ERJ staff report (TB)
Osaka, Japan – Toyo Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd. has a new drift racing team ready to compete in the 2014 D1 Grand Prix Series (D1GP), and it will feature its first female driver, reported Tire Business.
The series, sponsored by D1 Corp., kicks off on 29 March at Japan’s Fuji Speedway. The Toyo team will compete in six events at five venues throughout Japan and will aim for a second consecutive series championship.
The newly formed team has added the support of Trust Corp., according to Toyo, with Masato Kawabata, its top driver and last year’s season champion, behind the wheel of a Nissan GT-R. He will be joined by Michie Mimoto, the team’s first female driver and the 2013 D1 Ladies League Series Champion. Rounding out the team of six racers are Tatsuya Sakuma, who finished the 2013 series with a third-place ranking; Akinori Utsumi, who ranked fifth in 2013; Yoshifumi Tadokoro, the 18th-place finisher in 2013; and Seimi Tanaka, ranking 22nd last year.
In a Toyo press release, 30-year-old Mimoto, from her hometown of Kochi Prefecture, said after being the 2013 champion in the D1 Lady’s League: “I continue to challenge in D1 fields because my dream is to win at D1GP.” Thanking Toyo for its support, she said she’ll aim to be competitive in D1’s top stage this year and, “although it is (my) first time to perform for drift in the International Circuit, I will pile up my ranking and unforgettable driving in order to become the first female winner of D1GP.”
Toyo said it will set up a booth at each racing venue that will host talk shows featuring drivers, sell newly designed 2014 team merchandise “and also promote interaction and communication with fans via Web reports” and other projects.
In D1 racing, according to Toyo, “points are awarded for artistic quality based on precision and beauty of drift driving technique,” with a champion determined after a year-long series of six to seven races. Last year six races were held, attracting over 60,000 fans.