It’s been a long year (and some change) since Special Stage West last March, and once again we’re back at Horse Thief Mile – a hilly, one-mile-long short course on a hillside overlooking Willow Springs. Last time we were here, we were heading into our first lockdown, shifting the event to Drivers/Media only.
For those of us who were fortunate enough to attend, Final Bout West was the last breath of a world which now seems nearly impossible to return to. So when Final Bout announced they’d be running a Gallery event open to the public, we were cautiously optimistic.
Horse Thief Mile isn’t a course designed for large gatherings of spectators, and there were some difficulties reigning in the crowd at such a small venue. Nevertheless the event went off without too much trouble; hopefully a sign of things to come as we all continue to adjust to what 2021 has thrown at us.
Last time it was freezing cold and windy. This time, being July, it was hot. Thankfully this was a night event, which would see drivers drift from mid-day to late into the evening, and make for an interesting environment to shoot in.
We arrived fairly early to the track, only to find most drivers had already set-up the night before to avoid the heat.
It was refreshing to be back, and seeing the crowds trickle in made it almost feel normal. This event felt a little light on drivers compared to last year, owing to multiple factors. Some had their cars down for rebuilds, others had greater obligations to attend to, while foreign drivers hoping to make the trek had to stay home due to borders being closed.
Many of the teams that did make it were down several drivers compared to last year – but hey, life happens. Especially now. To expect this event to come packed to the gills hot off the heels of 2020 would be expecting too much. Still, there were some great cars that made a first-time appearance here.
Instagramless-BJ’s Sexy Style-kitted hatch was the star among an already star-studded Final Bout cast.
This is the part where everyone who bellyaches about clean cars “not drifting” can shut up.
Towed up from the bay and driven by Branden – a.k.a. Big B – it actually managed to be one of the most consistent cars of the day, hitting the track often despite being so low. BJ recently joined bay area locals Run-Up, so we’re expecting to see more of this car at future events.
Kazuya Taguchi is back this year with his personal Tomei Genesis SR22 180SX. Between his day job at Up Garage USA and his Formula D career, its refreshing to see a driver of his status take the time for smaller grass-roots events repping his home team, Moccomans.
He also had one of the best sounding cars of the lot, helped by the fact that he drove it hard all day.
Final Bout regulars from the bay, BlvckMoon, were one of the few teams to make a full-team appearance, and their cars looked great as always. This is our first time seeing Sam’s car with the new Design Shop React livery. I appreciated the simplicity of it vs the more loud designs we’re used to these days, not to mention the throwback to the old GP Sports demo cars.
Speaking of the bay, here’s Jonathan’s blue kouki looking pretty wild. Combat eyes were a love-it-or-hate-it thing for me, but there’s no denying their functionality. They’re also much cheaper to fix than glass headlights. Looking at cars like Jonathan’s, it flows very well with the Works9 kit. I can dig it.
Here we have AE86 diehard Jacob and his corolla, Sandi.
Jacob had been invited to fill-in for an MPAC driver who unfortunately suffered an engine failure in the days leading up to Final Bout. He’s no stranger to drifting and 86’s.
Specializing in importing hard-to-find parts for 86 fans through shockthemob, he’s helped bridge the gap between enthusiasts in the states and OG 86 shops in Japan like Expert OZ. He had actually been in Japan during the first lockdown last year, which ended up extending his stay for months. Sounds like a dream scenario to most of us!
Sharing paddock space with Jacob were a couple more cool Toyotas, like ShaDynasty/Panic Made’s Celica, as well as the yellow Squeeze 86.
Taylor’s kouki featuring the coolest wheels you’ve never heard of, Do-Luck Double Six.
Run-Up was here from the bay once again, and their cars tend to be some of the best looking around. Unfortunately Joey spun a bearing in his KA-T, sidelining the purple coupe for most of the event.
Nic’s 1J IS looked amazing as to be expected. This is coming straight from being featured in Super Street; I highly recommend checking out that article if you’d like to see more of this car.
On the topic of Toyota, if you’re at all familiar with drifting in Southern California, you’ve seen Jaime and his JZX. Proving a simple combo of low, cool wheels, and cool aero is all you need.
Auto Factory Realize managed to beat the teal curse long enough to see all 4 of their cars drive the event.
It just wouldn’t be a Final Bout without Realize and their iconic brand of teal and chrome drifting.
A’PEXi once again brought their former D1GP RX-7 out of hibernation, having worked out the kinks which kept it from drifting at last year’s event.
Finally getting to see this survivor drift after all these years was a treat.
More RX-7 action from Formula Drift pro driver Aaron Parker. One of the most extreme cars out, it was putting in solid runs most of the day, though a fireball from the undercarriage towards the evening meant it was time to call it a night.
Austin recently unveiled his coupe, looking right at home at Final Bout.
Animal Style fielded three cars this event; unfortunately missing Julian and Brandon but making up for it with Aaron’s fresh PS13 – bringing back some Super D 2018 vibes.
More Silvias where that came from…
It was really something watching this 500-hp SportCross pound the pavement of Horse Thief Mile like it owed him money.
Anyway, I’ve rambled enough – it feels good to get back into covering events again, even as we still don’t quite know what the hell is going on. For the rest of the pics that didn’t make it into this (already way too long) post, just look below. Anyway, that’s it.