LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 8, 2011) — Nitto Tire U.S.A. Inc. and Falken Tire Corp. are gearing up for competitive seasons in this year's Formula Drift Pro Championship, sponsoring six and five drivers, respectively, in the seven-event series.
Now in its seventh year as a sponsor, Nitto has expanded its lineup of teams and drivers to five teams and six drivers, starting with the “Round 1: Streets of Long Beach” season opener April 8-9 in Long Beach, Calif.
Falken Tire's five-car effort includes defending Formula Drift Champion Vaughn Gittin Jr., who will drive the Monster Energy/Falken Tire 2011 Ford Mustang,
All Nitto-sponsored teams will be supplied with NT05 performance street tires.
Nitto's sponsorship lineup for the 2011 season is as follows:
- Ryan Tuerck, the primary driver for New Jersey-based Gardella Racing, the first East Coast team sponsored by Nitto. He finished second in the standings in 2009 and third in 2010. This year, he will be driving a Chevy Camaro SS, built by Gardera.
- Eric O'Sullivan, the Formula Drift Rookie of the Year for 2009, who is joining Gardella this year. He will drive a 2008 Pontiac Solstice, previously used by Mr. Tuerck and powered by a Gardella-built Chevy LS3 V8 engine.
- Joon Maeng, of Bergenholtz Racing, who will start his second year with his Mazda RX8. This year the car includes several aerodynamic additions, Nitto said, including front splitters and a wing.
- Matt Powers, who was the youngest Formula Drift driver to place in the Top 16 in 2010. His Nissan s14 features an LS7 engine from a Corvette Z06, mounted by GTI. Mr. Powers' title sponsor is Electronic Arts' Need for Speed video game series.
- Charles “Kaki” Ng Racing, who was the runner-up for Formula Drift's Rookie of the Year award in 2010. He will again drive a Mazda FC RX7 with an LS7 engine, which has been upgraded during the off-season.
- Michael Essa, of GSR Autosport, will compete in a BMW Z4 with a turbocharged E46 engine. It is the first Z4 to be used in Formula DriftI competition, Nitto said.
“Nitto has been a part of Formula DRIFT almost since its inception,” said Harry Kong, marketing and event specialist, Nitto Tire. “On the Formula D circuit, quality and performance are essential. That's why we're especially proud of both our sponsorship and the opportunity to shine a light on the NT05, a tire that is made for competitive and everyday use.”
Falken's ultimate goal is to have one of its five factory drivers claim the top rung of the Formula D ladder again.
Besides Mr. Gittin Jr., the Team Falken drivers are:
- Daijiro (“Dai”) Yoshihara, in a re-engineered Nissan 240SX (Silvia S13);
- Darren McNamara, in a hardtop Saturn Sky built by Autosport Dynamics in Charlotte, N.C.;
- Tyler McQuarrie, in a hardtop Nissan 350Z;
- Justin Pawlak, in a Ford Mustang, with an engine built by Ford Racing/Roush-Yates of NASCAR fame.
All members of Team Falken will be using the company's Azenis RT615K, which is DOT-approved and designed with the track competitor in mind.
“Each year, Formula Drift gets bigger, with more participants and more companies who want to be a part of this vital motorsports effort,” stated Nick Fousekis, director of motorsports and consumer marketing for Falken.
“We know what it takes to be competitive in this race series and we realize all the other teams will be aiming for us, but we have every intention of repeating our dominance, and continue running at the top.”
A full schedule of the inaugural event at Long Beach along with schedules for the rest of the season can be found at formulad.com.