Irwindale, The House of Drift, was always an amazing setting for the final event to cap off the season. 2012 was an exciting year full of events with massive crashes, stellar victories and rookies taking home wins. So how do you top all of that you ask? You show up at Irwindale on Saturday to see it all go down in all it’s glory. The weather threatened to play a factor in this years finally, drenched teams and photographers during Thursday’s practice. Thankfully as luck would have it, the weather cleared up by Friday and the stage was set for yet another awesome event.
Kyle Mohan was one of many drivers who were showing great promise during Qualifying; laying down impressive runs setting them in the Top 32 for Saturdays competitions. I’ve always enjoyed Kyle’s driving style and his attitude at the events, always a joy to talk to and photograph.
Daigo Saito seemed to be having some set up issues with his car. During practice he rarely drifted the entire course, leaving many to wonder if he would qualify. When qualifying came around, he messed up on his first run, resulting in a zero from the judges. He was left with only one run to make the Top 32 and fight for the championship. Thankfully he was able to pull off a great run and make it to the next day.
Tyler McQuarrie was looking very good in qualifying and seated 7th in the Top 32, took out Tony Brakohiapa in the Ebay Racing Ford Mustang in first round. He later fell to Justin “JTP” Pawlak in the Great 8. I hope Tyler has a better season next year, he seemed to struggle a bit this year and didn’t even make the Top 32 in Seattle earlier this year.
Going into this event, Vaughn Gittin Jr. was sitting in first place in the championship, a favorite to win the event and take home the big trophy. Vaughn was looking great through practice, seated #9 in the Top 32, taking out Nick D’Alessio in the first round moving on to Top 16. In what was one of the biggest upsets of the evening, Gittin Jr. spun on his chase run with Pat Mordaunt giving him a zero and the win to Pat.
Rhys Millen sitting in 3rd place in points, had a lot riding on this event; and knowing Rhys, he’d be giving it his all to take home the championship. He qualified with a near perfect run and ended up in 1st place for the Top 32. Kyle Mohan had the unfortunate pairing with Rhys for the round of 16, Rhys was just unstoppable and Mohan would fall. Next up he faced Pat Mordaunt in his Turbo V8 Powered Lexus SC430, Pat coming off a victory against points leader Vaughn Gittin Jr. He too would be no match for Rhys’ tenacity and hunger for the win.
Saito and Millen would find themselves paired up in the Final 4, the winner going on to fight for the win, the loser, settling for the consolation round for 3rd or 4th place. On Rhys’ lead run both drivers were on fire, running in super close proximity to each other and the walls. It was anyone’s guess as to who ran a better run. As luck would have it, on the next pass, Rhys would find himself in the wall, ripping off his front driver side tire, wheel, brake and suspension, resulting in a zero and Daigo moving on.
Daigo Saito and Justin “JTP” Pawlak would find themselves paired in the final round, duking it out for the event win, at this point Saito had already mathematically won the season championship so this was a matter of pride and a show down of two drivers, who had some choice words for each other at a past event. They both had stellar runs, both had some mistakes, and it was personally too close for me to call. When the smoke cleared and the judges discussed the runs, they gave the event win to Daigo Saito. What a way to end the season, with a event and championship trophy to take home!
With Rhys Millen crashing, he was unable to fight Ryan Tuerck in the consolation round, so that handed Tuerck the spot on the podium. What an amazing feeling standing on that podium must be, the final event of the season, one rookie with a championship and event win, two other amazing drivers flanking him. I look forward to what next year will bring and see how these drivers progress, and what changes may come our way. Make sure you guys check back with MyLifeAtSpeed.com frequently to always stay up to date with event coverage.
I leave you with Rhys’ front wheel assembly rolling across the track!