This past weekend’s Formula Drift Round 2 “Road To The Championship”, was full of some of the closest tandems and the biggest upsets ever seen at Road Atlanta. With new drivers like Daigo Saito, past champions like Dai Yoshihara, and up and comers like Walker Wilkerson there was sure to be some amazing drifting and this round produced that and much more!
Road Atlanta is one of the most beautiful tracks in the US due to its rolling hills and forest like infield but what it’s really known for is the fans. Road Atlanta is not like any other drift event in the championship; you drive right into the track itself, grab your tent and cooler and prepare for a fantastic weekend with a view of the whole track.
If you ask any driver out there they will say Road Atlanta is one of their favorite tracks not only for the awesome layout but for the amazing fans. This year Road Atlanta was in no shortage of support as the whole event was slammed with more tickets sold this year than any past Formula Drift events.
One of the reasons that people were out in such strong numbers was the Save Drifting in Atlanta cause. Atlanta is aiming to shut down organized drifting in the city of Atlanta (This event is far outside the city) and people showed up in the masses to support the cause. Some even came out to see what drifting was like for the first time. If you would like to support the cause you can help by signing the online petition.
The paddocks opened early in the morning and the crews, media and fans filled the place to the brim. We spent some time with the teams and drivers before they sat down for an autograph session. I thought this picture was very interesting with Dai always seeming to be the center of attention these days. While editing all the photos we called this picture the “Last Supper”.
While the Formula Drift crews worked diligently to prepare their cars for battle there were other wars being waged on track with Formula Atlantic and the Global Time Attack series running on the full Road Atlanta course. That’s one of the bonuses at Road Atlanta, you always get to check out some other racing when the drift cars are parked.
I’ve been following the development of the Scion FR-S for a long time and had a fantastic conversation with Ken about the new car and he gave me some nuggets I had not considered before. He mentioned that of course the FR-S was good, it was a brilliant drift car that he has felt comfortable with right away. However, the main thing he was excited about was the fact that he wasn’t as under as much pressure in the FR-S. The Scion TC he used to drive, the one Tony Angelo drives now, couldn’t be rebuilt if it was totalled. The rules that Formula Drift put in place a few years ago outlawed FWD drive cars being modified to be RWD but the TCs were grandfathered in, so if these Scion TCs (Aasbo’s/Angelo’s) are destroyed they will need a totally new car and could lose sponsorship.
Speaking of Ken’s FR-S, one of the big complaints from fans these days are the overwhelming number of drivers running V8s. Well I’m happy to report back that this year there is definitely a wide spread of engine choices from V8’s, to turbo V6s (RS-R Silvia), to turbo 4s (Scion TC’s), turbo boxers (Ken’s FR-S), turbo inline 6s (Daigo’s Lexus), and rotaries galore. Don’t listen to the haters saying formula drift is going all V8s, there is a lot more variety this year than last year and I expect more to come.
So let’s get to the drifting shall we? We open with this qualifying shot of Michael Essa, he was throwing his Z4 around like I’ve never seen before, he worked on the backwards entry during practice and executed it perfectly in qualifying landing him the top spot on the grid scoring a 98, the highest score I’ve seen in a long time.
The top 32 was full of upsets like Yoshioka in the RS-R Silvia taking out past champion Chris Forsberg, Joon Maeng taking out last year’s Irwindale’s 1st place Tyler Mcquarrie, but the biggest upset was Ryan Tuerck defeating last year’s reigning champion Dai Yoshihara. Both Ryan and Dai looked great out there but most of the people I talked to including the team managers agreed there should have been a one more time. It was the judges’ call and they went with Ryan. Not taking away anything from Ryan because he really killed it out there in his Retaks S13.
Dai and his team were disappointed but said it was only the beginning of the season and a lot can happen (and I’m sure it will)
The top 16 was a blast as always filled with amazing battles from beginning to end. Ryan was taken out by Pawlak, Aasbo took out the great Rhys Millen in the Hyundai Genesis, and Odi Bakchis took out Matt Powers in an S14 vs S14 battle. Tony Angelo in that old Scion TC was clearly enjoying himself.
Walker Wilkerson was killing it all night, a lot of people were saying that he shouldn’t have dropped his SR20 for the LS V8 he has now, but he showed everybody this weekend that he made the right choice. Joon Maeng made it to the top 8 with him then properly rammed his door giving Wilkerson the win.
The battle for 3rd came down to the D1 Champ/smoke monster Daigo Saito with his 1200hp 2JZ vs the pride of the west coast Walker Wilkerson. Daigo stormed down the hill on the first run while Walker missed the start by missing a gear or something of that nature. Daigo being a good sport stopped before the first entry turned around and did it again giving Walker a fair fight against him….and Walker made it count.
Walker drove like a man possessed never letting Daigo get more than five feet away and on the lead run left Daigo by about 4 car lengths. The judges however didn’t see it this way, didn’t call it a one more time, and to the dismay of many fans gave the last podium spot to Daigo.
The battle for first and second came down to Fredric Aasbo in the Need for Speed Scion TC and Justin Pawlak in the Falken Tire Mustang. Aasbo had been killing it all night. I have no idea what they have done to the 4-cylinder in that car but wow… It was laying down more smoke than every V8 out there. All the smoke in the world however couldn’t fix his first error of the night. On his lead run he turned in way too early for the first initiation. He had to straighten out to avoid a spin. Pawlak as always was surgical in his sliding, perfecting the course and hitting all the clipping points. Aasbo came back with a killer follow run within inches of Pawlak the whole time, but it wasn’t enough to make up for his first mistake. the judges gave Pawlak a much deserved win.
Pawlak celebrates on the stand with his new carbon trophy. Will he see this spot to the end of the championship? Will it be a last minute tear jerker like last year? Only time will tell! Till next time!