Japan’s legendary drift king Daigo Saito arrived in Johannesburg with a quiet air of confidence and a thundering 1000bhp V8 Corvette. After three intense days of track action; taking in practice, qualifying, and the all-important race day on December 1st, Saito walked away with the spoils in the Rear-Wheel Drive category.
Having toppled four-time GRiD champion Luke Woodham’s reign, and added possibly the coolest trophy in motorsport – ok, we might be a little bias – to his already substantial trophy cabinet, we talked to Daigo to find out just how he did it.
READ ON TO HEAR THE CHAMPION TALK…
How do you feel right now?
I’m feeling great now, and I’m really happy to be bringing the 2018 Gymkhana GRiD trophy back to Japan. Everything was going pretty smoothly except for the mechanical problems I had. Early on Saturday morning (race day) I was a little nervous whether I could actually race or not. My team did an amazing job and we had some great help in the paddock, so everything worked out in the end!
Can you tell us what kind of car trouble you had in the track?
There were actually a couple of things that challenged us. The first was the differential. We had to cut an empty fuel can to make a patch. Thats all we had! I also hit some obstacles with the front of my car in practice which pretty much cracked one of the front wheels. We were really lucky – Jason Webb’s father was able to help with a solution. He knew a local shop that was able to weld them up. He instantly knew where to go, and I’m pretty sure that without his local knowledge I wouldn’t have been able to race. Everything was fixed just in time so I feel really grateful for all the support which helped me go on to get the top spot!
Were you nervous at any time during the competition?
During the semi-final against Baggsy, he was just simply faster than me all the way from the start to the wrecking ball clip-section. This got me a little bit panicked and I was questioning whether I was just going too slow. Baggsy was driving really well and was just quicker than me – so I tried hard to pick up my pace after that realisation.
What was your favourite moment from Gymkhana GRiD?
Without a doubt it was the moment that I realised I had won the race. I felt like a weight had lifted off – no more stress; you know? There was just one job left – get on the podium and spray the champagne! This was an amazing feeling for sure!
“I THINK GYMKHANA GRID SHOULD DEFINITELY COME TO JAPAN ONE DAY. THERE IS A HUGE CAR CULTURE AND A LOT OF TALENTED DRIVERS IN JAPAN; SO THE COMPETITION WOULD BE BIG I THINK! PLEASE COME OVER SOON! “
How would you describe your debut at Gymkhana GRiD? Was it as expected?
Before the competition I watched a couple of past editions of Gymkhana GRiD on YouTube, to get to know the format of racing and what kind of challenge I was walking in to. My only aim was to win – I’ve always approached my racing the same way; I am a hunter and I am always aiming for the top. I did my absolute best; and now I’m looking forward to competing In the next Gymkhana GRiD.
What would you say about Gymkhana GRiD coming to Japan?
That would be amazing – I think Gymkhana GRiD should definitely come to Japan one day. There is a huge car culture and a lot of talented drivers in Japan; so the competition would be big I think! Please come over soon!
What do you think about the trophy?
I’m really stoked to have the trophy – the design is so cool! I really love it! At the same time it is very heavy so you cant hold it for long haha! (looking at trophy again) Yeah, its sick.
What did you think about the Smoke and Style competition with Ken Block?
Ken put on a great show like he always does! He was definitely has the best super smoky style! I tried to show off my best drift turn at the first corner; but as you guys saw I just missed! I hope I have another chance at the next Gymkhana GRiD to try again!!
What would you say about competing against Ken in the AWD class?
I’d definitely like to compete against Ken with my All-Wheel Drive car in the near future. Maybe at the next GRiD if I bring an All-Wheel Drive car I can compete in that class. I can do that since I’m champion in Rear-Wheel Drive now, right?
What’s up next for you?
Gymkhana GRiD was my last event of the season and a fantastic way to finish the year. I’ve got a few months break now over the holidays which means I can get back home and re-focus on new projects for next year. Stay tuned!