SoCal’s Jimmy Up Matsuri Welcomes Grassroots Drifting With A Twist

When Mikey Mancuso started his Jimmy Up brand in 2007, we weren’t really sure what to make of it. What began as drift-centric, group-buy, enthusiast lifestyle apparel sold exclusively on the Zilvia forum, and later on social media Facebook and Instagram, it wasn’t a shop, parts manufacturer, or team. It was just a thing—a brand, in the purest sense. With an odd name.

That name, combining a rebellious sexual twist and a tongue-in-cheek (no pun intended) charitable twist to good, old-fashioned automotive mayhem (the long-standing slogan still reads, “Promoting Hard Driving & Safe Sex”), was just odd enough to catch on here and abroad, with drifting enthusiasts proudly and irreverently attaching the Jimmy Up brand to their automotive debauchery.

That’s pretty much how things persisted for Mikey and Jimmy Up for a solid decade—designing and selling tees and hoodies, shipping stickers anywhere in the world for $1, spreading U.S. and SoCal drifting love across the globe via social channels, and popping up at the random drift event or niche automotive function. Until last year, when they threw their first-ever Jimmy Up Matsuri.

Inspired by the growing steam behind fun-for-all, judgement-free (at least officially) events in the UK, Japan and elsewhere in California, last year’s inaugural Jimmy Up Matsuri was meant to give sportsman drifters an opportunity to bust the winter rust at familiar Willow Springs without having to wait for All Star Bash in the fall, or drive all the way to Grange Motor Circuit where these sort of events were commonly held. It was a great idea … which was foiled by rain and cold weather, lower than expected turnout, and Willow Springs’ Balcony course itself (pretty much the bunny slopes of the facility’s six circuits).

But damn—did things ever change for the better this time around!

With a sunny, moderately warm forecast, a weekend in which not a whole lot else was going on, access to Willow Springs’ Horse Thief Mile track, and some higher-profile participation, this year’s event was by all accounts a bigger than expected success.

The format was refreshingly simple: drifters in two alternating run groups shredded the track in 45-minute heats, pretty much however and whenever they wanted. Run the whole 45 minutes? Cool. Pop in for just two runs and then have some tacos in the pits? Sure—it’s cool.

Want to pace the field a bit and work on hitting those clipping points? Get the homies together for four- or even six-car drift trains.

Better than the allotted 75 cars turned out throughout the day, in true Matsuri fashion, the action never stopped, all day long — except for the odd off-track that required a tow out. Most of the attendees are those you’d expect to see at one of SoCal’s two pro-am competition series; guys like Kenneth Vuong, Luke Pakula, Meliton Villamor, and Zach MacGillivray.

Top Drift grad and Formula D Pro 2 competitor Adam Knapik also made the trek out to shake down his fenderless, bumperless smoke machine, and for old time’s sake even threw down some runs with fellow former Top Drift ace Jason Kim in a newly acquired project car.

Drivers came from as far away as NorCal, Arizona and Las Vegas to get down.  Crew representation was on point, especially among Auto Factory Realize, Rival Auto Works, Hammer Time, 805LIDE, and team Nuisance.

Most attendees strongly repped traditional JDM philosophies in building their cars. Toyota 1JZ and 2JZ-GTE engines outnumbered GM LSXs in the more powerful cars, and SR20DETs, turbo KA24DEs, and even the odd 4A-GE and BMW S54 engine ruled the bays of most.

Equally important here is style. While the most effective competition drift machine might not be the most aesthetically pleasing, much of the vehicle lineup which turned out for the Jimmy Up Matsuri this time around resonated with what a lot of us held as dream cars when we got into this scene.

Formula D veteran and stunt driver Matt Powers confirmed late and surprised most of us by driving up from San Diego to attend, but surprised no one with the super-consistent, billowing smoke show the V8-powered S14 Nitto Tire Heartbreaker always seems to put on.

And as always, his 100-percent willingness to shred some tires with just about anyone who asked was his modus operandi for the day.

Another welcomed, if somewhat renegade, addition were Parts Shop MAX owner Dan Greenback and his C7 #DriftVette. Serving as a testbed for the company’s multitude of suspension and steering components, Dan put his ‘Vette on the line in front of (and occasionally, right next to) everyone in attendance, and shredded with flying dark silver and bronze company colors.

But the biggest surprise of the day might have been Fredric Aasbo. He came mainly to hang out and shoot the ish with friends, but got roped into driving one later-to-be-humbled drifter’s purple S13 and put on a show with characteristic Freddy precision — no doubt smiling from ear to ear the whole time.

True to the matsuri format, this was an event thrown for the drivers. The track remained open nearly from 8 am through 5 pm, and there wasn’t much else going on aside from drifting, drifting, and more drifting. Which is just about perfect, if you ask any driver in attendance.

While this year’s second-annual Jimmy Up Matsuri was a success by anyone’s standards, what has impressed us the most is just how much improved it was over what we saw last year. The only questions we’re left with are: When is the next one, and how much bigger could this get??