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Okinawa Motor Festival to lure drifting fans, drivers

Date Posted: 2012-01-27

Drifting! Roaring! Exciting! All words to describe the excitement of the Okinawa Motor Festival coming to Yukari pasture in Nago City this weekend.

While countless eyes are on northern Okinawa’s cherry blossoms, hundreds and hundreds of motor enthusiasts will be making their way to northern Okinawa to either race, or watch the races that involve drifting, a driving technique where the driver intentionally oversteers, causing loss of traction in the rear wheels through turns while maintaining vehicle control at a high speed. The excitement of the sport, which dates back to the 1930s, brought 2,300 spectators to the Yukari pasture last year.

A total of 80 cars and 30 motorcycles may be entered in the competition. Entry fee for the festival sponsored by Okinawa Toyota and the Okinawa Motor Festival is ¥1,000. A raffle will determine the winner of a prize for attendance, a ticket for a three-day, two-night Tokyo adventure that includes a Tokyo Disney Land pass.

Saturday is a day for rehearsals and time trials, says Hirotatsu Oshiro, the festival’s chief organizer. Sunday will be a day of event finals. “We’ll be dividing up the events to include trials in April, July and September, in addition to these in January. This weekend is the first match of the year.” Oshiro says “the purpose of this event is to bring up driver rallies in Okinawa, because Okinawa is isolated and driving techniques are lower.”

Oshiro says his dream “is that we create an official circuit in Okinawa one day.”I have a dream that one day we’ll create an official circuit in Okinawa. “ He says the other events will be April 28th & 29th, September 29th & 30th, and the final matches December 8th & 9th. The events this weekend open at 9 a.m. and finish each day at 4 p.m.

For the uninitiated, Oshiro says drifting has evolved into a competitive sport where competitions are based on lines, angle, speed, the amount of smoke, and show factor. Judging takes place on a small part of the circuit. Typically, drift cars are light to moderate weight rear-wheel-drive coupes and sedans over a large range of power levels. Clutches on drift cars tend to be very tough ceramic brass to allow rapid techniques that upset the car’s balance.

Points are awarded during tandem passes, based upon overtaking the lead car under drift conditions, while spins and overtaking the lead car results in forfeiting points. Other points are added for increasing a lead under drift conditions, or for maintaining a close gap while chasing another car under drift conditions. Competitive cars run anywhere from turbo-charged high horsepower four cylinder engines, to big displacement V10 engines generating between 400-850 horsepower.

The sport’s popularity has even led to computer games and arcade races. The technique is now considered mainstream in virtually all modern games.

To get to Yukari field drive north on Hwy 58 all the way to Nago. Just as you’re about to enter the city turn right on Hwy 329. Drive across the island, and turn right towards Futami at a traffic light, and again immediately left. Go past the bullfighting ring and to the parking lot. Alternatively, drive north on Hwy 329 past Camp Schwab and the entrance to Futami bypass tunnel to the traffic light above. Then turn right.

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