Now in its fifth year, the Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival (TGRF) returned with more thrills and excitement than ever. Sponsored by Toyota, TGRF has established itself as a popular motorsport event offering enjoyment for children and adults alike. This year’s event attracted 42,000 car-crazed enthusiasts to Fuji Speedway, far exceeding last year’s turnout of 38,000.
TGRF features a rich lineup of events, and just like last year, Toyo Tires took sole possession of the “Drift Park” satellite venue. For Toyo’s popular drift ride-along experience, there were already over 300 people in line at the 7:40 AM lottery start time hoping to receive one of the 30 lucky winning tickets to a thrill ride—that’s 10x more people than available rides! Then, before the 9:30am welcome ceremony began, all eyes were drawn to the deafening roars of the real D1 machines as they performed a drifting sequence to get the crowd revved up.
With the fans now fully engaged, the stage shifted to the main venue. At the welcome ceremony, the 76 star drivers participating throughout TGRF assembled in full force, while alluring idols further fueled the event’s excitement.
This year, the Toyo Tires drivers were most amped about performing their “Drift Extreme” routine at the main venue. In order to dazzle the crowd with dynamic drifting, the routine called for harrowingly tight driving. Led by ace driver Masato Kawabata, the eight Toyo Tires drivers formed lines sans their machines and rehearsed by visualizing their routine in painstaking detail. In preparing for their performance the team met until late in the evening of the days prior and drilled the routine into their bodies until the morning of the event.
Have a look at the crystallization of the team’s efforts in a video of their “Drift Extreme” performance.
Kawabata directed the performance. The concept of the performance was “teamwork” in the form of a delightful routine that packed the full punch of drifting, and one that would captivate the audience until the very end. The eight D1 machines unveiled a new trick, a drifting and crossing “Toyo Turn,” which stirred the crowd and earned thunderous applause.
Although not shown in the video footage, was anyone in attendance paying attention when Kawabata’s tires were replaced? The routine was so powerful and demanding that it required two new sets of grand prix racing level tires.
The performance was a huge hit, but behind the scenes things were a bit more chaotic. As a result of the ride-along experience that took place up to 30 minutes before the performance, there was trouble with three of the cars, including Utsumi’s. Thanks to the skill of the mechanics the repairs were made in time and the splendid performance of the eight D1 interweaving machines was able to proceed as planned.
The excitement level remained on high during the talk show featuring the drivers following the “Drift Extreme” performance. The eyes of the gathered fans were aglow as they listed to the drivers discuss the routine.
The talk show concluded with a look back at this year and the team’s statement of their aspirations for the year to come. Toyo Tires would also like to take this opportunity to declare right here and now that it will lend its full backing and support so that the drivers can reach even greater heights!
The drift ride-along experience was also a huge success, with more than 300 fans lining up to participate each time it has been held. Sincere apologies to those who weren’t able to ride along this time! Thanks to the cooperation of everyone involved, the event concluded without a hitch. We hope to return to Drift Park again next year, so look forward to it!
TGRF was the final drift event of the year. Now the machines will undergo tuning in preparation for next season. What will next year have in store? It’s time to part for a while, but let’s meet again next year with the drivers and machines more supercharged and ready to roll than ever before.