Team Orange Gets A Taste Of WTAC
Each year, the Tectaloy International Drift Challenge is held alongside World Time Attack . Without fail, it brings the best of the best from all over Australia and New Zealand. This year, an absolute bombshell was dropped with the announcement of Japan’s legendary Team Orange drivers, Nobushige Kumakubo and Naoto Suenaga, confirming entries to take a shot at the prestigious title.
Upon my arrival to Sydney Motorsport Park, I headed straight to the pits to find the iconic orange cars. I found a very relaxed atmosphere in the Team Orange pits. The only work being carried out that peaceful morning - Igusa helping to place the new banner on Kumakubo’s 2006 D1 Champion WRX.
Having only ever seen the Team Orange WRX from the exterior, I couldn’t help but pop my head, and my camera, into the cockpit of this iconic machine. So this is where the magic happens…
It was quite surreal to turn around and see the man behind Team Orange and Ebisu Circuit standing only a few feet away.
Before any drifting, the Evo and WRX would get a 5-10 minute warm up by the crew and mechanics. This usually involved raising the rear of the car, putting it into gear and running up to temperature and speed whilst checking everything from the engine bay to the drivetrain…
… and while the cars were getting warmed by the mechanics, Suenaga and Kumakubo casually jumped into their team colors for the first drift demo.
Both Team Orange drivers only had 2-3 individual runs until they jumped into their first Tsuiso run (Twin Battle). At this moment I could feel my heartbeat pick up furiously; two drivers I’ve watched in the D1 series for years now were right in front of me door to door.
That’s exactly what we would expect to see from two pioneers of D1.
After the Saturday lunch demo, Suenga’s Evo encountered a problem in the form of a sheared bolt on the dump pipe. With little time to start pulling the car apart, the team opted to weld the dump to the turbo housing as a temporary fix.
As the day came to an end, the crew got together for a few last words with Team Orange’s newest member, Jake Jones. Jake competed earlier this year in D1′s Odaiba round, driving the same WRX Kumakubo was competing in for this event.
It’s quite hard to capture emotion when drivers are wearing a full faced helmet; but when I noticed the incredible detail on Kumakubo’s helmet, it showed quite a lot of character.
The smile on Suenaga’s face grew bigger and bigger as he waited for the night ahead.
Kumakubo started off strong considering the WRX was having mechanical problems all weekend.
Kumakubo kept every opponent on their toes with his consistent speed throughout the track and expert chasing skills, but unfortunately he was unable to make into the top 10.
Partner in crime, Suenaga, on the other hand was in tip top shape from his first run.
Eliminating one driver at a time in true D1 fashion.
The semi-final between Leighton Fine and Suenaga; that would define 3rd place and who would move onto the final battle between Tony Harrison is one I won’t forget. From entry point Suenaga was shadowing Leighton’s every movement as if there was a magnet holding the two together.
With driving like this, our champion for the 2012 Tectaloy International Drift Challenge was no other than Naoto Suenaga. Suenaga took the win over an intense battle against one of Australians best, Tony Harrison, showing us in person why Team Orange is so respected throughout the globe.
I think I can speak on behalf of everyone from WTAC when I say what a jaw dropping experience it was to witness Team Orange bring both the WRX and EVO all the way from Japan. Taking the title right from our hands will only inspire our New Zealand and Australian drivers onto bigger and better things for 2013.
Here at Excitement Car Magazine we would personally like to thank Team Orange for supporting us by running Excitement! stickers on both cars. We very much look forward to seeing you next year! E!CM