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“The Hard Call” by Formula D Judge Ken Takahashi

 
 
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Old 08-08-2005, 04:21 PM   #1
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“The Hard Call” by Formula D Judge Ken Takahashi

“The Hard Call” by Formula D Judge Ken Takahashi

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“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”.
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