- Final Bout is a multi-day grassroots team drift event that pays homage to the rise of drifting in Japan from the early ‘90s and ‘00s.
- The home of Final Bout is USAir Motorsports Raceway in Shawano, Wisconsin that features several elevation changes and is highly admired by the drift community.
- 24 teams from across the U.S. participated this year, the winning team being Goon Squad from the Pacific Northwest.
- Special guest pro drivers Ken Gushi and Kazuya Taguchi were on-hand drifting alongside the field while also participating in a friendly battle against the best driver of Final Bout.
SOMEWHERE IN SHAWANO
No offense to the 9,000 residents of Shawano, but there’s really no reason for anyone to visit the tiny town located in central Wisconsin. It’s not easy to get there — about a four-hour drive from both Chicago and Minneapolis — and the nearest major airport is in Green Bay, which will still require a 45-minute drive. Despite its obscure whereabouts, though, it doesn’t stop hundreds of car enthusiasts from traveling to USAir Motorsports Raceway, a world-class karting track built more than 15 years ago in Shawano, which in recent years has become widely recognized by drift fans as the house of Final Bout.
MY FIRST FINAL BOUT
I’ve been reporting on Final Bout since its inaugural year in 2014, but oddly have never been there myself. It was always difficult to get out to, not just because of where it took place but also its timing (falls on Labor Day weekend). After so many years of watching from the sideline and hearing my friends rave about how awesome of an event it was, it was finally time to pop my cherry and make it out to my first Final Bout. What better year to go than 2021, as the event featured its highest level of driving, not to mention the return of spectators!
ONLY DRIFT FANS
If you’re a hardcore drift fan or aspiring drift driver, Final Bout is heaven on earth. The only thing that might be doper is checking out a drift event at Ebisu Circuit, but even then, I think Final Bout is giving Japan a run for its money. The event is just that good!
Final Bout spans across Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day Weekend, but the fun starts earlier as many teams congregate in Chicago for a pre-meet, city cruise, and family-style meals that really reinforce how Final Bout is more about camaraderie than competition.
Come Saturday morning, the action commences, and it doesn’t stop until late at night (I was still shooting until 11PM!). I was most impressed with how hard all the drivers drove their cars as there was never a long break (except for lunch) or a dull moment. You could post up in your lawn chair or sit in the grandstands for hours without getting bored.
‘BOUT TEAMS, NOT INDIVIDUALS
Final Bout is unique because only teams are invited with three cars or more, adding to the event’s exclusivity. In addition, the cars also must pass a visual test, meaning you won’t find beaten-up missile cars out there. All the vehicles are tastefully modified in JDM fashion while rocking genuine parts.
Teams go out for a two-hour jam session to perform as many runs as possible to wow the judges. The top four teams then battle it out in a final round. We’d like to congratulate Goon Squad from the Pacific Northwest, which consisted of three black S13s, for taking home first place this year!
On the following day, Final Bout introduced a more traditional individual head-to-head tandem battle format like what you’d see in D1GP, where the top eight teams selected their best wheelman to compete. The winning driver would face off against pros Ken Gushi and Kazuya Taguchi in a friendly skirmish. @wholeo of Goon Squad was crowned champion after beating out members of Drift Team Gleam, and Team No Mind in his Lexus IS street car.
FINAL TAKE ON FINAL BOUT
I follow a bit of pro drifting, have been to Nikko Circuit a couple times in my life, and have written enough stories on drift cars in the last ten years to consider myself an above-average casual drift fan. Attending my first Final Bout, I truly enjoyed the non-stop drifting action and the screams of so many turbocharged Japanese engines sounding off in unison — a very nice contrast to what Formula DRIFT has become with mostly American V8s. The team drifting was incredibly entertaining as it’s not every day I get to see a line of up to six or seven cars drifting together around a very technical track. Speaking of the track, photos and videos don’t do it justice because the elevation changes were huge. I get why some people say it drives like a rollercoaster! Perhaps my only gripe is that I didn’t have enough knowledge about all the teams and drivers going into it. Having a dedicated MC or host would have been a great addition to Final Bout so noobs like me could get to know each team a little bit more. Despite this, I still give credit to all the passion that goes into this event. While it might be a bit cliché to call Final Bout grassroots, it’s honestly as grassroots as it gets. There’s no money to be won. The drivers don’t care about sponsorships or awards. Even the organizers aren’t money hungry and are picky about what sponsors are allowed in. Nothing is sacrificed in the name of fortune or fame, and it shows. Final Bout takes you back to the hay days of drifting in Japan during the ’90s and ’00s. Quite frankly, it’s amazing they’ve been able to make it happen over the last seven years in a small town called Shawano.