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INFO 08-08-2005 04:21 PM

“The Hard Call” by Formula D Judge Ken Takahashi
“The Hard Call” by Formula D Judge Ken Takahashi


“The Hard Call”
by Ken Takahashi

Many of you don’t know who I am. Is there controversy in the judging of Formula D? Perhaps a lot of the drivers feel they don’t know what the judges are thinking of or what their judging on. It seems unclear and “who” is judging? These seem to be the common questions on a lot of the drivers mind.

Well, first off let me introduce myself and my philosophy. My name is Ken Takahashi and at first appearance I just look like a very plain, middle aged, slightly over weight, typical Japanese America (Nisei). What’s his connection to all this? For starters I brought over and managed DRFT team and Driver Utsumi Akinori to run the 1st US D1 back in August, 2003. Before that in June, 2003 in conjunction with Apex’i, I provided D1 driver Imamura a 350Z for a drifting exhibition. I also gave Calvin Wan his first career push by having him drive for me in D1 back 2003. I was the one that put Bob Bondurant in the passenger seat with “Vertex” Ueno and introduced an American legend to drifting at SEMA 2003. I was promoting “Tarzan” Yamada during his introduction as the ambassador of drifting in 2004. I also helped launched Chris Forsberg’s professional career and set the standard of professional teams by making “Team Motorex”. I have sponsored Ken Gushi, Hubert Young, Koguchi’s 180, Seigo Yamamoto’s S14, and Andy Yen/Autolink. And most importantly of all I was there at the very beginning! Were we laid down the foundation for judging drifting in Formula D.

As I recall, I was the only one up at the judges stand that was able to learn (D1 style) what to look for by Tarzan, Utsumi, Koguchi and Seigo. I still enforce there four basic rules: entry speed & speed/ drift angle/ transition & line/ and excitement & style. In it’s purest form this is what it breaks down to. It is the compilation (or lack of) these four criteria that a judge bases his decisions.

I believe a judge tells you enough as a group on what a judge wants to see and how you can achieve the highest amounts of points. But its only you as an individual that knows your own style and level of expertise that you can push yourself and the capacity of your car. The Overall run of the course should be fast (a bi-product of speed is bellowing smoke = good points). Fast in and out of clipping point in full drift is crucial.

Entry: the entry is the opening of the package. It is the 1st thing the judges are going to notice and a deciding factor to hold his interest. The entry should always be fast. How you initiate it, whether feint or cut across is your own style, some might be better than others on certain tracks so you should lean to do both well. As you practice on that course play with it to see which is better to accomplish the fastest entry speed you can go and set yourself up in a good position for the next turn. Remember, some deciding factors weather you win or lose is whether you make a mistake in the entry.

Drift Angle: may sound simple but there is more to it. The lead car has no excuse to not have the maximum amount of angle he or she can do and hold during a run. The lead car must also protect the line by making it slightly smaller than the qualifying line. Following car- it is the following cars challenge to mimic all the angles the lead car is going to do and not letting the lead car pull away. Following car must follow the 1st cars line and keep it tight. It is also the following cars responsibility to gauge the lead car and not get trapped by a sudden lose in the power band that will unable you to continue a drift around a corner.

Culture shock: America is a society of instant gratification, we don’t like to wait. In boxing we root for the KO not TKO. We order food by the numbers. We love digital cameras because we can see our pictures right now. Well, we have a tendency to feel that we have to pass to win. Not so in drifting. There are acceptable and unacceptable passes. Taking the chance and going for the kill subjugates you to a number of penalties that can cost you the win. Passing car cannot disturb or force out the lead cars line. Must be done in full drift, front tires must be in counter position not straight, must follow though in full drift and cannot cut across the course or course line in order to achieve this. The repercussion of a unacceptable pass can give you negative points on transition = steering correction, line = sacrifice clipping point, drift angle = straighten the car to pass, and C.O. course out = off line (picture a wall there? You would have crashed, same as spin). So is it worth it? Only if the lead car makes a BIG mistake.

Line: best drift line not race line. Quite commonly on a lot of tracks here in the US there are two different lines. Your qualifying line and competition line. In qualifying line, it’s all about you! You and the battle against the track. To show your true skills on how quick you can adapt your skills as a driver and the ability to bring out the energy the track holds.
Competition line is not as flamboyant, a little tighter but not to tight, this is a battle against drivers to show who is a better lion tamer. Taming the track bring out the best drift and making it look easy.

Excitement and style: a lot of people came up to me and ask me “I feel I did everything right, why did I loose?” Sometimes there right. They ran the line, they hit the clipping points, they might have bellowed smoke exiting, but my answer most of the time is “the other person did better.” See as a judge we don’t just judge with our eyes, we also hear it too. We listen when your on or off throttle. We listen when your back on throttle before or after the clipping point. We listen what gear you come in at and see you turning your wheel left when you should be turning right. When a driver is in the “zone” quite often it’s a good run. What makes this such a great sport is when the driver is on game he literally transforms, this is when it separates the men from the boys. They put their nuts on the table and takes it to the edge, they are the ones that gets closes to the walls, that just guns the car before the apex and just sling shots their car across the track, “No Fear” that’s all I can say. And when you see these guys “in the zone” you can fell it, the crowds feel it, that’s when you know you got a winner. That’s excitement and style.

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not a driver, nor do I pretend to be one. As a judge I feel it is my duties to give them a fair and non-bias event. And is my obligation to the drivers to legitimately make calls that explanations can clarify. Drifters are a different breed, their not followers but more trend setters, rebels, they were drifting when drifting wasn’t cool, they didn’t care. You can’t tell these people to conform without explanation, you have to earn their respect. These guys are out there driving 110% driving with all there heart. And sometimes when I’m standing up there in the judges stand it blows me away the passion these boys have for this sport and it humbles me to try that much more to make the “hard call”.

djricepik 08-08-2005 05:02 PM

Cheers... Well put.

Boostedrex 08-08-2005 05:31 PM

I'll second that. Hopefully that will clear things up for everyone. Thank you for taking the time to post all of that as well.


D1 DRIFTER 08-08-2005 09:46 PM

:D well put.... i like to hear the judges defintion of each rule/regulation it gives a better perspective of what to aim for thanks for this :D

illegalgarage 08-08-2005 10:03 PM

you know a lot of people are complaining at the events about the juding
spectators and drivers
hope you get all the wrinkles iron'd out


CrazyHawaiian 08-09-2005 04:12 AM

This guy gets my vote!! End the idea that passing means you automatically win and lets see some real drifting!!!

310Ojisan 08-09-2005 07:49 AM

you know this is what makes the sport so interesting. It's a new
sport still trying to finds its way in the US. This is how people talk
about it and get involved. It's all good. When one guy like Tsuchiya start
making the shots, it looses half of its appeal right then. keep up the good work! :D

Jaggorri 08-09-2005 09:40 AM

Here's an idea:

Add more judges like you and get rid of the magazine editors turned judges that pander to the sponsors.

That is all.

J-Rod 08-09-2005 10:11 AM


Originally Posted by Jaggorri
Here's an idea:

Add more judges like you and get rid of the magazine editors turned judges that pander to the sponsors.

That is all.

P.S. Whatever polictics, swaying or controversy of sponsors or alliances you think are in favor of judges or decisions please erase that idea from your head because it's NOT TRUE.

There are no "Politics" in Formula D if there's problems with the judging that's natural it's subjective, you came to play and there is human error so you know what your getting into, it's NOT political or "pander to the sponsors".

swifty949 08-09-2005 02:48 PM


Originally Posted by Jaggorri
Here's an idea:

Add more judges like you and get rid of the magazine editors turned judges that pander to the sponsors.

That is all.

editors dont hit up for advertising, sales guys do the dirty work.

Hyde 08-09-2005 03:24 PM


Originally Posted by CrazyHawaiian
This guy gets my vote!! End the idea that passing means you automatically win and lets see some real drifting!!!

werd :cool:

Octagon 08-09-2005 03:37 PM

How is Tanner Foust's runner-up run at Sears Point (the track ain't Sonoma, ain't Infineon, it's SEARS F*CKING POINT) pandering to a sponsor?

And let's talk about some of the big sponsors.

Falken got two cars on the podium at Sears Point. Guess how many cars Falken sponsors.


9 cars. NINE CARS! That's more than Tracy Krohn fields in GARRA, more than Jack Roush fields in Nextel Cup, more than Paul Gentilozzi fields in Trans Am.

And they're spending enough money that all of their guys are top notch competitive.

The three factory guys are sitting 1-2-3 in the points, but I'll also dare anyone to say that Rhys Millen hasn't been the single most consistant drifter this year. Every run of his is clean, precise, and practically without fault.

When Sam is good, Sam is REALLY good (like at Road Atlanta) but when Sam is weak, he's really weak (Wall Stadium, for example). However, as the season has run on, Sam's consistency has started to come on. His biggest tandem advantage has been a pure intimidation factor. That big loud Viper snorting around track and crowding the other cars really can be unnerving (ask Tyler McQuarrie).

But that's only going to last so long. Sam went from hero to goat in one round. After spooking McQuarrie out of one run, he chased himself out of the semis against Gitten.

Ken is fierce, and is learning with every pass. I actually would lay money on the Gush as 2006 FD Champion, but he's still a little too spotty for 2005 FD Champion.

In any case, the only thing the factories are doing for their drivers is giving them the equipment they need. Shoot, Papa Gushi was saying that Ford doesn't even give them the development support they need. They just gave him the car.

Then let's look at #4 in points, Dai. Dai's sponsor - Pacific Rim - is HIS company. He pays his own way, and runs on pure skill and andrenaline. Judges regularly hold him as the benchmark in entry speed, and mostly it's been tough first round opponents holding him out of wins.

And going down through the top ten,

#5 - Gitten
#6 - Aono
#7 - Wan
#8 - Forsberg
#9 - Peters (Bubba Drift)
#10 - Pfeiffer

4 Falken cars, an RSR car, and probably the lowest budget team in drifting.

Sure, lots of pandering. Lots of favoritism.

How about just plain competition?

Boostedrex 08-09-2005 03:46 PM

Octagon, thank you for saying what I couldn't put in to words. People just get bent out of shape because their favorite driver isn't winning. I truly believe that competition in FD is really that tough. It's not about factory sponsors, just incredible drivers!!

110octane 08-09-2005 03:52 PM

^^ Well Said ^^

D1 DRIFTER 08-09-2005 08:21 PM

no matter how well you explain sumthing there is always going to be that one person who will fight you to the end sad to say... i go to watch drifting because its exciting and to me it doesnt matter who wins or loses these guys out there are top notch they aren't just throwin into this they are ALL highly trained drivers so why cant everyone just support those who are out there and not complain hows "theyre" driver didnt win??

Nismo 08-10-2005 09:34 AM

Yeah thats a great point!!! When someone gets past then he/she should lose that run. But wait a minute, in Sonoma didn't Rhys Millen pass Alex Phiffer in one run and the win was still given the win. How about that, the judgement call was made because both tires where off the ground but if you see the replay you clearly see that only one tire was off the ground. Then when it was asked to see the replay the judges ignored it right!!! Why wasn't the run given to Rhys or at least let them run another time instead of giving it to Alex. You could even tell that Alex Phiffer himself thought that Rhys should have won that tandum. I think Formula D has great judges and are doing a hell of a job, but when it comes to close calls like that just look at a replay and dont go by what you think you saw. Thanks!!! :D

D1 DRIFTER 08-13-2005 10:04 AM

yes i agree. and i understand where rhys was coming from i mean hes the points leader at 400pts i think and the 2nd place is like 396 4 fuken points id be pist too that was a REALLY weak call on your guys part sad thing is G4 even disagreed with the judges and had it on tape to prove it stuff like that just aint cool

hatebbobbarker 08-13-2005 10:36 AM

were you guys there or are you just watching videos?
i was there and this is what i saw
rhys straitened the car out to pass alex, I was surprised the judges gave that to alex because it emant they made a good call. D1 or formula D thats not how your supposed to pass.
rhys has gotten knicked for that before if im not mistaken, he should know better.

AlexPfeiffer 08-14-2005 10:04 AM

Well said ^

Something you guys have to remember, passing should only be done when the front car makes a mistake. Just because someone runs a wider line doesnt mean your supposed to pass him on the entry. To me that is unsportsmanlike.

With all the high hp cars running in FD right now. All the tandom battles have turned into who can run the tightest line. That to me is weak. Lower hp cars need to run a wide line inorder to keep thier momentum and speed. This means thier tandom line is going to be similar to thier qualifying run.

You should change your line a bit when your in tandom, but not to the point that all your doing is running the tightest line possible. Yes, if your competitor messes up and goes wide at the apex of the corner, you have an opening to pass, but if your passing them because they took a wide (qualifying) line, you shouldnt pass them.

I feel the judges should deduct points for taking a weak line or passing before the main apex. This isnt racing sideways people. Its Drifting!!!

PS, glad to have you as a judge Ken!

D1 DRIFTER 08-14-2005 12:58 PM

... ok alex so do you agree on the call that was made... i mean not trying to argue but the lower hp cars seem to do fine with the lines they run they come in faster and still manage to stay right on the A$$ of a higher hp and when theres an opening to pass wouldnt you take it considering if you pass while drifting that would help with you points wise.. or am i mistaken? i just want to know if you agree with the judges

jspecusa 08-14-2005 06:03 PM

Glad to have you as a FD judge Ken.
You are not only a great translator for the japanese judges, you are a true enthusiast.
As for the point of NO politic in FD, that's not true at all.
Any organization/event there are always politic involved, just matter of amount and what type.
It's mostly due to disagreement amount organizers/sponsors and what would benefit the "party" in this case FD the most.
This is not FD fault or anyone's it just the way of life.
Did you know putting your own car into a magazine has politic involve?(primedia vs others)
Did you know that certain sponsors will not work with certain other sponsors?
The list can go on and on, these are just things that are consider politic.
Sorry to jack your thread Ken, you are a good guy and I believe you would keep in honest and fair.
Thank you,


310Ojisan 08-14-2005 07:10 PM

watch carefully....

Originally Posted by D1 DRIFTER
G4 even disagreed with the judges and had it on tape to prove it stuff like that just aint cool

Sorry I can’t agree with you on that one. Look at the repay closely at the ending, at the time Rhys two right tires cross the line and were in the air which direction was his front tire facing. “straight” that means he corrected himself and grip driving not drifting. G4 made a bad call and their unprofessional criticism is hurting the sport. Leave the judging to the judges!

Boostedrex 08-14-2005 07:30 PM

Alex does make a very good point. FD seems to have an over abundance of really high hp cars. And with that kind of hp you can run a much tighter line while maintaining a good drift. So I do agree that it is unsportsman like to pass a lower hp car that has to take a wider line. Too bad that other people don't seem to agree. Thanks for your input Alex, it is greatly appreciated.

CrazyHawaiian 08-15-2005 12:20 AM

I agree its unsportsman like, but I dont blame it on the power level of the cars, I blame it on the drivers. Even the guy with the most HP out there can have enough respect for the other driver not to try cut off his line or re-grip/bobble and go for a pass. I call it "dirty drifting"

Rob Fleming 08-15-2005 09:22 AM

would be nice if the judges would deduct points from high hp cars that spin out, ride the ebrake around every turn, and go worlds slower than they should be going.

if the car is high hp, it should be going fast. if i can sit on the sidelines, see a guy grab the ebrake 4-5 times through an entry turn, and have the judges allow that person go onto the next round, i dont agree with that.

I think part of the reason that people try to pass so much is that its a clear victory, mainly because calls are not being made that should. if we knew we'd get judged on driving style and execution properly, then we'd run the line the way we see fit, instead of guarding the inside line so much. just my $3.50.

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