The Hot Seat :: Daigo Saito

In just over two weeks time, Melbourne will be turned on its’ head when Formula D Asia and a select group of drivers come to Calder Park for an action packed drift competition.

In the lead up to the race, we will be catching up with a few international drivers for a few quick questions.

First up we have caught up with Daigo Saito. He is referred to as the ‘greatest drifter in the world’ and we couldn’t wait to get to know a little bit more about him!

Daigo Saito drifting in australia

GSS: Daigo, you’re known as one of the best drifters in the world if not the best! What’s next? Will you continue your domination of the sport and defend your many titles, or are you thinking a long deserved break is on the cards soon?

Daigo: I am been fortunate enough with the support of my sponsors and teams to make it to the top of the mountain in the sport. It has been a dream to a large extent for me to be able to be the champion in Japan, USA and Asia, in my humble opinion, I do think I am the only driver to have won the tri-factor before. However, I have the utmost respect for all of my rivals, and to me, extending this run is going to be even harder. A lot of the fans do not realise how difficult it is to win even one round in Formula Drift, that so many elements have to come together such as mech support, car reliability, weather, driver skills before one gets to the podium.

GSS: If you did step back from drifting, is there any other forms of motorsport that interest you and that you would consider competing in?

Daigo: I think any type of rallying is interesting. To me that has a strong connection in drifting and rallying. Well I am actually interested in any kind of motorsport. However at this stage of my career, drifting is at the utmost top of my mind.  But if a sponsor wants to offer me a rally ride, would be game to try!

GSS: Given your success, you still seem very humble and grounded with your regular day to day work back home. Is it hard to sometimes just be a regular guy or do your prefer the peace and quiet after a big racing season?

Daigo: Well I'm always running around being busy and thinking of competition and drifting so my mind is never at rest. I used to have an off season, but as I now compete in Japan, and the Formula Drift Asia and USA series, I pretty much have a full schedule for the year. The driving styles and strategies also vary from continent to continent, hence I am using any down time I have to refine my driving skills and also finetune the car set-ups. A top-end drifter is only good as their equipment.

GSS: Having competed around the world have you had to make any adjustments to your own driving style to stay competitive in races against your rivals? For example how do the Japanese drivers differ from the US based drivers competing in the Formula D series and how do you adapt your style to win?

Daigo: There is clearly top-end talent in both Japan, USA and even in Asia. The talent pool in the Asia series has increased exponentially over the past few years. However, as drifting is a judged sport (very much like competitive figure skating), in order to gain success, one must drive according to what the judges want to see. Before each event, during the driver’s briefing, the expectations for the track is clearly laid out, and right away I start processing the changes I need to make. I do feel that my greatest strength in drifting is the ability to adapt, I am not fixated on any particular driving style (like being super aggressive, or overtly technical), I am only fixated on winning and will drive in whatever way is required for that.

GSS: So given that you’re driving two very different cars, how hard has it been to jump from one car to the other? Are there any noticeable differences in each cars ability and have you ever been caught off guard half way through a corner and thought you’re in the wrong car for that much speed or angle?

Daigo: I drive a Lexus ISC in Asia and a Lexus SC430 in the USA. So, even though both platforms are very similar, I have to adapt the car set-ups to the different layouts in both Asia and USA. The layouts in Asia tend to be more technical and tight, whereas the layouts in the USA tend to be more focused on speed and power. It was pretty confusing last year as it was my first time doing both regions, but by the end of last season, I pretty much got used to the switch. They are both my children, and as any parent would say, I love both equally!

GSS: Lastly, have you had a chance to check out some of the local talent that you’ll be competing against here in Australia? And who do you hope you’ll get a chance to battle with on the day?

Daigo: I know there is great talent out there and I am always looking forward to going against somebody new whoever they are. FD Australia would be my first time competing in Oz. Josh has been a great ambassador for Australian drifting the past few years, and we have many more “Joshes” in the Australia drift scene, I am sure we are all going to have a good time. I also recently participated in a exhibition event in Auckland, and there has also been alot of talk between the drifters of New Zealand and Australia. I also know that some of the top new Zealand drifters will be taking part in the Australia event, so as for the fan in me, I do think it would be a good friendly rivalry that would add to the excitement of the event.

We would like to thank Daigo for taking some time out of his busy schedule to have a chat with us and we look forward to seeing him and his monstrous Lexus on Sunday the 28th of April at Calder Park.

To purchase tickets for the event simply follow this link http://www.ticketmaster.com.au/Australian-Drifting-Grand-Prix-tickets/

For more details on the event head to the Australian Drifting GP site – http://trackbattle.com.au/adgp/

For more info on the drivers check out the Formula Drift Asia site – http://www.formuladriftasia.com/

Thanks for reading,

- Gwyn.