cockpitVd – We’re here with commercial pilot, former Formula Drift contender, and VegasProAm judge Tommy Suell. Tommy was part of the first generation drift migration from Japan in the early 2000’s and has been involved in the scene ever since. You can count on Suell being at VegasDrift events and he is more than willing to provide instruction and advice. So Tommy, what was a typical drift session like in Japan?

TS – I grew up starting in the car scene back in 1995 when I bought my first car, which was an AE86 of course. Late nights in Okinawa, we would all have the same routine. Meet up with your buddies around 9ish, drive out with the group, hit up location 1 at 10:30. We would have about 50 to 100 cars out there(on a good night) doing drag or drift. Til’ the cops roll up, kinda like how you see it in the Fast and Furious movie. At about 11 pm, we all scramble out of the location and head to location 2 at 11:30 and start again at midnight. It’s goes on until 3 to 4am, sometimes longer. That’s a typical night. I don’t recommend street drifting anymore! LoL

larrychenTommyVd – Is the camaraderie strong in the Okinawa underground scene?

TS – It’s very strong. We didn’t race for money or really have competitions back then. It was purely fun and for the respect from other drivers.

Vd – Tell us about your career as a Pilot.

TS – I currently fly the CRJ700. It’s a twin engine jet that holds about 70 seats, flies really high and it’s pretty slick and fast. Funny thing is, I’ve been flying before I was able to drive a car. At the age of 8, I was already flying little airplanes with my father. It’s another passion I have just as strong as my passion for motorsports. I am on the road a lot or should I say in the skies.larrychenfly

Vd – We know you are in the process of building an 86 Corolla for fun at the track, what stage is the project in now?

TS – Just got some goodies in the mail. It’s going to be a long build, due to the fact I’m busy working a lot nowadays. It’s hard to decide what power plant to use, Rotary? Sr20? S2000? Who’s knows whats going in, so I’m building around it now. Hopefully, I’ll have a heart for it soon.

tsDKVd – How would you say the professional scene has evolved over the years?

TS – The professional scene here is the USA has grown beyond belief. Big budget teams and sponsors are no joke. I want to say it’s almost more mainstream here in the USA compared to Japan. And it’s still growing here.

Vd – What does it take to run a full season of Formula Drift?
  1. Money
  2. Driving skills
  3. An “all around” car (Meaning the driver can make it drift fast, slow, big angle, small angle and be reliable)
  4. A very skilled crew
  • A Crew chief who knows the car to make changes and suggestions to the driver, as well as collecting data.
  • A spotter who’s looking out and understand clearly how drifting works. Not only spotting for the driver, but spotting the entire field and can translate that data to the driver. If you can get all that in one package. You’ll have a good season.
mobil1GoProVd – Do you plan on competing again in Formula Drift?

TS – As of now, I don’t think so. But, that can all change. I would really like to get back out there and drive, but we’ll have to wait and see what’s in the works. As of now, this season I’m being paid to spot for the Mobil 1 Go-pro/Hankook/Chevy Camero driven by Tyler Mcquarrie. Which is fun. Maybe in the future, could be some new plans, we will see. Won’t be in my own AE86 for sure though.

Vd — What advice could you give this year’s VegasProAm contenders?

TS – Just like I mentioned on what it takes to run a good formula drift season is the same for pro-am. Get started early make the rules a habit. Drive..Drive..Drive, as you progress collect your data and study it. Watch tons of videos. Gopro yourself drifting watch it over and over again. See what you did wrong so you can improvements. Over and over again. It sounds weird to watch yourself all the time but it works. I always studied my own driving again and again. And study other drivers as well. Even back in the days, street drifting in the middle of the night I had my passenger film so I could see what I was doing. I had videos of myself flying I would watch over and over again to improve the techniques used when I was a kid. It works believe it or not.judgingtable

Vd – Is there anyone you would like to shout out?

TS – Shouts to my family for allowing me to be me with my passions. Without them life would be tough. And of course everyone in VegasDrift! Go out and have fun, on the track with your friends. If you really want it. You need to breath/eat/think about it every second and it will happen. I hope to be out there driving with you all real soon . Stay safe !

Follow me on Instagram TSUELL

Photo Credit:

Larry Chen
Jason Sudds
Everything Drift


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