Neon lights blurred by as the flamboyant pink wrapped Toyota Cresta drifted under the black night back drop. The car sailed into a box of glowing pylons and as it maneuvered between the poles. Over a loudspeaker the TV hosts shouted out their excitement of the intense action, while the competitors sat on the sideline bleachers, glued to the display screen of the car. Of the twenty hand selected competitors for the HyperDrive TV competition, Kisa Awano was out to show the world her competitive skills as one of Japans most influential female drivers.
Though this wasn’t the first time she’s been under the pressure of competition, in fact, Kisa’s been jogging the wheel of a drift car throughout Japan as a professional drift racing driver for quite some time. And of course, this wasn’t a process that happened overnight. Her original interest began with Formula 1 when the Japanese racer Takuma Sato became an F1 driver. “F1 was very symbolic for me.” Says Kisa. “I wanted to get closer to the world of motor sports, so I worked as an umbrella girl for several races and I that’s when I discovered the world of drifting!”
Becoming more interested in the sport of drifting, she began attending several live events to learn about the scene and meet the drivers, and that’s when her curiosity led to purchasing a car. “During the events, I was always asked, what’s your car? and at the time, I thought that drifting was just to watch, but then I thought that this is something I can actually do too!” Says Kisa.
That’s when she purchased a white, 1998, Toyota Cresta JZX100, and little by little had the car built to a full out competition drift machine starting with first was the most important feature of safety. So, the interior was stripped and a full 8-point cage was installed. From there it was piece by piece as she began practicing for competition.
After several months of practice with her teacher, Kisa’s first event was the 2014, MSC Challenge Round #4, where she placed as the beginner runner up. From there she continued to compete and build the car. Nowadays it’s a completely different machine from the stock Cresta, hosting a Greddy turbocharged 2JZ swap, while the body was fitted with fiberglass front fenders, fiberglass front fenders and rear fender flares and of course the custom wrap job by G. Meister Wrap Factory.
The brakes where upgraded to a JBT competition system, while the stock control arms were replaced with full adjustable components backed up with adjustable DG5 Coil-over suspension. The wheels are a set of Work Emotion ZR10’s, wrapped in Sailun tires and for the interior, she opted for a Racetech competition seat with Vertex steering wheel.
Since the build Kisa has not let off the throttle. She’s competed throughout Japan, Taiwan, China and even Thailand in a massive amount of competitions including the D1 Lights Pro events, Funkcity Drift and Superendurance Championships. All of which she’s placed in the ranges from 8th all the way up to 1st place in several categories. But the most notable event is being a contestant on the Netflix series “Hyperdrive.” This event placed her on the global TV stage of drifting.
After receiving an initial email from the producers, she was invited to the TV competition. “It was a very big experience and I was extremely excited!” Says Kisa. But like many of the drivers, the course was a complete change from what they were normally used to, and what drift vehicles are designed for. The course combined a series of challenges including a water course, driving through storage containers and even a 3-story balancing platform dubbed the “Leveler.”
Although she had a strong entrance, after a getting through the first round, Kisa was ultimately knocked out of the competition due to the car breaking and not be able to adequately control it. “I was very sad that car had broken, and I couldn’t drive it well.” She says. “But this experience strengthened me to be stronger than before, and I want to challenge the course again if I have chance.”
Now looking forward she’s determined to expand on her activities on the global platform even further. “I want to join in competitions from all around the world!” She says. So not only will she continue to compete in Asian drift competitions, but she’s also expanding into road racing as well. But she says her ultimate goal is to move into the U.S. competition of Formula D. With her drifting skills and passion to compete, we can certainly hope to see Kisa on the American courses.