After Formula DRIFT Round 2 I had a chance to talk with long time drifter Forrest Wang. Forrest has accomplished a lot over the years, but surprisingly has received little attention as a result. I can remember when I first saw him, it was at All Star Bash in 2008. He was making giant smoke clouds in his kouki-S14-fronted S13 coupe. The next year he was back in one of the cleanest drift cars anyone had seen, and in addition to the power, handling, and safety modifications he’d done, it also had a full interior and air conditioning! I have always had the opinion that Forrest is a formidable drifter, and an excellent builder. Now that he’s back in Formula DRIFT with his own team and a sharp looking car, the Blasters and I decided it would be a great time for a Life Blasters feature. Enjoy!
GP: What was it like growing up drifting Hawaii?
FW: I started out when I was super young. Before I even had a drivers license, a friend of mine had a MKII Toyota Supra and we used to take it off road in the fields and in the gravel to slide. My first car ended up being a Nissan 240SX sorta by accident. It wasn’t because I knew it was a popular drift car but I knew it was rear wheel drive, four cylinders, and affordable, so I got it.
GP: What made you decide to move to Vegas?
FW: We had one race track in Oahu where I lived, and by then I had a full track car that I drove to the track. The track closed in 2003 and at that point I had already been thinking about to coming to the mainland to pursue drifting. The track closing was the thing that pushed me over the edge. I had to get out here [to the mainland] because I had a track car and no track to run it at! I ended up coming up to California and hanging out with Ross Petty, who was already driving in Formula DRIFT, and Justin Pawlak. They were helping me get out to some ProAM-style events like Just Drift, and some smaller events like that.
GP: What was it like being pro for the first time, back when you were driving the Drift Emporium Infinity G35 in 2010?
FW: It was really frustrating because it felt like they weren’t in it to do well, they were in it just to be there and have a team. That was good enough for them. They were happy with top-32 and top-16 finishes, and you know, I’m competitive, I wanted to do as well as I could, and they wouldn’t improve the car setup to perform better. It had power but that was about it. It had off-the-shelf coilovers and suspension, and was super heavy with stuff like the stock motorized glass sunroof. It was a big heavy car, and they didn’t do anything to make it lighter. They just added bolt-ons.
GP: I’m sure it would be frustrating to be with a team that is more in it for show than to win it.
FW: Yeah. We got stretched out every time we went up against a Dai Yoshihara or a JR, there was no competition. There was just no way we could catch up with those cars.
GP: What led to the decision to leave FD for 2 years and come back with your own team?
FW: I would’ve kept driving for Drift Emporium, but at FD Vegas in 2010 during Thursday practice I ended up getting in a crazy accident that totaled the car. I was following Tommy Roberts in his Parts Shop Max S13 and he crashed right in front of me, and I kinda panicked. His crash blocked my line and I crashed right behind him in a similar manner. In the beginning, Drift Emporium had told me not to worry about crashing the car because they would fix it, but at that time in the season I guess they didn’t have money or the drive to get me back out there, so after that I was done. It sucked because it was one of the last rounds and I was 14th in points, which I thought was pretty good for that level of car competing against a lot of higher quality builds.
GP: What’s the story behind your shop, Get Nuts Laboratory?
FW: I’ve been here [Las Vegas] for almost four years now. It kinda started out as a hobby-shop that I shared with a few friends. As the business grew it was hard to share with my friends because we were all competing. We weren’t giving 100% for the shop and everyone was kinda out for themselves, so we all split up and they all have their own shops now. I’ve been doing a lot of builds out here. I like doing full builds from the ground up, you know? Strip it down to nothing, cage it up, tube it, get rid of all the unnecessary stuff, clean it up and put it back together fully done-up.
FW: My team and I pay a lot of attention to detail when it comes to building cars, and I think it shows when you look at my FD build. I work on pretty much anything and everything when it comes to builds, I just try to cater to the customers’ needs. We talk about what they’re looking for and what kind of budget they have, and I try to help them as best I can. This sport is not cheap though, especially for high quality builds. We’re certainly not the cheapest fab shop out there, but that’s okay. The best is never the cheapest.
GP: I remember at Long Beach there was a lot of buzz about you making your own body kits, and I must say your car looks killer. Are they available to the public?
FW: The guy who helped us develop them is on the east coast and the production cost is super high. We basically took the D-Max type 3 body kit and added a stepped lip on the bottom to make it look more like a BN Sports kit and we also made it wrap around the wheel wells to give it a different look from the D-Max, so it’s basically a twist on BN Sports and D-Max. But yeah, he was doing them by hand in the shop and it was taking him 30 hours and tons of materials per kit, and the price for them was going to have to be like $1200-$1400. There’s only a small market for people that want to spend that much on a body kit, especially in drifting where they get blown out all the time. I didn’t think it was going to be worth it for him to spend that much on each kit, and then sell them for only a small profit.
FW: Recently I found another place that’s going to be making them for a lot cheaper, so I’ll be able to provide them to the public for a lot less. They’ll be available on GetNutsLab.com probably within a month or two, but only with limited body styling. Right now we only have S13 coupe kits and S14 front bumpers. We’re working on the rest of the S-chassis line, and then we’ll go from there.
GP: Who is your biggest influence?
FW: Starting out I really admired Nobushige Kumakubo from Team Orange in Japan. It was pretty excellent to drive with him in D1 2009. I did pretty well in that series too, but mainly it was awesome driving with my idols. Nowadays I dunno, it’s hard to say. There are so many good drivers out there I just strive to do my best and get up to where the Daigos and JRs and those guys are. I dunno if they really influence me a lot, because in my head I already know what I need to be doing, it’s just a battle getting there and getting the right equipment to get there. A lot of it is on the build, you gotta have a pretty crazy car to do crazy drifts! We’re still working on the car to get it where I want it, and I’m still an underdog. I’ve got a normal 5-speed gearbox, and a normal Nissan rear-end, and my power isn’t as high as I’d like it. A couple of hundred more horsepower would be nice, but I’m definitely making due, and having lots of fun in the process.
GP: What’s it like to have your own team?
FW: I like doing my own team because you control what you do to the car. What springs you run, what tires you run, what stickers you put on the car, which is nice, but at the same time you’re spending a lot of money. The nice thing about driving for a [prominent] team is you just fly in, drive, and fly out. If something bad happens to the car, they fix it. You go home and back to your normal life. It’s a lot more chill like that. If I break something on the car, I’m coming back and fixing it…stressing how to get to the next event.
GP:Is it worth it?
FW: I feel better now than I did with Drift Emporium, but I feel like if I got with the right team that would work with me as a driver, try to cater to what I wanted, be in it to win it, and have that level passion about it, I’d be down.
GP: What are your plans for the future?
FW: No solid plans right now, just taking things event by event. Hopefully the car keeps running well. I would really like to get a dogbox transmission in the near future because it takes me a lot longer to shift than the other guys who can slam it in gear. Atlanta was a hard track for me especially. I could see the other guys gapping me off the line just because of shifting. Even the best driver can’t shift as fast on a synchro-mesh trans as he can on a dogbox.
GP: I know what you mean. My spotee Ryan Kado had the same problem at New Jersey last year. Everyone was leaving him by a huge margin every time he’d shift, so he started leaving the line in higher and higher gears which ended up burning up the clutch.
FW: Yeah, with a V8 you can do that. With my turbo I6 I actually need first gear. The Drift Emporium G35 was like that too… we never even used first gear. With that V8 it was no problem, but my power-band is really peaky. I have to shift a lot and use a lot of clutch which is more work, but that’s what I signed up for when I stayed with the turbocharged power-plant. I like that I’m staying true to my roots though, and you can’t beat the sound.
GP: I definitely agree with you on the sound. I could listen to your rev limiter all day long.
FW: It’s beautiful, it sounds great. I don’t care if it’s a Toyota 2JZ, it could be a Nissan RB or a BMW engine, it still sounds awesome. The V8 just has so much NASCAR sound. I see the benefits though, the V8 gives you an advantage because you don’t have to juggle gears and ride the clutch, everything you need is right there. That seems to be where the sport is going. Everyone wants the advantage, and everyone wants to make it as easy as possible, and a broad power-band will get you that.
GP: What is the spirit of drifting?
FW: It’s a style sport not a race, but it’s turning into a race with all these cars with V8s and super huge tires at 10psi. I feel like they’re losing some of the style. The FD Judges told me to get less angle at Long Beach. I sacrificed like 3mph, but I was getting a ton of angle, and in my opinion I would rather sacrifice a few miles per hour for more angle because I feel that more angle equals a better drift. At least that’s how I always thought it was supposed to be. It’s drifting, it’s not a road race. It’s not supposed to be “try to get through the course as quickly as you can” but that’s the direction it seems to be going. I think that takes away from the style, and the spirit of drifting. It’s a hard line to judge though, because they want to keep pushing the speed and going faster and faster, but at the same time I’d like to see them keep the style up and not let it turn into a grip race.
GP: Killer interview, Forrest. We’re all looking forward to seeing how you do at the next round! Thanks!
FW: Thank YOU Life Blasters! I’ll see you at Palm Beach!
Story by: Pitts
Photos by: Ayala, Bohan, and Pitts