• Oct 12, 2009
Autoblog goes drifting with Tanner Foust – Click above for high-res image gallery

"It feels like I'm down on power!" yells Tanner Foust in the general direction of the gathered throngs containing both his crew and assorted media. Tanner and myself are currently five-point bolted into his new stock car-engined Formula D Scion tC. We've just exited an aborted lap around the Toyota Speedway at Irwindale because something – so says Foust – is amiss with the car.

Rockstar Energy Drink Drift captain Stephan Papadakis comes charging towards the Scion and begins earnestly, if not frantically, checking the car's vitals through the steering wheel's digital readout. Steph floors the motor a few times, checks the numbers and exasperatedly tells Foust that everything looks fine. "Oh," says Tanner, patting me on my beer belly. "Must be him." Very funny, jerk.



Photos copyright ©2009 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.
Rockstar invited us out to Toyota Speedway at Irwindale to take a few laps in Tanner's ludicrous new sideways ride. In fact, the last time we'd seen Tanner drift it up was at the Speedway last year when he became the first ever back-to-back (and first ever two-time) Formula D champion. Meaning he knows the track pretty darn well, thank you.

Today is a shakedown day: aside from giving husky journalists hot laps, Papadakis and the rest of the Rockstar crew are trying to iron the kinks out of the mighty Scion before next weekend's 2009 Formula D final event known as Judgment Day, taking place October 16-17. They've been having some sort of fuel problem and are (obviously) hoping to get it fixed.



In case you haven't heard, Mr. Foust is no longer behind the wheel of a supercharged Nissan 350Z. Instead he's been rocking the absolutely earth-shaking NASCAR Scion. Why earth-shaking? Well, the Toyota V8 for one. Yup, the same Toyota V8 that Toyota runs at NASCAR events. While it's ostensibly a Toyota motor, it was 100% designed in the USA by TRD and Ed Pink Racing Engines.

The carburetor has been removed and replaced with fuel injection, but other than that, this is the same engine you'd find under the hood of a NASCAR stock car (with shorty track pistons, shorty pipes, etc). Power? "Oh, about 600 or so to the wheels," says Papadakis. All that small block fury gets routed to the smoky rear tires via a four-speed Muncie-style dog-engagement G-force gearbox, then through a MKIV Supra rear end. The car is essentially a little ball of wow. And you have to hear it to believe how deaf I am.



Ace photographer Drew Phillips and I spent the morning standing behind concrete barricades in the middle of Irwindale's infield watching Tanner and fellow Scion dorifto driver Ken Gushi (in his Avensis-based tC) make dozens upon dozens of practice runs. You'd think they'd take fewer runs than that, seeing as how a set of rear meats is only good for about two laps, but hey – that's what tire sponsors are for.

Eventually, they both left the track but then Foust came back in golf cart to set up the clipping cones. Tanner was nice enough to give us a lift back to the paddock as long as we helped him with the cones. I should have been asking him auto-journo type questions at this point ("compare this new car to your old Z") but instead we just joked about the golf cart's Momo wheel and how Tanner's should take it drifting.



Right, so after Tanner's little joke (the one where he made fun of my fat gut), it was time for two laps with arguably the world's best drifter on his home track in a snorting monster of a car. And we're off. There's a Mitsubishi EVO IX camera car in front and to the right of us filming the laps. At first the acceleration isn't all that. But then Tanner drops it into second gear. I've felt some epic thrust in my time, but the only way I can describe the experience of a 650+ hp Scion at full tilt is to ask you to imagine a big guy standing behind you and swinging a baseball bat as hard as he can into the small of your back. CRACK! The little "Scion" takes off like a moonshot. A moment later we are traveling at well over 100 mph, rocketing towards both the EVO and a cement wall. Suddenly, up goes the handbrake.

Somehow, and honestly I really have zero idea how, Tanner threaded the Scion through a maybe seven-foot wide gap between the Mitsu and the wall. We're totally sideways at this point, with the Scion's rump pointing at the curving concrete barrier and its snout nearly facing the middle of the track. I was reminded of a time when I got a couple laps in a decommissioned stock car on the California Speedway's big oval. My right ear was less than a foot away from a huge wall and we were going over 180 mph. In both instances, what's actually taking place is so loudly violent, so cataclysmically crazed, so on the ragged edge of both the laws of physics and my own sense of self-preservation that I just let go. It's as if you must turn to faith to get you back alive in one piece, as logic and reason have long ago exited the car. Doing so turns everything almost serene.



We slow down (a little) as we approach the first clipping point and by doing so some of the seemingly endless smoke generated by the quickly-melting tires begins filling the cabin. I would later ask Papadakis what the lung-cancer rate amongst drifters is, and he replied, "The sport's too young to tell!" It turns out, that tire smoke not only tastes awful, it prefers clinging to exposed metal over human flash and t-shirts. Which is why for a second I'm convinced that the A-pillar corner of the roll cage is on fire. Before I have time to process that thought, the handbrake goes up again and we're pointed nearly 180 degrees in the other direction. Oh look, another solid concrete wall accompanied by triple digit forward velocity. Were today actually a Formula D event, this particular part of the track would be home to the VIP grandstands. Meaning that this is where the real action/showboating happens.


And dude, did it happen.


Tanner yanks hard on the handbrake and the Scion pitches itself more than 180 degrees to the left. I was told later that for some reason, Tanner took this particular run a little deeper than he'd been doing earlier with other passengers (jerk). As the turn is such an incredible change of both direction and momentum, the result is almost nothing but smoke. Tons of it. So much smoke that people on the other side of the wall (and probably riding in the camera car) lose sight of us for a second. Tanner quickly transitions it back the other way (more like fishtailing it from where I'm sitting) for the last set of cones and this time, he really punches it, trying to use up what's left of the Hankooks for a sort of mini grand finale. More smoke, more stupid silly sideways g forces, more deafening roar. I'm beginning to really like this.



I'm in a daze as we make a U-turn in the paddock for lap two. Foust asks me how I liked it. I begin applauding. First of all, I'm stunned that not only didn't we crash and burst into flames, but somehow, I'm still breathing. Second, how in the hell did he just do that? I make up my mind to watch Tanner's hands and feet on this lap to try and see how he's able to maintain such phenomenal control. Big mistake. Foust is making so many moves, and dancing between the pedals, wheel, stick and handbrake so quickly, that it's nonsensical. I just can't process it. To me, he's having a seizure. My poor little brain can't cope with what my eyes are telling it and for the first time I'm frightened. Best to just look out the side window at the looming mass of approaching concrete. Honestly, that calms me down.



Photos copyright ©2009 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 22 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Oh My goodness! The figure skating of motor sports! (We don't make anything exciting or good looking so we fabricate some garbage like this)Toyota. Toyota's quality is so good 1980-2000. Toyota is so ten years ago, NEXT!
        • 5 Years Ago
        STFU already you idiot. Thank you.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Le clod, what kid of person buys a Toyota? Someone how thinks of an automobile as an appliance. Yes I am a bigger fan of U.S. auto companies, but all of the other Japanese automakers have a soul. I am happy to see them fail. I have worked for several race teams and several O.E.M's. I have also worked at several German auto dealers. No, I will not STFU. With this feature, Toyota PR buys interest. I give none, you are swinging from the soulless sack so clearly you are worse than the idiot, you are a lemming who can't think for themself.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Very cool, and a great story but it seriously needs a video. Although drifting is pretty awesome and definitely takes a serious amount of skill, I really wish Tanner would do this as more of a side project so he doesn't miss so many Rally America events, I want to see him give Pastrana a run for the championship already!
      • 5 Years Ago
      I demand video!
      • 5 Years Ago
      That car is so wrong on so many levels. So much for keeping it production, Formula D.
      • 5 Years Ago
      No video? Why?
        • 5 Years Ago
        This.

        Vids! Naow!!!!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Hating on formula D is like hating on nascar racing...if you don't like it then stfu and keep your negative comments to yourself...its not for everyone
      stealthebeatles
      • 5 Years Ago
      ""Oh," says Tanner, patting me on my beer belly. "Must be him." Very funny, jerk."

      Would have been great if the post ended there.
      • 5 Years Ago
      trickedoutshowkase, please stop spamming your idiotic and insufferable blog on every vague and lame post you make. Thanks!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Great write-up, Jonny... well done... and I'm SO VERY jealous :)
        • 5 Years Ago
        Not only a nice write up, but in real English too. No unnecessary slang or cultural reference, no obvious bad grammar, no "let the spell-checker take care of it" type mistakes (eg., their-there, your-you're). Thank you!
        • 5 Years Ago
        very true! keep it up, jonny!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Do those roof scoops actually route to something? Or are they just for looks?
        • 5 Years Ago
        its a racecar so everything does something, probably routs directly to the drivers suit, fresh air helps when the cabin temps get to be the same as the transmission temps
      • 5 Years Ago
      Why would they make a Scion tc into a drift car? It's not even a rear-wheel drive car!!! Is this just a marketing ploy to make scion look hip to drift culture? Then make your cars rwd! Scions are drift poser-mobiles.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I'd guess it's mostly because of marketing but then it's always interesting to see other cars drifting instead of the usual ones, like 240s, AE-86 and etc.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The one Scion I wouldn't mind owning
        • 5 Years Ago
        Agreed. The first cool Scion I see.
    • Load More Comments