A race to the top


Photo Courtesy of JIM LIAW

Alumnus Jim Liaw brought drift racing to the United States for the first time.

Catherine Liu, Staff Writer

En route toward pursuing his dreams, class of 1993 Diamond Bar High School alumnus Jim Liaw has met his goal of working in the automobile industry in the fastest form possible: racing. As the president of drift car race series Formula Drift, Liaw has brought drift racing to the U.S. along with his partner Ryan Sage.

As co-president of the first drift racing series in the U.S, Liaw is in charge of the strategic planning for events along with speaking at motor workshops, discussing emerging trends and events. They plan to hold eight championship races this year, which will be held in seven regions: California, Seattle, Georgia, Florida, Missouri, New York and Texas.

“In comparison to other racing series, we are the new kids on the block,” Liaw said. “Only NASCAR beats us in social media exposure, impressions and engagement. Our Top 10 drivers, collectively, have bigger social media profile than NHRA’s Top 10 and IndyCar’s Top 10 drivers combined.So we are doing good and we are growing.”

Before forming Formula Drift, Liaw studied at UCLA, starting as an economics major before switching to Asian American studies.

“Frankly, I didn’t know what do with the major, let alone what I wanted to do. It wasn’t until my last year [of college] that I boldly, but more naively, wanted to chase after any opportunities in the auto industry since I always loved cars and racing,” Liaw said via email.

After college, Liaw contacted every company, manufacturer and magazine that dealt with automobiles around the area in search of an internship. He had his first experience in the auto industry as an intern at a publishing company that printed automobile magazines.

“That internship was my foot in the door and led to the career I have now,” Liaw said.

After his internship, Liaw worked as an event planner, but more importantly meet his current partner, Sage, at the company. Liaw claimed that they realized that the company did not value their sponsors, and decided to leave and create their own event company.

“We realized that this company was not taking care of their sponsors, especially in helping them connect with their audience, the car enthusiasts. They just sold them a booth space and left them alone,” Liaw said.

Wanting to improve in helping companies connect with customers at events, the pair created Slipstream Global Marketing. They were able to organize special projects with companies like Mazda and Ebay before learning that the Japan drifting car series, D1 Grand Prix, was coming to the U.S. to host a drift racing event.

“The organizer of the Japanese drifting events, D1GP, wanted to come to the U.S. for a one-time special event,” Liaw said. “We pitched them, got the deal and created the first D1GP event outside of Japan and the first top level drifting event here in the U.S.”

Inspired by the event, Sage and Liaw decided to create their own company, Formula Drift, to bring drifting to the U.S.

Since then, his company has promoted the movie “Tokyo Drift” and supplied stunt drivers for the film.  

During his time in high school, Liaw was a part of the Academic Decathlon, Key Club and track and field. He states that he remembers his Decathlon advisor, Joe Moran, as someone who impacted him the most.

“He pushed me intellectually; challenged the way I thought about things. He also opened my mind to learn about all kinds of diverse subjects. This set the foundation for my desire to be well educated and keep up-to-date about various subjects,” Liaw said.

Their fifteenth season will start on April 6 in Long Beach. For more information, the company’s Facebook account is formulaDRIFT.