Final Bout: Special Stage West

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Reach For The Summit O

Horse Thief Mile


It’s been a while since we’ve last seen each other. How have you been? Good? Not good? The world seems to be going crazy, but hey, we’ve all been there. A global pandemic wasn’t on our to-do list for 2020, but let’s try to make the best of it. So while we’re all self-quarantining, let’s look at some drift cars.


Hold on. Not just any drift cars. These aren’t those thousand-horsepower big-budget Formula D monstrosities, nor is it that local kid’s clapped-out Ford five-oh swapped S13 (every neighborhood seems to have one). This is Final Bout, who’s aim is to keep traditional drifting alive by bringing the best grassroots cars and drivers together, in the classic late 90’s/early 00’s style.

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Final Bout hails from the mid-west, and has been going strong for years now, having held events all over the U.S. and even in Japan. I remember first hearing about these events through Zilvia years back, seeing some of the coolest cars from the forum on the track drifting together, wishing I could attend someday.

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Phil, Simba, and Ilia.


So, when event organizers announced they’d be making a stop at California’s own Horse Thief Mile, I thought to myself “This is it, we’ll finally get to see one of these events with our own eyes”. We put in our time-off requests and started planning…


…but unfortunately the virus had other plans. It had been announced just days prior that the event was closed to spectators due to new restrictions in California concerning large gatherings. This was a huge blow to those of us who put aside time for the event to see some of our favorite cars do the D. Thankfully, Hoonigan and Falken Tire came through to live-stream the event for everyone who had to stay home. As for us, we’ve given it our 110% to capture this event with our cameras in hand and the written word.


We started the day with a driver’s meeting before opening the track for practice runs. Drivers then prepped while judges went around the paddock looking over the cars for the day.


 Dai, Hert, and BH taking a look at Jason’s car

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This particular event was special, even by Final Bout standards. The Final Bout organizers chose Willow Springs seemingly as a call-back to All-Star Bash ’09, an event started by BH in association with Just Drift, back in his days. For some, this was a reunion of car, driver, and track that was years in the making.


For others, it was their first time driving Horse Thief.

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Chad had his rad camping setup on deck. Many drivers had decided to crash at the track the night before the event.


Simba checking out Palmer’s M3.

Rare sighting of the elusive “Exciting Hero” sticker…


Tomoya of Sexy Knights was all smiles all day as he relished in putting team stickers on his new d machine. He and his car came out from Japan once again, braving the virus scare to come revel in some drift during all this global insanity.


People came from near and far to capture the event, showing that they could get the job done – even with a small lens.

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That’s a BIG BOY lens.


Many people came out of the woodwork for this very special Final Bout; people such as Benson Hsu.

Benson and Yuta of Exceed conversing in the pits. 

Benson has done this whole drifting thing on our shores longer than anyone I know. In fact, as far as drifting is concerned he probably inspired the people that inspired you, and that’s not an exaggeration. If you were at all aware of drifting in the early 2000’s – during the infancy of the sport here in the states – you’ve probably seen Benson or his car, and not even known it. He even drifted alongside Koguchi when he came to California in 2003 for Falken’s Drift Show-Off, back when Benson’s car was a black Sileighty (hence the Sileighty Mania name).

Real recognize real.
Drift royalty.

If that isn’t enough, Nadine, his wife and fellow drifter, has also done a lot to further the sport. She started the organization Drifting Pretty in 2003 with the goal of bringing female car enthusiasts together – in the process breaking stereotypes of women in motorsport. She also had one of the earliest Kouki Type X cars in the states!

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Benson has been a judge in previous Final Bout events, but this was his first time bringing his own car out to one of these events.


The car for the most part wasn’t in the best condition however, as it has spent the last twenty years as Benson’s only drift machine. He managed to bring his car out with the help of some of his friends in the tightly-knit drift community; the car had some steering issues fixed, sported a refreshed aero kit, freshly done alignment on some new suspension bits, and a repaired pair of OG Enkei NT03’s.

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This is a big part of what makes drifting so special, as it brings people together in a way few things can. Unfortunately, Benson had some transmission issues later in the day that cut his drivetime short. Still, it was awesome to see this storied car in person.


Next to Benson in the pits was none other than APEXi’s own retired D1GP FD RX7. This car has a rich history as well, as it was once piloted by pro driver Youichi Imamura, of Yamanashi’s famed I.C.B.M. drift team.

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The car had been brought to the US during the time when D1GP was hosting some events here in the mid 2000’s, and eventually found a permanent home in sunny southern California where it has been preserved ever since.


Most D1 cars from this time are long-gone, having been scrapped, sold to private collections never to be seen again, or worst of all – sold to some know-nothings who destroyed any original identity these once great machines had.


Thankfully this FD has been spared that fate and is one of less than a handful of cars remaining from drifting’s golden era.


Victor’s car went from white Onevia to black Silvia, as the newest member of the bay area’s Blvckmoon. Car looked awesome with the chrome KT7’s, Stage 21 hood and other tasteful bits. Bricks are always a must.


Blvckmoon’s whole team was present and accounted for, but unfortunately Scott had issues plaguing his car the whole day. Regardless, it was great seeing all these cars together as they always have such presence.


Christian’s car is an excellent example of how to Altezza.


Here’s a funny picture of Japanese-transplant Kazuya Taguchi of Moccomans and Formula D fame, looking over Mush’s car. Kazuya is in charge of Up Garage’s new american wing with their US operations based right here in California. On the side, Kazuya goes drifting in his yellow 180SX, of course. To top things off, the car is powered by a Tomei Genesis SR22 – the cream of the crop of SR’s.

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This old Sexy Knights FC was also present from last years Gallery event, having been raffled off by Final Bout and won by Nieko of Hammertime.

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Tyler was one of the participants present back at All-Star Bash ’09. Though this isn’t his main machine (that one is still under construction) he had just finished vinyl wrapping this beater car in time to take it to Horse Thief.

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Handsome Boys, made up of Rodney, John, and a relatively unknown upstart – Ken Gushi.

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Jay’s car had a different kit on it this time around instead of the usual Sexy Style it had before, still looked great though!


Before Auto Factory Realize, there was Mulsanne – Chuck’s current puzzle-piece hood is a callback to that era.


The teal curse took a break this day, as all Realize cars were present and drove beautifully throughout the event.

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Teddy’s R32 had one of the best exhaust notes of the day, it was a real joy getting to see the whole team on the track again.


Run Up! was out in full-force as well, with Richard’s car having just been refreshed with a new 13B under the hood and some very nice C5C2’s under the fenders.

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Joey was out in his purple NA KA S13, and drove hard the whole day, proving you don’t need big power to run with the boys.

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This was my first time seeing John’s car in person since the blue makeover. It was one of my favorites of the day.

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The GT1 aero, with the chrome Bee*R wheels and damn-near-unobtainable ABFlug headlights come together to create a car with a great aura.


Chad’s car is always nice, and aside from a cleaner de-stickered look and a d-max wing, it hasn’t changed much for Final Bout. Not that it needs to; if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

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Nic’s IS has also changed a lot from when it was silver, now featuring some beautiful body work from Kyle over at Pro Shop Noble, particularly on the rear quarters and rear bumper.

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We’d just missed JR’s silver FC in the pits, but we’ll have some action shots of his car further down the page!

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Animal Style is always a favorite to see at the track, and Palmer’s refreshed D Magic livery took an already great car and made it even better.


Interior tune of Animal Style‘s very own Canadian, Brandon Strong. Yellow on yellow on yellow. Unfortunately Brandon ran into some issues with his car and had to sit most of the event out.


I was unfamiliar with Drift Team Hammer Time before Final Bout, but their driving definitely had everyone take notice. They consistently put on some of the best runs of the day, and wound up taking first place that day.


Check out this clever solution to avoid destroying expensive sets of brick headlights – just print them on a sheet of vinyl! Looked pretty good in person, and just as convincing in photos.


Nieko’s S13 also had an SR20VET under the hood, the other cream of the crop of SR engines. In simplest terms, it’s an SR with Nissan’s version of VTEC. Made by combining the FWD VVL head from a JDM P11 or P12 Primera with a RWD SR block, it’s one of the coolest ways to build a high-hp SR.


Josh’s car was one of the most unique of the event, with blue accents here and there complimenting the white.excite final bout (5 of 28)excite final bout (9 of 28)R0004638

Simba’s S13 from ProceeD. This car had one of the best sounding SR’s of the event, no question about it. The hood of this car also has a really interesting history; years ago it had been stolen, recovered, and then found its way onto Simba’s car where it has remained ever since. It’s not a wrap but a one-off produced by Origin, made in conjunction with two more Great Wave hoods (one for an 86, and another for the 180SX). As if that wasn’t enough he went the extra mile and put the old ProceeD rose livery back on the car; a fan favorite!

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Bossman Ilia, keeping his car clean. Good aesthetics are very important for a d car. The team had their cars transported to California for the event, save for Ilia, who elected to drive his FD from Chicago – complete with a trailer hitched to the back of it. In fact, he had just come from Special Stage South in Texas before this event, a testament to rotary reliability.


Josh’s car is one of those that continues to be an inspiration to many, myself included. This current iteration sports a GP Sports style bumper with a molded Turbo A duct, Ikeya Formula sides and what looked like a G Corp rear with some canards thrown into the mix. Beneath the Koguchi Power hood lies a fairly stock S15 SR for simplicity’s sake, while delivering more than enough power for drifting.


Note the Top Fuel sticker on the canard, a tuner famous for building Hondas – Josh knows a thing or two about Honda’s Championship White machines, and shows that it’s OK wear your inspirations on your sleeve.

Josh had planned to bring his previous 180 to All-Star Bash ’09 nearly eleven years ago, but unfortunately could not.

This car’s presence here was monumental; this was redemption.

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…To the circuit


Before getting to the judged runs, all driver’s lined up on the track for a photo, as is Final Bout tradition. It was pretty insane.


Jay’s license plate half hanging off from revving too hard!


Most of the photos after this point are action photos, so expect less talking from me.

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ProceeD proceeded to D.


Chob leading Simba in his big-body GS powered by a 2JZ.

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Seeing Chob drift such a large car was spectacular – what it lacks in lightness it makes up in power. Though he had an offtrack excursion destroying an oil cooler, he was back on the track in no time thanks to Koyorad.


Ilia and Simba being responsible and practicing social distancing.

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Hammertime had just about nailed every one of their runs! (pun intended, deal with it)

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That SR20VET certainly doesn’t hurt, especially when its pushing somewhere in the neighborhod of 400 to 500 horsepower.

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Despite the 86 lagging behind due to clutch issues, the team took home a well deserved win after putting on the best tandems of the event!

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Auto Factory Realize had also put in some fantastic runs, though Gary got beached once as the team slowed and swerved to avoid hitting another car that had gone off earlier.

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Blvckmoon put in some good runs despite Scott’s car sitting it out. It was cool seeing Victor’s car running with the rest of the team all in black!

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Sam’s car is always the goods, and he put down the most impressive runs for the team.

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Run Up! always has some of the best looking cars. They had the style points locked down, while also putting in some good runs. Bonus points for having HID’s on.

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Can’t stress enough how cool it was seeing Joey on track in his NA KA car. Next time your friend starts to rag on KA, show them Joey’s car, then tell them to shut up.

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John had an off-road situation earlier in the day, but a few zipties later he was back and ready to go.

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Handsome Boys, with Ken Gushi drifting his street IS, powered by a 1J. The three-man team was composed entirely of  JZ-powered Toyota Sedans.


This guy’s going places, I just know it.

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Auto Club Bliss, an all FC team, with their clean cars.

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Jonathan deserves a round of applause for building a car in less than a month. After crashing at an event last month, he scrambled to find another car, and then totally rebuilt his crashed car in a new shell just in time to make it to Final Bout. That’s dedication. Car looked good too!

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Animal Style always put on one of the best performances of the day, and despite being down a teammate most of the day, this was no exception – they even pulled off a solid Burst-style pass!

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Kazuya and Tomoya were absolutely incredible to watch; every time they would hit the track, a symphony of sound would erupt from the SR and rotary engines as they scream around the course side-by-side, holding it down for Japan.

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Kazuya’s car was the best sounding of the event to me, that Tomei SR22 is something to behold in action (and for nearly $20k an engine, it  better be). His tandems with Simba were also some of the best runs of the event without a doubt. As for Tomoya’s new RX7, he claims a somewhat modest power figure, but the way the car performs says otherwise!


The APEXi FD unfortunately wasn’t running at 100% and wouldn’t rev past 4k, but it was really something to see it take a couple parade laps through the track.

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Following the comp runs, the drivers had a group photo commemorating the day, and we set off back for home.

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Dunno what Jaime is doing, but it makes for a great photo.


We’ve still got more to come covering the days leading up to Special Stage West, but you’ll just have to wait a little longer to see it…

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Be safe, wash your hands, and don’t touch your face. See you guys next time.



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