Photography by Andrew Jennings
From sport compacts to heavyweight muscle cars, Daijiro Yoshihara has raced with the full gamut during his tenure in Formula Drift. One of the few drivers to have been around since the inaugural 2004 season, Yoshihara continues to impress as the sport evolves year after year, looking towards a follow up of his successful 2011 championship. In 2017, his ride of choice is the Falken Tire / Turn 14 Distribution Subaru BRZ, the culmination of performance engineering with Japanese soul.
It all starts with the car’s look, updated for 2017 with a standout new color scheme completed by Sam’s Auto Land paint and Daley Visual wrap. Weight savings are paramount to any racer, so Yoshihara turned to the mass saving experts at Seibon Carbon. Carbon fiber roof, doors, and a vented hood shed the pounds, and lower the center of gravity for the BRZ, improving maneuverability in drift transitions.
TRA Kyoto burst onto the scene when the BRZ first launched with unique Rocket Bunny widebody aero kits, and they have continued to innovate with new styles. Yoshihara’s ride sports the V3 design, featuring a front fascia, oversized front and rear fender extensions, and a ducktail trunk lid spoiler.
The front is further enhanced with an APR splitter, generating downforce to keep the car balanced. The package weighs in at a staunch 3,000 pounds, an important stat when it comes to the choice of tires in Formula D.
Yoshihara earned his 2011 Formula Drift championship with Falken, and continues the partnership today. His BRZ sports their latest RK615T+ performance tires, sized at 265-mm front and 295-mm rear. The car’s weight (plus the driver) allows for up to the 295 maximum, which is good because extra rubber means more smoke, blinding other chase drivers and impressing the judges through banked circuit sweepers. Those tires come wrapped around a set of Yoshihara’s own design of 18-inch wheels: the three-piece “Champion” model. He’s been running his own model wheels since the 2011 season - the year when he won it all.
Looking inside, things have been flipped around in terms of the layout. Yoshihara may be a switch hitter, able to expertly navigate behind the wheel from either side, but, like any Japanese native, he prefers a right-hand drive setup.
The dashboard was a breeze, grabbing a JDM panel from a BRZ abroad, but the real magic of moving the Momo steering wheel and Jamar Performance pedal set over was left to Yoshihara’s crew chief, Chris Eimer of Eimer Engineering.
Eimer put together a custom steering rack, complete with tie rods and front knuckles to connect with the extreme turning angles the sport is known for. Yoshihara is held in place by a Momo Daytona racing seat and a Takata six-point HANS Formula harness.
The front footwell is taken up by a Coolshirt Systems cooling unit, pumping icy water through Yoshihara’s race suit. The rest of the interior is fitted up with an SPD Motorsports roll cage, along with some stitch welding to the bare chassis to stiffen things up.
The steering wasn’t the only part of this BRZ to get swapped out. Yoshihara’s MoTeC SDL race dash and MoTeC M800 ECU drive one monster of a powerplant under the carbon hood. It begins with a Racing Head Service (RHS) aluminum LSX block, displacing a whopping seven liters of V8 madness. JE Pistons and All Pro heads were brought in to handle the massive amounts of power that would be thrown at it, and the engine was topped off with a Wilson Manifolds custom billet aluminum intake manifold, CNC-machined to fit snugly in the compact bay. Following the flow farther, a 90-mm Wilson throttle body reacts to the lightest touch of the go-fast pedal, drawing fresh air directly from the Bell intercooler, a part that can only mean one thing: this coupe is turbocharged.
Yoshihara went with the latest Garrett GTX5533R Gen II on the build, a charger normally boxed for high-torque diesel industrial motors. All that air deserves a healthy dose of gasoline to ignite properly, meaning the fuel system needed careful attention. An Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator feeds into Wilson fuel rails and Bosch 1,600-cc fuel injectors for maximum combustion.
Eimer Engineering also fabricated an impressive set of hand-bent exhaust manifolds, which mate up with Turbosmart wastegates and blow-off valves to complete the package. MotoIQ’s own Mike Kojima, another of Yoshihara’s trusted race posse, put all the pieces together and sprinkled some Eneos racing fluids in to keep the beast operating smoothly. Power is rated at a staggering 962 horsepower and 832 lb-ft of torque. Like any good turbocharged application, the boost can be adjusted depending on the needs of the circuit, and the team joke that it has been too much for some dynos to handle. Yoshihara is man enough to tame it though, knowing just the right moves to punch in with the big boys of drifting.
All that power can’t simply spin through the crank without somewhere to go. First stop, a competition clutch and flywheel package by McLeod, another of Yoshihara’s long term partners in success.
From there, a GSR four-speed dogbox transmission takes over, passing the ball back through a Drivelines driveshaft to the Winters Performance differential. Yoshihara selected a 10-inch spool-type quick change rear end with the BRZ, rather than a limited-slip, to get a consistent lock and power application with each run. It’s part of the character of every drift build that can only be refined by the driver’s style and how he feels comfortable to perform on the world’s biggest sideways stage. Driveshaft Shop custom axles send the juice to the rear corners, propelling the blue and black rocket across the asphalt, begging to be pushed harder and harder, like a true glutton for punishment.
Brakes are another piece of the puzzle that each driver has a strong opinion on. A pull of the handbrake or a tap of the middle pedal can help keep the car twisted, and Yoshihara knew exactly what hardware he wanted behind each. Large Jamar Performance six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers latch onto Wilwood rotors and brake pads. Out back, a second set of four-piston calipers are dedicated to handbrake duties, separating the action to allow for controlled input of each.
Nestled above the brake system is a set of KW three-way adjustable competition coilovers with remote reservoirs. The shock/spring body even features its own dust cover, improving reliability when tons of tire carcass are flying past.
A set of Progress front and rear sway bars further allow Yoshihara to dial in the right amount of stiffness, key to hitting a 30-degree bank or figure-eight-style transition. Each modification works in tandem with the rest, adding up to the meanest BRZ in Formula Drift competition.
Yoshihara’s on-track performance alone would be enough to merit pages upon pages of praise and dissection, yet his off-track spirit should not be lost on fans either. Since the events of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Northeastern Japan, Yoshihara has taken a philanthropic approach to his public status, setting up his own charity called Relief For Japan. To date he has raised over $80,000, with proceeds going directly to the Japanese Red Cross Society. Visit RFJP.org to find out more or donate, or catch Yoshihara at a Formula D event and show some love in person. His BRZ will be there, ready to show the international field of competitors what real smoke trails look like, Japanese-style.