Inside Pro-Am: Joe Farasati’s Journey to Formula Drift Part 1
Drift Life is about more than cool cars and covering events from around the world. It is about the common bond and community we have created through our collective passion for drifting. That being said, we support drivers at every level and stage of competition, and we strongly believe that the journey to becoming pro is as meaningful as the destination. In this multi-part series, we will follow our friend and pro-am driver, Joe Farasati, as he works towards his dream of reaching Formula Drift.
Joe’s competitive streak began at a much earlier age, when he was an accomplished BMX racer as a teenager in NorCal. Dirt tracks were cool and Joe still rides from time to time, but everything changed when he got his driver’s license (and maybe a few times before then too, so we hear). Joe was born in Germany to Iranian parents before moving to the US, and his family’s love of big, powerful sedans came with them to California. Joe was hooked on drifting before he even knew it existed, roasting the tires on the family Benz whenever he got the chance.
Several speeding tickets, sets of tires and transmissions later, Joe’s parents had enough of his ‘talent’ and the time had come to get an actual drift car. S13 coupe or hatch? Neither! Given the ever-rising ‘drift tax’ on the now ubiquitous Nissan 240SX, Joe opted for something a bit out of the ordinary, a MKIII Toyota Supra Turbo. The MA70 chassis never quite caught on as much as its younger brother, but Joe made do with what was available. The 7M-GTE is a finicky motor as is, and Joe’s inexperience quickly resulted in a particularly-catastrophic blown head gasket.
Never one to give up, Joe was not discouraged and started the search for his next drift car. He did not venture far from the Toyota gene pool and settled on the MKIII’s more refined cousin, the JZZ30, aka the Lexus SC300. Given the insane prices of MKIV Supras, Joe knew he could get the same chassis and venerable 2JZ in the SC300 without the high entry fee of the JZA80. SC300s are still relatively cheap considering they are dressed up Supras, and they have become Joe’s go-to car for daily and competition driving. He owns three of them!
Joe is as much about the drift community as he is his own program, and he continually strives to make our sport more accessible to those just starting and to those who want to learn more. He played a key role in creating the Sonoma Drift events and continues to help organize and attend when he is able. Additionally, Joe serves as a guest judge for several local series when he is not driving. Joe is a firm believer in community before industry, and he tries to be as active in the local scene as his schedule allows.
After taking some time off in 2015 to rebuild his car, revamp his program and improve his professional identity as a driver, Joe has big aspirations for this year, and he will be driving in both the Golden Gate and Vegas Drift series. These are both sanctioned Formula Drift licensing series, so Joe hopes to finish high enough in one of them to qualify for his Pro 2 credentials for 2017. Follow along as we document Joe’s season and give you an inside look at what it takes to become a professional drifter.
In the last issue of Drift Life, we introduced you, our faithful readers, to our longtime friend and aspiring pro-am driver, Joe Farasati. It would be easy for us to fill the pages with cool pictures of cars and events from around the world, and of course all the latest news and updates from FD, but we would be doing you and the drifting community at large a disservice. We appreciate gnarly angle and vaporized tires as much as the next guy, but the narrative leading up to those money shots tells the story of so many of us.
We already told you a bit about Joe’s early years and his introduction to drifting. Somewhere in the perpetuity of social media, there is a very cool (maybe not so much at the time) and very fiery picture of the demise of Joe’s first drift car, a long in the tooth MA70 Supra Turbo. That led Joe to his current obsession with the JZZ30 Soarer chassis and his most recent competition car, a 2000 Lexus SC300. We met the man, now we will meet the machine. They say a true craftsman never blames his tools, so it is important to start with good ones.
While Joe is not yet a professional, full-time driver, he has built his car for the next job he wants, not the one he has. Joe tells us that he believes in doing things right once, the first time, as budget allows. That being said, the SC has extensive fabrication courtesy of Cody at Quarter Tilt Kreations including an FD-compliant roll cage, tube frame rear and sheet metal dash. Footwork is made up of Wisefab and Battle Version angle components with Megan Racing coilovers and Miro Type 398 wheels locked up by a tough new handbrake from the dudes at Nameless Performance.
Powertrain-wise, Joe’s car needed some attention before Round 1 of Golden Gate Drift. The Marlin Crawler R154 has offered relatively bulletproof shifting, but the tired 2JZ-GE was another story. After a catastrophic unnamed turbo failure at All-Star Bash last year, Joe worked with the guys at Full-Race to run a Borg Warner S362 SXE turbo for this season. FFTEC Motorsports came on board to upgrade to an AEM V2 box and calibrate a safe, reliable tune for the new turbo. The folks at Mishimoto helped keep everything cool with a new radiator and intercooler.
OK, cool car, but does this guy ever drive?! Puff, puff, pass drift family, to GGD we go! Round 1 was held at sunny Thunderhill Raceway on the west course. Luke ‘Dread’ Crowell put a lot of thought into the layout for this year, and the track was a healthy mix of fun entries and challenging transitions. Joe’s first few practice runs looked good and he pushed a little more and more each time as he explored the limits of the new Accelera tires he was testing. So much for a learning curve, but adapting on the fly is a big part of competitive drifting.
Joe qualified 6th out of 22 drivers and drew Justin Rodini in his S13 240 as the first tandem battle. Joe’s lead run was ultra solid, connecting clipping points smoothly with snappy transitions. The chase run was unfortunately a different story. Justin put a couple lengths on Joe from the start line and Joe tried too hard to catch up and carelessly went off track. Ultimately, Joe ended up 10th for the day. Certainly not ideal, but mistakes are just opportunities to learn. Stay tuned for the next issue to see if Joe can adapt and evolve for Round 2.