During our visit to MCR Factory in Nagoya I was given a chance to do something I’ve dreamt about doing ever since my love for photography and drifting first crossed paths. That dream was to do a photoshoot with a D1 car on the streets of Japan, and at last I had the glimmering possibility of that dream becoming reality.
We’d been at MCR Factory for a while now, and I’d spent most of that time staring at every detail of Masashi Yokoi’s incredible D1 Street Legal S14. Trying to shoot it inside the workshop wouldn’t work due to the lack of space, and I hadn’t asked if we could move it out as I didn’t want to bug anyone. But when was I ever going to get a chance to shoot one of my favourite D1 cars again? The worst anyone can say is no, so I plucked up a bit of courage and asked. Luckily for me Yokoi was more than happy to move the car out to take some photographs!
However, there was a slight hitch. The roads next to the workshop were quite narrow and didn’t leave much room for manouvering the car into position, and the hotel opposite didn’t exactly appreciate the noise this late at night. All of this was making it nearly impossible for me to do the car any justice.
Just as I was starting to feel like the dream was slipping away, Travis came up to me and said that Yokoi could take the car to the local petrol station if I wanted to shoot it there. A photoshoot? With a D1SL car? At a Japanese petrol station? HELL YES. So I clambered into the stripped out back half of the car and braced myself against the rollcage; Travis got in the passenger seat, Yokoi jumped in the drivers seat, and we were off. Casually driving through the back streets of Nagoya while curled up in the back of one of my favourite D1SL cars was a pretty surreal experience to say the least. I couldn’t resist shooting a little bit of video footage to capture the sound of the Silvia echoing through the city.
So, the dream came true.
With the MCR Factory D1SL S14 sitting in front of me it became even more apparent as to why I love this car so much – it encompasses the the best of drifting. Visually it has the loud in your face graphics that makes competition drift cars so striking and memorable, but underneath the thunderbolts is a subtle street style which Nagoya is famous for. Peel away the bodywork and you’ll find a brilliantly set up performance car that has all the power you’ll ever need and the handling to match. But what I really love is that it’s not some pie in the sky, billion horsepower competition car that’s missing most of it’s original parts; all of it is obtainable, and that, is what D1 Street Legal is all about.
For those of you unfamiliar with the series, D1 Street Legal was launched in 2006 as a sub series to the D1 Grand Prix. The aim of this new series was to try and take D1 a little more back to it’s roots by being more accessible to more drivers. Although D1GP is probably the pinnacle of drifting in Japan and around the world, it isn’t easy to get into, and there’s quite a lot of politics involved. D1 Street Legal’s purpose was to add restrictions to bring the extremity of the cars that compete down to a more reasonable level. Restrictions such as having to have working air conditioning, heaters, stereo, OEM window glass and door panels, stock dashboards, and even though there is technically no power limit, engine swaps must be kept within the same make of car. So swaps such as the 2JZ-GTE Toyota engine in the Driftworks Nissan Silvia S15 wouldn’t be allowed, but an RB26DETT from an R34 Nissan Skyline GT-R would.
These days the rulebook has been somewhat thrown out the window, but the basics still stay the same. Having those limitations with the cars has brought out the best in the drivers that compete in the series, and if I’m completely honest, I think you’ll often see more exciting driving from D1SL these days than you will D1GP.
Since 2007, and especially in more recent years, Masashi Yokoi has been a driver that has brought a lot of that excitement to the series. Progressively getting better and better results each year, Yokoi is now currently leading the 2012 D1SL series and it’s easy to see why. I was fortunate to experience Yokoi’s driving first hand later on in the trip, and I can only describe it as super aggressive, but incredibly precise. He has an ability to put the car where he wants it and get it there so quickly that it’s almost impossible to get your head around while watching from the passenger seat. He has the ability to use all of this in not just his solo runs, but in his twin drifting too. There hasn’t been a round of D1SL I’ve watched lately where he hasn’t been pretty much touching wheels with the other car; a skill I’m sure is helped by practicing with his team Mind Control all the time.
Of course that skill doesn’t come just out of sheer natural talent, it takes a lot of practice, and potentially a few crashes too. I wondered what the giant zombie sticker on the roof of the car and on Yokoi’s Tomodachi stickers meant. It turns out Yokoi got the nickname from the “drift king” himself, Keichii Tsyuchia, after Yokoi had crashed his S14 multiple times in competition, but always managed to rebuild it again; it kept coming back like some tyre hungry car zombie!
Now you know a little more about D1 Street Legal and Masashi Yokoi’s driving style and history. What about the car behind the man? Let’s take a closer look…
Starting with the power department, which frankly is as beautiful to look at as it is functional thanks to Yokoi’s custom rocker cover and engine bay artwork. Aside from the paintwork, what we have here is one fantastic 2.1L SR20DET that is powerful and super responsive thanks to TOMEI Poncams, TOMEI connecting rods, 87mm HKS forged pistons, HKS valve springs, 850cc injectors, a NISMO fuel pump, and a lovely big HKS GT3037S-56T turbo, all of which help this S14 push out around 433ps.
I realise earlier on I said it was obtainable, but I never said it was cheap! As anyone who’s competed before will know, drifting can cost a lot money, but nearly every single drifter I’ve met has so much dedication to drifting that they will scrape together any pennies they have and put it towards their car.
All this power is directed through a NISMO 6-speed transmission, NISMO 2-way L.S.D, and a NISMO Super Coppermix clutch. Strong parts such as these are important for a car that’s going to take the kind of beating Yokoi gives.
Behind the arches and wheels is a suspension setup comprising of practically D-MAX everything, coilovers, arms, knuckles, the lot. D-MAX are a big player in the profession drift scene in Japan and provide a lot of sponsorship for drivers.
Thanks to the suspension goodies from D-MAX, the whole car sits purposefully on a set of Work Emotion CR Kais.
Yokoi decided run the Works in sizes 17x9J ET+17 up front and 18×9.5J ET+15 at the rear. This staggered setup not only looks badass, but is practical as the 17s allow for more steering lock clearance up front and the 18s give the rear end a little more traction. These are both wrapped in Federal RS-R tyres in sizes 235/40/R17 and 265/35/R18 which help provide the Silvia with massive grip!
The interior of the S14 is pretty basic and a little rough around the edges, but with a car this driven I wasn’t expecting it to be spotless. It’s main focus is on the driver and it does the job well; plus it has a damn tv! What more could you want?! I also like the re-positioned standard handbrake which makes it easier for Yokoi to reach when he needs to give it a quick dab on those ferocious entries.
And last but not least we have the styling. This is taken care of once again by D-MAX with their full Type-3 aero kit and D1 SPEC 30mm wide front fenders and 40mm rear fenders. The Type-3 kit has the feel of the later Kouki kit that came as standard on S14s, except it’s like it’s taken a load of steroids and is angry as hell. The car has also retained the original Nissan Kouki wing which finishes the whole thing off nicely.
Now I’m going to end this feature on a sad but happy note. Sadly this particular S14 no longer lives as Yokoi decided to scrap the shell shortly after our visit; I feel lucky to say that I got the chance to shoot it before it’s demise. However, over the winter Yokoi built a new chassis which is borderline identical to this and has been using it in the 2012 D1SL season with great success.
I’ve also recently discovered that Yokoi will finally be competing in D1GP this year on July 21st-22nd for Round 3 at Autopolis. Yokoi will be driving the D-MAX D1GP demo S15 Silvia that used to be piloted by Nakamura in the series. I wonder how he will get on with a monster 600PS 2.2L SR20DET with NOS? I wish him all the best of luck!
– Daniel Bridle