it into a tree.
Q: When was your first drift competition and how did you fare?
A: I was 24 years old when I participated in my first drift competition and I won it. It was a competition to get the licence to compete in D1. I made my D1GP debut at the third round of the 2004 season.
Q: I understand this is your first time in Malaysia. Where else outside of Japan have you competed in?
A: I have competed in China, USA, Norway, Greece, but this is my first time in Malaysia yes.
Q: I also understand that this is your first ever Formula Drift competition. Why did you not participate in any previously?
A: I always wanted to compete in Formula Drift but I never had the opportunity to until Hong Kong team TRC Racing invited me to come here for the Malaysian leg. I definitely hope to compete in the Formula Drift USA series soon.
Q: Why do you like drifting?
A: I like drifting because it is fun but also because drifting has become very popular around the world and I enjoy meeting people and making friends everywhere.
Q: What’s the greatest challenge you face in drifting?
A: When the car breaks down!
Q: What advice do you have for aspiring drifters?
A: Have no fear, do not be afraid and get as much practice as possible. Just keep driving and drifting!
Q: What is your motivation in drifting?
A: I like to drive and I want to help make drifting bigger in the world so it will attract more people and more talent, hence increasing competition levels.
Q: What was your toughest drifting competition?
A: Every single round of D1GP.
GETTING TO KNOW DAIGO BETTER
Q: What is your daily drive back home?
A: The Nissan Elgrand.
Q: Is it necessary for your partner in life to share the same passion as you?
A: Yes, she must have some interest at least. My wife hardly comes with me to my drifting competitions as she has to work, but she does come and watch me once in a while.
Q: Favourite food?
A: Pasta and Indian curry. The curry here in Malaysia is very good; I ate it for breakfast every day!
Q: Do you play any sports?
A: Not really. (Robbie) Yes he does! He plays badminton really well.
Q: Tattoo or piercing?
A: Tattoo (although he also has a piercing too).
Q: Blackberry or iPhone?
A: Docomo (Japanese mobile phone operator).
Q: Boxers or briefs?
Q: Jeans or berms?
Q: Slippers or sandals?
Q: Short or long hair on women?
A: Doesn’t matter, both ways are fine.
Q: Future plans?
A: Drifting will only become more popular and I hope to keep rising with it. For 2011, I am taking part in D1GP again and I will try to win it a second time.
Name: Daigo Saito 斎藤太吾
DOB: 7 March 1980
Birthplace: Saitama, Japan
Marital Status: Married
Best Drifting Result: D1GP 2008 champion
*This was first published in 9tro magazine.