Achilles Motorsports Wins Formula Drift US 2012
Entering the last round of the 2012 Formula Drift season the Achilles Motorsports team was within striking distance for the championship. It was all hands on deck in Irwindale, CA as everyone involved in the team’s inaugural season was at their best and prepared for the task at hand. With the possibility of a championship hanging in the balance, nothing could be left to chance. And it wasn’t! With almost a full season under their belts, the Achilles Motorsports team was hitting on all cylinders.The “House of Drift”, also known as Irwindale Speedway, has a reputation for chewing up cars as its high speed banks and wall set-up tend to be hard for drivers to adjust to. Achilles drivers Daigo Saito and Robbie Nishida were definitely going to have their hands full, but the crew from Bridges Racing and Design Craft Engineering would ensure they had the best machinery and course set-up going into qualifying.
Qualifying ended up being a joint effort figuratively and literally! Robbie had a solid first qualifying run, but Daigo experienced a phantom misfiring issue that was not allowing his SC430 to put down its full power potential. The team quickly traced the source of the problem, which ended up being a faulty ignition box. Finding the issue was only half the battle though, now the team had to get Daigo’s car ready for its second and final qualifying run. With no time to get a new box, it was a very good thing Robbie’s and Daigo’s cars shared the same 2JZ turbo set-up – as they would have to share the box for the rest of the day.Even with all the commotion surrounding our drivers and their cars, they managed to remain cool and collected and both earned their spots for the Top 32 competition. Robbie qualified in 19th while Daigo managed to climb up to 13th.
With qualifying in the books and both our drivers earning spots to the main competition, it was time to talk set-up and make sure both Daigo and Robbie were happy with their cars’ performance. Having both cars in the show also meant the crew would be busy mounting new Achilles rubber!The next day would be the moment of truth, the day the team’s cumulative efforts would be put to the test. Everything they had learned and experienced the past seven months would need to be recalled as they prepared to take on their toughest challenge yet. Their level of preparation and commitment to winning clearly showed in the first round of competition, as both drivers moved past their first set of competitors with ease.
In the Top 16 Daigo would be matched up against the driver that he has had the most “One More Times” with, Conrad Grunewald. But this time a “One More Time” would not be needed! Conrad tried to keep up with Daigo, but had to maintain a shallow angle in order to do so. Daigo was all over Conrad in the next run and made it very easy for the judges to give him the win.Robbie also had his hands full as he would be facing the Norwegian Hammer – Frederic Aasbo! Aasbo had a clean lead run, but Robbie managed to keep great proximity with the turbocharged Scion tC. Things went from good to better when Robbie lured Aasbo into making a huge mistake after the bank that caused him to spin out.
Both Achilles drivers would move on to the Great 8, but the most exciting news was that current Points Leader Vaughn Gittin, Jr. was eliminated and would not have a chance to podium. Now the championship was between Rhys “Mad Skills” Millen and our very own Daigo Saito!Matt Field would face Daigo in the Great 8 and gave our ace driver a run for his money! In their first run Field would lead, but Daigo was so close to him that he may as well have been riding shotgun in Field’s car. Field also had a surprisingly good follow run that would lead the judges to ask for a One More Time. In their second battle neither driver made any big mistakes, but Daigo had more consistent angle and proximity which lead the judges to grant him the win. Robbie on the other hand was not able to get past Ryan Tuerck and would have to settle for his second best finish of the season.
The way things worked out for the final battle of the night could not have been scripted any better. Every single fan at Irwindale Speedway was on pins and needles anticipating what was to be the championship run of the night. The number 2 and 3 drivers in the points standing would be facing off to decide who would call themselves the 2012 Champion – Rhys the FD veteran vs. Daigo the US rookie.
Rhys led on the first run and the two drivers were in mirror like drifts through the entire course. On the next run the unthinkable happened! As the two drift machines exited the high Irwindale banks and entered the high speed switch back they were still very close to each other, but as they entered the tight section of the track Rhys fell out of drift, tapped the wall, and took himself out of the competition. Which meant Daigo Saito and Achilles Motorsports were the 2012 Season Champions!
This would only leave the battle for first place of the Irwindale event left to decide. The battle would pair up Daigo against Justin Pawlak. JTP had a strong consistent night, but pushed his car too hard trying to dethrone Daigo. He hit the wall hard and left a clear road to the podium for Daigo Saito and Achilles Motorsports.
Achilles Motorsports would like to thank every single sponsor, contributor and fan for their dedication and support of our team in our inaugural Formula Drift season. We could not have written a better story if we had the chance and are thankful to have had the opportunity to share our experience with such a great group of people. This championship has truly been a team effort and could not have been realized without everyone involved.
We will now enjoy our championship for a couple weeks and will then immediately start working on our game plan to defend our title. Be on the lookout for Achilles Motorsports in 2013!