VIDEO: Dai Yoshihara’s Journey to the Clouds

Racing comes with an unpredictable set of highs and lows – it’s the nature of the game. But no matter the outcome, you never stop pushing, even if that means you don’t finish first.

ENEOS-sponsored driver and 2011 Formula DRIFT champion Dai Yoshihara knows competition has its good and bad days, as they come with the territory. This year’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb was no exception, and would be his (and ENEOS’) first attempt at competing on this famous uphill battle.

Dai enlisted the help of Evasive Motorsports, a well established Southern California tuning shop with more than five years experience building cars specifically for Pikes Peak among its many shop projects. In fact, Evasive currently holds the record for fastest Toyota 86 with this very chassis, but reworked the car into the ENEOS / Evasive Motorsports / Turn 14 Distribution #86 race car you see here, making it more competitive than ever before. Not only did that require new drivetrain components to aid traction, and engine work to provide more usable power, but a switch to ENEOS performance lubricants to ensure greater protection because this hillclimb pushes a car to its limits. And the team had set its hopes on a new record.

However, Dai would have his work cut out for him, preparing for a course he’d never driven before. Fortunately, he’d used this 86 in different time attack races, so was familiar with it. “Pikes Peak is not like a regular track where I can go and practice,” he said. “I learned by using a simulator and watching videos, then taking a practice drive in a stock 86 before the race. I wanted to arrive as fully prepared as possible.”

In the days leading up to the main race, the team was becoming increasingly confident in Dai’s ability to complete a pass, noting that his sim practice and track tests had paid off—he was going faster. Evasive made small adjustments to the ENEOS 86 that enabled Dai to hit the lower and upper sectors at a blistering pace during official practice. How could anything go wrong?

Come race day, Dai and the Evasive team pulled up the starting line late in the morning. This would be his first chance to run the entire mountain. As the green flag dropped, skill and instinct took over and the ENEOS 86 was off. Section One: Dai clocked in at 1:43.00; Section Two is completed at 2:21.342; Section Three at 2:50.508; and he hit 130mph as he passed the Picnic Grounds. Upon reaching Devil’s Playground, however, a mechanical issue forced him out of contention, preventing him from completing a full pass.

“[Dai] was on track for a sub-10-minute run,” said Evasive’s Mike Chang. “The three sectors he finished indicated a time of roughly 9:48 to 9:52. This would have put him second or third place in the Time Attack 1 class, but you never know what will happen once the car leaves the starting line. There’s always the possibility of something going wrong, no matter how much you prepare.”

Without cellphone reception or information from the hill, the Evasive crew waited nervously for news of Dai. Finally, he returned to the bottom safely, albeit mentally drained from the experience. A rear differential failure was the culprit: a disappointing end to an otherwise promising weekend. However, they’re already looking ahead to a brighter future, one where the ENEOS 86 conquers Pikes Peak. Dai said, “Hopefully we get a chance to do this again, and next time reach the top!”


Watch Episode 2, Dai’s 2019 Pikes Peak “Racing to the Clouds” below: