It’s fun recounting all the countless stories We have of meeting the personalities who form our small but awesome tuner scene. My friendship with Dai (Daijiro Yoshihara) is one of my favorites. We both met while we were much younger and may barely communicate (language barrier)-and now, well, let’s just say we’ve already exchanged a couple of texts and possess liked one another’s photos on Instagram (we tight, aight) once I finished writing this sentence. Needless to say, I’ve watched him grow from an unknown to an American drifting sensation, regarded today as the very best of the best. A maverick in his own right, and deservedly so. He has since retired the S13 that is long synonymous with the Yoshihara name (also won the 2012 Formula D title) and is campaigning an all-new Subaru BRZ for 2014, one that has been outfitted with a turbocharged V8, nearly 1,000hp, and the fashion-forward Version 2 kit from Kei Miura’s Rocket Bunny label. This is basically the stuff hipster tuner kids and diehard drift fans would kill for, and is also the culmination of Dai’s American drifting career.
Although the BRZ (after the day) is just a car, and ultimately why is Dai so popular is that he’s approachable all while being that totally cool JDM guy. Without him in the helm, the cars remain as lifeless as may be-but he presents them purpose. Dai, as a driver, also has a purpose-to continue driving as he has, since he was a teen, to become the most effective he can be. I wanted to get into Dai’s mind to find out where he originated, where he’s at, and where he wants to be. I can tell you with confidence that he’ll always want to be driving something…it’s his driving force, so to speak.
SS: What was your life like when you first started driving?
DY: I found myself 18 initially when i first got my license. I was already riding motorcycles with all of of my girlfriends because you can get a motorcycle license when you turn 16; you can not get a driver’s license (for cars) before you turn 18. But even if we could obtain one, not all of my friends went to hashiriya (street racing)-a lot of them went VIP or low riders, simply to party. I used to be the only guy who increased into the mountains to go racing. I always wanted to drive something, before I rode motorcycles.
SS: Where did that interest in driving come from?
DY: Well, my father used to work on a car dealership that my uncle owned. Growing up, I found myself always flanked by cars. I believe everyone has that dream to become a race car driver. It was actually never too hardcore, though i didn’t have any heroes; I watched Senna casually.That which was street racing like to suit your needs growing up in Japan?
DY: It was fun. I know I shouldn’t say that, but it really was. I would go with my senpais (mentors), who weren’t very buddies of mine, but they were really into drifting. This became kind of a secret life that I led (being a drifter); most those people who are into drifting, their life revolves around drifting-not me. I had a separate life outside of it. Back then (late ’90s to 2000), drifting wasn’t cool, and it was considered sort of nerdy. The culture was very different. Hashiriya/street racers…girls weren’t involved with it. For example: Miura-san’s generation-the bosozoku-they transitioned into street racing. For my generation, it had been lowriders, hip-hop, and American culture which were coming up. People wanted to go clubbing or were interested in following other trends besides touge or drifting.
SS: What was the first car?
DY: A Corolla, AE86. The identical year I began drifting (’95) is when Initial D arrived. It wasn’t even popular, but I was reading it. It absolutely was a fun comic but didn’t really influence me in any way.
SS: So there’s no story people driving around with a cup of water, ensuring that it won’t spill?
DY: That’s actually not possible (laughs).
SS: How did you practice?
DY: First, i did so donuts and figure eights like everybody else. I used to practice at these public bus stations; during the night, they’re empty so they transform into big parking lots. Each night I went and practiced.
SS: Was there ever a time when you thought, I’m not efficient at this; I ought to stop or did it just come simple to you?
DY: It wasn’t easy, and I spent lots of time working on perfecting my skills. But I didn’t suck. I found myself pretty good compared to a lot of people. After a few months, I was already better than people who had been carrying it outMuch better than your senpais?
DY: Yeah, they were like, WTF?
SS: How difficult is it for someone to become a pro drifter in Japan?
DY: It’s not easy at all, and the bottom line is, at the time, even someone like Taniguchi was still a touge driver. There was no D1 yet. In thatpoint and nobody, not even one individual, except maybe Keiichi Tsuchiya, thought there would be such a thing as professional drifting. It was just kids messing around type stuff.
SS: When do you discover you really had a talent for drifting?
DY: Around ’96-’97. D1 Japan were only available in 2000 and i also didn’t go to the United states until 2003. In between those years, I found myself a weekend street racer. I did the exact same thing over and overpractice, practice and also over and never thought anything would come of it. I went through five more cars after that AE86: a Nissan Laurel, 180SX and Cefiro R32 Skyline four-door, as well as an S14.
SS: What was your favorite car from those?
DY: I’ve always loved the AE86, to this day. I want to own another one in the future. I didn’t really repair my cars, though. That’s probably why I never had any problems. Just a simple set of coilovers and an LSD, change the tires, and put gas in. I really like to drive an auto as it comes naturally, more or less.
SS: And after that comes the infamous story about how you linked up with Ken Miyoshi (founder of Import Showoff) and exactly how he wanted a driver to come drive in one of the first U.S. drifting events…
DY: He was quoted saying if I wanted the opportunity to come and drive, he is needed bring me over and offer me accommodations, although yes, I associated with Miyoshi through a couple different acquaintances, and it wasn’t necessarily that he was looking for a driver. D1 would have a driver’s search, and then he recommended I try it out. I said, Naturally! and I wound up becoming the driver for Jerry Tsai and the Pacific Rim drift team. I always wanted to visit the Usa to do some thing-not just drifting but anything-so it was very exciting in my opinion. Right before this, I even applied to work towards the United states naval base in Yokosuka because I had this want to do something that will hopefully get me to the States.
SS: You could’ve become Tetsu’s coworker. [Ed note: For people who don’t know, our man Tetsuya Ogushi is a driver for the United states Embassy in Tokyo.]
DY: (laughs) Yes, basically Tetsu’s job-which was my goal. I didn’t think to become a pro drifter. When I found out I could check out the U.S., I finally thought, Damn, I’m one step even closer to achieving my dream.
SS: Then you get suddenly and here you realize drifting is a lot bigger in the U.S. than you think. Were you surprised or nervous?
DY: It was crazy at that first D1 event, and I had never driven in front of a team as large as that in my life. It went well, although i used to be nervous. I lost against (Katsuhiro) Ueo in the Top 16, thus i thought that was pretty good. Also i thought that was it as far as any big drifting event I’d compete in-go back to Japan and my well being would resume normal. Generally If I would be interested in driving in the new series they would be starting the subsequent year, but that quick, Jim Liaw and Ryan Sage-who were helping D1 then and would eventually start Formula D-stumbled on me and asked. I agreed since Jerry was interested. I even quit my job so I could drive. I didn’t determine if it would work or how I was going to make money, however i wanted to try the Formula D series. That had been my life-changing moment.
SS: Fast-forward another number of years and U.S. drifting is becoming more serious. What was your mind-set then?
DY: I started to get sponsors and was earning more pay, so it was becoming more of any professional thing, and that’s when I thought maybe I will take this more seriously. As FD continued to develop as a series, I also grew as a driver. But I’m always thinking about the future and the way I’m gonna sustain a living. It’s important, just like making a living should be, although i realize it shouldn’t be about the cash. It’s stressful and tough, and who knows if I’ll be driving the next year? I don’t want to depend upon drifting a great dealThe most exciting thing is to win. The fact that I even have a possiblity to win a gathering is very exciting as well. I’m scared of failing, and it sucks when I don’t do well.
SS: What does Dai ultimately want to do? If you can have it the right path…
DY: I’m studying to complete more forms of driving and I also have a couple of product lines out there, like Yoshihara Design wheels and 8 PRINCE wheel spacers. That’s tough, though i’ve taught as a driving instructor, too. I guess you could say I’m still finding my way.
SS: Leading approximately the present, is really because I view a strong correlation between you and the competition vehicles, the reason why I’ve asked countless questions about your past. When I first met you, you didn’t speak any English and drove an S13 having an SR20DET-very Japanese. Slowly, your cars have become more American, just like you. I am aware you don’t get a choice when it comes to car selection, but I’m visiting a nice evolution of Dai here. Do you get to inject a little bit of your personality into every car you contest with?
DY: I’ve never owned any of these cars; luckily, I really happen to drive for someone. More often than not, the car selection or engine isn’t my choice. They build it; I just get in and drive. I’m not car crazy; however, that being said, I am into the driving aspect far more. Like I said before, when I is at Japan, I would personally spend less time on buying parts and focused much more on becoming a better driver. I care more details on being competitive; the way a vehicle looks is not important-that’s someone else’s job. And you’re right-before it was just a 240SX with the SR20 and from now on I have a BRZ that’s pushing almost 1,000hp with a V8. The game has changed in around I’ve adjusted to life in the us, even though maybe it’s a coincidence. And in the process, my cars are getting to be more competitive with the rest of the field in Formula D. The fact that people use V8 here isn’t because it’s better than a great deal of other engines but because it’s a domestic product-it’s much more reliable and easier to source parts affordably because it’s an American engine platform. However I see 2JZs coming up recently; they’ve always made crazy power and I’m seeing them more now, like in Daigo Saito’s car. Again, it’s not my decision which engine goes into the vehicle-if they want to put a 2JZ in, I’m down.
SS: How do you wind up together with thecame about for a replacement. Your next car, you always would like it to be brand-new. From a sponsorship standpoint, it’s better once you have a newer platform to work with. The S13 is much more like a classic now; if you want to build one now, it’s a little bit more difficult. Above all, I wanted an FR (front-engine, rear-wheel-drive), and the only one that appeals is now the ZN6, or FR-S/BRZ chassis. We thought about a 370Z, however the BRZ is more popular. We almost went having a Cadillac CTS-V, but the wheelbase is too long. Basically If I had gotten the CTS-V, then for certain we could say my car evolution became more American!
SS: What keeps you motivated to do your best?
DY: Myself-I only want to do well. It’s my career. Before it absolutely was a hobby, however it’s my life. I need to pay my bills. Ten years ago, I wasn’t making money by drifting-but ten years ago life was a lot different. I wish to be more realistic about [the way I carry on]. Doing well now only helps to secure more for my future. I would like to be the top drifter, and it’s been a while since i have won a championship, so I definitely wish to be back on top. I never want to say, forget it and go do something else; I have nothing else. I’m fortunate enough to have a whole lot support. There are plenty of drivers who put in their own money without any major backing; I don’t determine what I would do if I found myself for the reason that situation. I just want to drive. I’m one of several few drivers who earn a living by drifting, which is good. But concurrently, it’s a lot of pressure. If I could drift competitively without worrying about the stress and just take advantage of the driving, i suppose it would be ideal.
SS: Do you think your reason for being is because of drifting?
DY: Yes, I think so. I always think things happen for a reason, even though i haven’t been doing well recently. I think I can overcome it-and without drifting, I wouldn’t have the life I have now, though i’m having a difficult time. I get to live in the United States, and i also have lots of friends because of my drifting career. When it wasn’t for drifting, i wouldn’t maintain Super Street. So yes, it was meant to be.
2013 Subaru BRZ
Owner Dai Yoshihara for Falken Tire
Hometown Los Angeles, CA
Occupation Professional race car driver
Power 962hp at 6,800 rpm; 832 lb-ft at 6,800 rpm (est)
Engine 7.-liter Chevy LS motor; All Pro Heads head porting/machining; custom Brian Crower cams, cam gears and crankshaft; REV valves; Manley valvesprings and retainers; ARP head studs; FelPro MLS head gasket; Cloyes timing chain; RHS block machining; JE 10: 1 pistons, piston rings; Callies connecting rods; ATI pulleys; custom SPD Motorsports 5 oval exhaust piping, up-pipe, downpipe, intercooler piping, motor plate, oil filter relocation kit and intake piping; GM Performance 90mm throttle body; Wilson Manifolds prototype intake manifold; Aeromotive Eliminator fuel pump and fuel pressure regulator; Wilson fuel rail; Bosch 1300cc fuel injectors; custom JSP Fab turbo manifolds, turbo elbow; Garrett GTX5008R turbo and intercooler; Turbosmart USA blow-off valve and intercooler wastegate; Dailey Engineering dry sump pan and oil pump; Setrab oil cooler; K&N HP3001 oil filter; Griffin dual pass radiator; HPS silicon hosing; Derale radiator fans; custom wiring harness by James Lin Motorsports; modified GM Performance valve covers with oil squirters