Text by Cheryl Tay
Photos by Adrian Wong
Fast-rising international drifting star Daigo Saito is slowly but surely building up his global domination drifting record. With the D1GP 2008 title under his belt, Daigo clinched the 2011 Formula Drift Asia champion title quite easily, snatching up the top place of the podium in all three rounds held in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia respectively. He burst onto the Formula Drift Asia scene in 2010 at the finale held at Kuala Lumpur, where he was using a borrowed car. That didn’t stop him from winning on his debut.
Determined to defend his Formula Drift Asia title and better his performance this year, Daigo went on a huge project to build not one, but two monster cars for his drifting season 2012. A thorough fan of Toyota and Lexus, Daigo set out to build a Lexus SC430 for the seven-round Formula Drift USA championship and a Lexus IS-C for the four-round Formula Drift Asia. Aside from Formula Drift, Daigo is also competing in D1GP where he narrowly lost the championship title last year.
The most recognisable Lexus feature of this IS-C monster is the familiar grille up front; other than that, the car has been worked out into something altogether.
One visual element you absolutely cannot miss out on this 2010 IS-C is the glaringly massive GT wing which rises illogically high above the rest of the cars.
In line with the black and purple livery of Daigo’s main sponsor Achilles Radial, whose tyres he is using – the R123 of the Achilles Racing Tire range in 265/35R18 front and 265/35R18 rear – the SEIBON kit is specially done and customised by Design Craft Fabrication.
Matching the SEIBON carbon fibre fenders and continuing the weight reduction exercise, the doors and side mirrors are also made of carbon fibre.
Drifting with the top off to reveal the roll cage firmly in place, the original retracting roof is no longer valid and its heavy mechanism removed.
Fitted with a 3.4-litre Brian Cower stroker 2JZ-GTE that has been tuned with Daigo’s magic and his Japan tuner ESPERANZA Tuning Japan (the USA car is worked on with Bridges Racing), the 1,000bhp block is further boosted by another 200bhp with the all-too-familiar blue NOS tank nestled beside the radiator and fuel surge tank.
Capable of an astonishing 1,200bhp in total, the nitrous-equipped IS-C contains a Garrett GT42R turbo kit linked to the CX racing intercooler via the HPS intake, with Daigo working the power with a Holinger full sequential transmission while his feet handles the SPEC clutch and flywheel.
Maximum output is achieved with the presence of NAPREC high response valves coupled with the DIGICAM camshaft kit. Helping to keep the power in check are dual-calliper Willwood brakes, which also aid in stabilising the car with the BC fully-adjustable coils fixed on DG5 parts.
The literally hot IS-C is fuelled by NEO engine oil and ATF lubricants. Holding Daigo in position while he uses the Orido Style steering wheel to direct the car out of control while being in control, is a Bride racing seat strapping him down with Sparco racing harnesses.
Stored in local workshop SPARK Motorsports when it is not competition, the IS-C has taken prevalence in the first two Formula Drift Asia 2012 rounds – winning in Malaysia in May and then in Singapore in June. Drifting with the top off – I mean the top of his car – no one seems to be a match for Daigo at the moment in the Southeast Asian region. Truly a tandem assassinator, Daigo shows no mercy to his opponents, keeping close on their tails. He does make mistakes and have made them, but so far in the league of Formula Drift Asia, he has done well to keep the pressure under control and get his way to the top.
Limited by his knowledge of the English language, Daigo has his team-mate and best buddy Robbie Nishida to help him with his off-track matters, while he focuses on conquering the tracks wherever he goes – from Formula Drift Asia in Southeast Asia to D1GP in Japan to Formula Drift USA in North America.
I remember Daigo telling me before that he only has one thing on his mind when he drifts – to win. He never aims for anything less and it doesn’t always go his way all the time, but that nothing-less-than-first spirit keeps him going. It is also interesting how he often shares that it is not as easy as it looks. Spectators view him in awe, seeing him take out one opponent after another, but his demanding expectations of himself are not the easiest things to deal with. Still, it seems like he’s doing a pretty good job at meeting his targets and I believe it is fair to expect more from this monstrous IS-C.