2016 Formula Drift Long Beach Top 32 Play-by-Play
Formula Drift kicked off the 13th season of their World Championship on the Streets of Long Beach, one of the longest running street courses in the world. The big Grand Prix race will happen a week later, but the drifters are the stars of the first weekend in April. Leading up to qualifying day, it appeared that the weather was likely to include rain, and come Friday afternoon, the moisture was quite substantial. Because the street course is a temporary course with many surface transitions, the traction levels were unpredictable and treacherous. Formula Drift made the decision to scrap qualifying in favor of ranking all 32 drivers in the reverse order of their 2015 final rankings. Since only 32 drivers attended the event, this structured the drivers perfectly into the tandem ladder. No championship points were rewarded for qualifying, since no actual qualifying competition took place.
Drivers were still allowed to practice on Friday to test the various levels of traction in the interest of putting on the best show on Saturday. Nearly all drivers made multiple passes through the day, some with more success than others. Defending champion (and top seed due to bypassing qualifying) Fredric Aasbo blew an engine early on Friday, but the Papadakis Racing team got the engine swapped and ready for action on Saturday. Several other drivers also had run-ins with walls or tire barriers that required repairs, but everyone came prepared for Saturday’s competition.
Weather conditions on Saturday morning were better than Friday, but spotty patches of showers fell throughout the day with the rain halting long enough for the Top 16 onward to go down without a hitch.
Fast forward to the Ford Top 16 or Blackvue Final 4.
AIR FORCE TOP 32
Fredric Aasbo vs. Shengjun Zhang
AASBO LEAD – Rain started just before the first runs of the Top 32 tandem competition got underway. Zhang appeared to possibly tap Aasbo shortly after initiation. Zhang has shallow angle around the first corner, and a shallow line under the bridge. Aasbo maintains good angle and line, although the run is visibly slower than practice. Zhang struggled to keep up, and punts the final clipping point near the peninsula.
ZHANG LEAD – Shortly after initiating into the first corner, Zhang loses drift and continues to grip most of the rest of the track. Aasbo maintains drift behind Zhang for most of the course. Zhang finally kicks it sideways around the final turn. Easy win for Aasbo.
Patrick Mordaunt vs. Mad Mike Whiddett
MORDAUNT LEAD – Good initiation from both drivers, Mordaunt doesn’t get as far out on the walls as the judges would like, but has good angle and speed. Whiddett maintains around a two-to-three car gap behind Mordaunt, clearly with a shallower angle but good proximity. On replay, it looks like Whiddett actually closed the gap to about one car length through the second half of the course. Not a spectacular run for either driver, but no major mistakes.
WHIDDETT LEAD – Whiddett walks away from Mordaunt on the line, easily a 10-car gap before the first corner. Whiddett has a good initiation, but is wide on the line after the bridge and nearly over-rotates in front of the judges stand. Mordaunt slowly closes the gap towards the second half of the course, but not very close. Mordaunt has shallow line and angle in front of the judges. Whiddett is way off the line around the peninsula. This could be a double zero situation. Whiddett gets the nod from all three judges and moves on.
Matt Field vs. Kyle Mohan
FIELD LEAD – Good initiation and angle from Field, Mohan with shallower angle under the bridge. Field has good angle and line, Mohan isn’t far behind and closes the gap through the big sweeper in front of the judges due to shallower angle. Mohan brakes late getting into the final peninsula corner, but over-rotates on the transition and spins out. Field finishes the run cleanly and will have a big advantage.
MOHAN LEAD – Mohan with a much stronger initiation and angle on initiation, but is a bit off the touch-and-go under the bridge. Field has an inside line and a bit shallower angle, but gets aggressive near the peninsula and stays close to Mohan around the final corner. No major mistakes from Field will give him the win due to Mohan’s spin.
Alec Hohnadell vs. Kristaps Bluss
HOHNADELL LEAD – Hohnadell with a big manji entry, Bluss initiates less than a car length away from Honadell! Bluss leaves some room under the bridge for Hohnadell to transition, then dives into the inside line in front of the judges and closes the gap again. On replay, it looks like Bluss may have bumped Hohnadell under the bridge, which may have led to why Hohnadell pulled away. Bluss keeps it close around the peninsula turn, great follow run from Bluss!
BLUSS LEAD – Bluss with a three-car gap on initiation and big angle, Hohnadell remains three or four cars back from Bluss for most of the run, slowly closing in on him just before the peninsula corner. Hohnadell takes out the final clip around the peninsula corner, which was requested to be treated as a wall by the judges in the judges meeting. Bluss earns the win with a much better chase run and a clean lead run.
Ryan Tuerck vs. Juha Rintanen
TUERCK LEAD – Tuerck had a major mechanical malfunction in the morning practice, which caused the team to have to swap in a backup motor. Tuerck is back to the start line in time to make his run. Tuerck initiates cleanly with a quick initiation, Tuerck has a good line under the bridge but Rintanen taps the wall which straightens out the car. Rintanen can’t recover from the tap and stuffs the car into the tire wall in front of the judges. Tuerck finishes the run cleanly without any major mistakes and will have a major advantage if Rintanen can get his car prepped for the second run.
Rintanen gets towed off course, and calls his competition timeout. There appears to be some suspension damage to the right front corner. Rintanen is unable to fix the damage, and Tuerck takes a bye run into the Top 16.
Tyler McQuarrie vs. Dai Yoshihara
MCQUARRIE LEAD – Both of these drivers are back by the same tire sponsor, so no major advantage to either driver there. McQuarrie has a good initiation and line under the bridge, Yoshihara is just a few car lengths back. Yoshihara loses drift through the sweeper in front of the judges, gets back on angle and stays strong on McQuarrie as they enter the peninsula turn. McQuarrie finishes the course strong, but Yoshihara ends up on the wrong side of the peninsula clipping point and is clearly off course.
YOSIHARA LEAD – Yoshihara goes to initiate and the car grips up and straightens out just before the first turn. Yoshihara has to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting the first tire barrier, McQuarrie threads the needle behind Yoshihara and gets past him to complete the course. Yoshihara will likely earn zeros on both runs, McQuarrie gets the easy pass into the next round.
Odi Bakchis vs. Alex Heilbrunn
BAKCHIS LEAD – Bakchis took a podium last season in the Hyundai Genesis last season in Long Beach, but ran his more familiar Nissan S14 for the rest of the season. Bakchis is in the Genesis full time this season, so it will be interesting to see how he handles the season. Bakchis with an early initiation, Heilbrunn is later to get into drift, but yellow flags are waiving due to Bakchis hitting a chicane cone. We will have a restart. We have a clean restart, and a great run! Heilbrunn maintains good proximity through the first corner. Bakchis takes the wider line with bigger angle, but Heilbrunn keeps good proximity through the rest of the course. Heilbrunn taps the wall on the outside of the turn just before the final peninsula turn, but maintains the drift and finishes strong. Likely a small advantage to Bakchis, but small enough that Heilbrunn can overcome with a good lead run.
Heilbrunn calls a competition timeout, his only timeout for the weekend.
HEILBRUNN LEAD – Heilbrunn’s car looks to be struggling for grip on launch with lots of tire angle. Bakchis allows for a two-car gap on initiation, but closes it up by the final turn. Heilbrunn’s line was a bit soft, but gets deeper on the wall in front of the judges. Bakchis has a good chase run, and finishes just a car length behind Heilbrunn. Overall, Bakchis has fewer noticeable mistakes but the runs were definitely the tightest so far. Bakchis earns the votes from all three judges and moves on.
Dean Kearney vs. Jhonnattan Castro
KEARNEY LEAD – Good line and angle from Kearney , Castro has a very shallow line through the first turn and runs on the rumble strips. Kearney keeps good angle and gets out to the touch-and-go under the bridge well. Castro closes the gap a bit towards the end of the course, but gets too aggressive tucking in behind Kearney and spins out at the final peninsula clipping point. Kearney will have a big advantage.
CASTRO LEAD – Castro’s car was built by Papadakis Racing, and keeps the same engine as Aasbo’s championship-winning tC. Castro’s initiation in his lead run is much better, Kearney leaves a two-car gap on initiation and slowly closes it down through the course. Castro isn’t able to open up the gap, and Kearney’s proximity never wavers. Kearney earns the votes from all three judges and will advance into the next round.
Ken Gushi vs. Faruk Kugay
GUSHI LEAD – A very light sprinkle started before Gushi and Kugay are released, and the judges decide to give both drivers a quick parade lap to test the conditions. Faruk calls a competition timeout after the parade lap and heads to the pits. Kugay makes it back to the line, and we will have a run. Gushi initiates and has good line and angle through the first corner, Kugay has shallower angle and is a bit slower behind Gushi but appears to keep drift through the whole course. The entire run looks like slow motion due to the slick conditions. Gushi had much better angle and line through the course overall, likely a small advantage.
KUGAY LEAD – Kugay’s car looks very twitchy on initiation into the first corner while Gushi’s car looks much more settled. Kugay has good angle, but runs wide and taps the outside wall in the same place Goodin tapped it. Kugay loses some angle, but keeps drift and continues on the course, albeit with shallow angle and a shallow line. Kugay over-rotates in front of the judges stand, Gushi maintains drift and finishes the course; Gushi will earn the win.
Pat Goodin vs. Charles Ng
GOODIN LEAD – Goodin initiates with good angle, but strays too far on the outside line and taps the outside wall in the first turn, which straightens him out. Ng has little to no angle on initiation, and almost straightens out. Ng slides out to pass Goodin and finishes the course in drift. Goodin gets the car back on track and finishes the course, but will be at a major disadvantage due to being passed on track. Goodin calls his competition timeout after the run.
NG LEAD – Goodin is able to fix his car and returns to finish the battle. Ng has a good initiation, Goodin is struggling behind him with shallow angle and appears to lose drift on more than one occasion. Ng keeps drift and finishes the course strong; this will be an easy win for Ng. It appears that with these slick conditions, making a full pass with full angle may be all you need to earn a pass into the Top 16.
Forrest Wang vs. Matt Coffman
WANG LEAD – Both drivers are given a parade lap as the conditions continue to shift. Wang initiates into the first turn with big angle and nearly rubs both outside wall in the first turn and the wall under the bridge. What’s more impressive with Wang’s huge angle is the lack of corrections, hitting almost the ideal qualifying line which is even more impressive based on the wet conditions. Coffman struggles to get angle and get on the outside line, with many corrections and overall much shallower steering angle through the entire course. This is a shaky run for Coffman, and by far the best lead run of the weekend for Wang.
COFFMAN LEAD – Coffman starts the run strong with a good initiation, Wang is shallower on his line through the first corner but has some steering corrections before the first touch-and-go. Coffman has a good line heading under the bridge towards the judges stand sweeper but over-rotates and spins out. Wang has to get out of drift to avoid hitting Coffman, the run is over at this point. All three judges send Wang to the top 16.
Kenneth Moen vs. Michael Essa
MOED LEAD – A rare BMW versus BMW battle, Moen’s car is powered by a 2JZ engine while Essa’s car contains a turbocharged S54 BMW engine. On the parade lap, Moen backs the car into the wall in front of the judges, causing major suspension damage to the left rear corner. Moen is towed off before the run can even start.
Moen is not able to fix the car; Essa takes a bye run into the Top 16.
Chris Forsberg vs. Cameron Moore
FORSBERG LEAD – The rain is continuing to fall, and the course is visibly wetter than before. Both drivers are given a parade lap. Forsberg initiates and slowly adds angle, good line through the first two touch-and-go areas. Moore is shallow on angle through the first corner, but adds angle and keeps drift through the rest of the course. Forsberg looks fairly comfortable in the conditions, Moore seems to be getting the hang of it but isn’t as tight to Forsberg as the judges would like to see. Given the circumstances, both drivers finished the course, which is more than our previous few tandem pairs can claim.
MOORE LEAD – Moore is on a wider line than in chase. Moore runs wide and bumps the outside wall of the first touch and go but maintains drift, then gets close to the wall under the bridge. Moore again is on the wide line and bumps the wall in front of the judges stand, Moore loses some angle then over-rotates as he tries to get back in drift. Forsberg screeches to a halt just inches from Moore’s door. Forsberg had left some room for Moore after the initial wall bump in the first corner, and it turns out to be a good decision. Forsberg earns the win.
Chelsea Denofa vs. Geoff Stoneback
DENOFA LEAD – Another parade lap, Denofa has a smooth run but Stoneback spins out before the first turn and is stopped on track. Stoneback calls a competition timeout, and we run through several other tandem battles before returning back to this matchup. Stoneback makes it back to the line sans bumper and hood for the last tandem of the Top 32. Denofa has a good entry while Stoneback spins almost a perfect 360 on initiation. Denofa keeps the car sideways and finishes the course cleanly while SToneback heads back to the start line after his spin.
STONEBACK LEAD – Stoneback looks to get the hang of the first corner on his lead run and opens up a fairly substantial gap on Denofa through the second half of the course, looks to be 8-to-10 car lengths between the cars at the end of the run. Judges may need to determine if Denofa’s run was an inactive chase, which can only be determined if the first run was deemed a zero, which it was. Judges advance Denofa into the Top 16, likely determining that the gap was due to conditions, not to sandbagging by Denofa.
Justin Pawlak vs. Jeff Jones
PAWLAK LEAD – Thankfully, we had a parade lap without incident. Pawlak hits a cone on his launch, so we will restart the lead run. We get a clean start on the second try, and Pawlak’s Mustang looks good strong through the course. Both drivers are a bit shallow on their line, Jones loses some angle through the sweeper in front of the judges, but keeps the car sideways. Both cars finish cleanly, Pawlak’s run was a bit smoother and he likely has an advantage.
JONES LEAD – Jones hits a cone on his first launch, but keeps it clean through his second attempt. Both drivers have shallow angle through most of the course, Pawlak has shallow line and angle in front of the judges. Pawlak has a lot of corrections on steering, most of these are setup by his shallow line under the bridge. Jones’ run isn’t very pretty, but is much more consistent. Tough run to call as it’s a bit of a race to the bottom. Jones had fewer mistakes on both runs and earns the win.
Vaughn Gittin Jr. vs. Robbie Nishida
GITTIN JR. LEAD – Gittin Jr. initiates and goes wide on the first corner, bumping the back bumper and taillight on the first wall, keeps the angle and extends almost to the wall under the bridge, then rubs the wall in front of the judges stand. Nishida seems to back off a bit after the first wall rub, but keeps the car sideways through the course. There’s no denying that Gittin Jr. got close to the walls, Gittin Jr. will likely have an advantage due to his excellent car control.
NISHIDA LEAD – Nishida doesn’t get out all the way to the wall on the first corner, and definitely has a shallower line through the whole course than Gittin Jr’s lead run. Nishida straightens out between the bridge wall and the judge sweeper wall, Gittin Jr. runs a good wide line with plenty of angle behind Nishida and will likely earn the easy win into the top 16. All three judges advance Gittin Jr. to the round of 16.
FORD TOP 16
We start off the opening ceremonies with the presentation of colors from the Air Force color guard, followed by the National Anthem. All sixteen drivers were introduced to the crowd, with “Mad” Mike Whiddett and the SR by Toyota drivers getting the loudest cheers. Aasbo was also presented with a check for $250 from Black Magic as the top qualifier. The drivers exited amidst burnouts and donuts, and a montage of highlights from the 2015 season was shown to the crowd.
The track is definitely dry as we start the Top 16 battles, and there’s plenty of tire smoke from the introductory burnouts.
Aasbo vs. Whiddett
AASBO LEAD – Aasbo has a big initiation, Whiddett is only a car length behind. Aasbo brushes the wall in under the bridge, Whiddett stays pretty close to Aasbo through the sweeper. Whiddett brakes late to close the gap on Aasbo and possibly even taps Aasbo, both drivers maintain drift and finish the course in full drift around the peninsula clipping point. Wow, definitely our best tandem battle so far! It’s great to see the tire smoke returning to tandem battles.
There were talks of a competition timeout being called by Aasbo, but both drivers pull to the line quickly. One of the course workers rips Whiddett’s left side door off the car, and sets it aside near the start line. The door may have been damaged from the contact. Whiddett has to use his competition timeout to replace the door as he isn’t allowed to compete without a door.
WHIDDETT LEAD – Whiddett has a snappy initiation, Aasbo isn’t quite as close on initiation as Whiddett was in chase. Whiddett doesn’t get as far out to the wall after initiation as the judges would like, but rubs his rear splitter along the wall in under the bridge with big angle. Whiddett can’t maintain the drift under the bridge, and spins into the center of the turn in front of the judges. Aasbo maintains drift and finishes the course cleanly; Aasbo earns the win.
Field vs. Bluss
FIELD LEAD – Field with huge angle on initiation, and keeping big angle under the bridge and in front of the judges. Bluss isn’t far behind Field through most of the course, although slightly shallower on angle. Bluss can’t get out to either the clipping zone under the bridge or in front of the judges, but maintains around one to two car lengths behind Field through the entire course. Field gently nudges the final clipping point at the peninsula corner, Bluss is very tight behind him. Great run from both drivers! Possibly a slight advantage to Field due to a better line.
BLUSS LEAD – Bluss has a good initiation, Field sticks closely behind Bluss through most of the course. This lead run from Bluss has a much better line than on his follow run. Field is very tight on Bluss, especially as they approach the peninsula clipping point. Field may have tapped Bluss on the rear bumper as they transitioned just before the peninsula clip, and definitely tapped the final clipping point with his front bumper harder than on his lead run. Tough to call as both drivers had good runs overall.
Two judges vote for a "One More Time" run, one judge votes for Bluss to win. Majority rules; we go One More Time!
ONE MORE TIME
FIELD LEAD – Field has so much more angle than Bluss on the first half of the course, but Bluss has a much shallower line. Bluss isn’t putting as much pressure on Field until the final part of the sweeper, Field taps the peninsula clip again. Overall, it feels like Field had a better run, but tapping the clipping point may come back to bite him.
BLUSS LEAD – Bluss pushing out much wider towards the walls on his lead run, Field maintains consistent proximity and fairly strong angle through the entire chase run. Bluss keeps the car in drift, Field leaves room around the peninsula clip, this is a much better pair of runs than the first set. Overall, it looks like Field has a better set of runs. Two judges vote for Field, one judge wants to see a “One more time;” Field earns the win.
Tuerck vs. McQuarrie
TUERCK LEAD – Tuerck with some huge angle around the first two walls. McQuarrie is only a car length behind through most of the run. McQuarrie has a slightly shallower line through the sweeper in front of the judges, but transitions at the wrong time and ends up losing drift at the peninsula clipping point. Up until that final corner, it would have been tough to call a major advantage either way, but definitely an advantage to Tuerck after that mistake.
MCQUARRIE LEAD – McQuarrie likely knows he’s behind in the battle, and pushes very hard on his lead. McQuarrie brushes the first wall after initiation, and is very close to the wall under the bridge. This lead run feels a lot like Tuerck, possibly with slightly less steering angle, but overall a very high quality lead run. Tuerck is close behind and leaves just enough room for McQuarrie to transition at the appropriate times. McQuarrie and Tuerck both keep their cars in drift around the final peninsula, the mistake from McQuarrie on his follow run is likely too much to overcome. Tuerck gets the unanimous win.
Bakchis vs. Kearney
BAKCHIS LEAD – Bakchis with a good initiation, Kearney a little shallow on his line on initiation, but otherwise close behind. Kearney transitions a bit earlier than Bakchis under the bridge, which puts him tight on Bakchis’s door through the sweeper in front of the judges. Kearney allows for enough room for Bakchis to transition, then closes the gap again. Kearney nudges the peninsula clip with his front bumper, it didn’t look any worse than the Field tap of the clip that lead to a “One More Time”, hopefully he doesn’t get punished too harshly for that mistake given the otherwise amazing chase run.
KEARNEY LEAD – Kearney has tons of angle and smoke on initiation, Bakchis is tight on him through the chase run. Kearney grows the gap to about three car lengths through the sweeper, Bakchis has a slight steering correction, then closes the gap entering the peninsula corner. Both drivers look strong on both runs, finding a winner is likely going to be done by splitting hairs. All three judges vote for Bakchis, the clipping point tap by Kearney on his chase was likely the determining factor.
Gushi vs. Ng
GUSHI LEAD – Both drivers are powered by Turbo by Garrett turbochargers, and both drivers are getting used to new tire sponsors this season. Gushi has a clean initiation, a bit off the walls but probably a safe move given the inconsistent traction levels we’ve seen today. Ng seems a bit shallower on his steering angle, and isn’t as close to Gushi as some of the previous chase runs we’ve seen, but no major mistakes until he taps the final peninsula clipping point. Given the way the judges have been making decisions, this is likely a small advantage for Gushi.
NG LEAD – Ng with more steering angle on his lead run than on his chase, Gushi is hot on his tail. Ng dumps a ton of tire smoke through the sweeper in front of the judges, it’s very hard to see Gushi through the smoke. Ng goes wide around the final Peninsula clipping point, Gushi gets tight on Ng and avoids knocking the clip over. All three judges vote for Gushi to move on.
Wang vs. Essa
WANG LEAD – Wang with big angle all over the course and tons of tire smoke from his Nissan S15. The course is definitely drying out quickly. Essa has a good initiation behind Wang, but shuts the car down entering the sweeper near the judges and grips the final half of the course. Not sure if Essa is having engine problems or just made a mistake, but he’s definitely at a disadvantage entering the second run.
ESSA LEAD – Essa with a good initiation and transition under the bridge, tons of tire smoke from his BMW. Wang isn’t far behind, but it’s hard to see what’s happening behind Essa due to the sheer amounts of tire smoke coming from the Bimmer. No major mistakes from Wang, the zero from Essa is too much to overcome. Wang moves on to the Top 8.
Forsberg vs. Denofa
FORSBERG LEAD – Forsberg has big angle after initiation, then bushes the wall under the bridge and loses angle. Forsberg has to get off the gas, Denofa passes Forsberg in full drift and finishes the run as the lead car. The announcer mentions that passes should only be made in an inside clipping point area, but this appeared to be initiated due to the mistake from Forsberg. It was an impressive pass to see done while in drift, but unclear if it was a legal pass.
DENOFA LEAD – Big angle from Denofa, and wall-to-wall action under the bridge from Denofa. Forsberg is trying to make up ground, but Denofa’s lead run is looking nearly flawless. Forsberg stays aggressive entering the final peninsula clip, but spins out just before the clipping point. Denofa earns the unanimous win.
Jones vs. Gittin Jr.
GITTIN JR. LEAD – Gittin Jr. has incredible amounts of grip compared to Jones’ car and opens up a huge gap. Gittin Jr. isn’t as close to the wall under the bridge as the judges would like, but there’s a clear lack of proximity from Jones through the course. No major mistakes in angle or line from Jones, but it’s clear how much of a grip advantage Gittin Jr. has in comparison.
JONES LEAD – It can be tricky to follow such a slow lead car, so it will be interesting to see how Gittin Jr. handles the chase. Jones knocks over a cone on the start, so we have a restart. Jones is clean on the second start, Gittin Jr. leaves room in the early part of the course, which turns out to be a good move as Jones taps the wall under the bridge and slows substantially. Gittin Jr. closes the gap, then is hard on the brakes to avoid hitting Jones through the sweeper in front of the judges. Jones is way off the second outer clipping zone, then taps his bumper again on the wall entering the peninsula section of the course. Gittin Jr. keeps it clean and earns all three votes from the judges. We’re on to the Top 8!
NITTO TIRE GREAT 8
Aasbo vs. Field
AASBO LEAD – Both of these drivers have had some of the most impressive steering angle all weekend, and this run is no different! Field is tight on Aasbo from initiation all the way to the peninsula clipping point, with less than a car length between the cars through the entire course. Wow, this is a great run from Field! Aasbo has a good run and is on the prescribed line through the entire course, but the story of this run is Field’s chase run!
FIELD LEAD – Field with huge angle after initiation, but over-rotates and nearly spins a full 360-degrees under the bridge. Aasbo passes by Field on the outside cleanly, and keeps drift through the rest of the course. It’s really a shame to see Field lose the car like that in that part of the course, especially after such a stellar chase run. Aasbo gets the win, but he’s definitely relieved that Field made the mistake that he did.
Tuerck vs. Bakchis
TUERCK LEAD – It’s clear that steering angle is going to be the story of the season, as nearly every driver has over 60 degrees of steering available to them. Tuerck has huge lock after the initiation and a snappy transition under the bridge. Tuerck pushes his rear bumper deep into the wall in front of the judges but keeps perfect angle and powers through the turn hard. Bakchis dives in on Tuerck entering the peninsula clip, but taps the clipping point which will likely be a slight advantage to Tuerck.
BAKCHIS LEAD – Bakchis isn’t as strong on his lead as Tuerck, but Tuerck seems to be an extra car length or so behind Bakchis. Tuerck doesn’t dive as hard into Bakchis entering the final turn, Tuerck washes out and can’t finish the drift through the final turn. Bakchis pulls away across the finish line, Tuerck is sitting next to the peninsula clipping point trying to figure out how he wasn’t able to carry the momentum through the final turn. Bakchis gets the unanimous win as Tuerck is deemed to have shut it down too early.
Gushi vs. Wang
GUSHI LEAD – Gushi pushing hard to all the walls, Wang is a bit farther behind than some of the previous chase runs, but doesn’t make any major mistakes. Both drivers have good angle and line, but neither is impressive. These are far from safe runs, but given the level of driving we’ve seen today, these runs simply aren’t quite as impressive.
WANG LEAD – The amount of angle Wang is dumping after initiation in the first corner on his lead run is just incredible! Wang’s transition under the bridge is too much and he rotates past the point of recovery, washing out on the inside of the sweeper turn. Gushi has to shut it down to avoid hitting Wang’s car. Gushi moves on to the Final 4 with the win.
Denofa vs. Gittin Jr.
GITTIN JR. LEAD – On paper, Gittin Jr. should walk away from Denofa like he did with Jones. In reality, Denofa has unbelievable amounts of grip dialed into his E46 BMW, and is able to keep up with Gittin Jr. throughout the whole course. Denofa dives hard into the final corner and is inches from Gittin Jr. around the final corner.
DENOFA LEAD – Denofa lost his right side wing end plate at some point in the weekend, but if he still had it on, he would have lost it scraping the wall in front of the judges stand on this run. Gittin Jr. has a good chase, not quite as close as Denofa, but again no major mistakes from either driver on either run. Denofa’s chase appears to be stronger, but wouldn’t be upset to see a “One More Time” from this run. One judge votes for a “One More Time,” two judges vote for Denofa. Denofa makes his second career Final 4 appearance, at the same track as he earned a fourth-place finish in 2013.
BLACKVUE FINAL 4
Aasbo vs. Bakchis
AASBO LEAD – This is a rematch of the 2015 final that lead to car-to-car contact between the drivers around the final corner, it will be interesting to see how the drivers handle this matchup. Aasbo with a great lead, Bakchis with a strong chase run. Aasbo is deeper on both the wall just after initiation and the wall under the bridge, Bakchis closes the gap a bit entering the sweeper, but leaves room for Aasbo to transition entering the peninsula. Bakchis seems to leave a bit more room than he has in the past, but still ends up inches from Aasbo around the final turn. Both drivers finish, again hard to see an advantage or disadvantage to either.
BAKCHIS LEAD – Another somewhat vanilla run, no major mistakes from either driver. Bakchis is almost the same distance from the walls as Aasbo was on his lead run, Aasbo may have been slightly tighter through the transition before the peninsula, but no major mistakes from either driver on either run. All three judges vote for a “One More Time”, this was probably the most consistent pair of runs from any tandem battle so far today.
ONE MORE TIME
AASBO LEAD – Aasbo with another text book run in the lead position. Bakchis left some room between him and Aasbo on the first half of the run but closes it up through the sweeper and into the final peninsula turn. Aasbo appears to be slowing down substantially near that peninsula, but Bakchis of all people is prepared for it after last season’s showdown.
BAKCHIS LEAD – Another smooth run from Aasbo in chase, another casual lead run for Bakchis. Trying to find flaws in this run is nearly impossible. We’ll have to leave it in the hands of the judges to split hairs on this one, but another “One More Time” doesn’t seem out of the question. Two votes for Aasbo, one vote for “One More Time;” Aasbo moves to the final.
Gushi vs. Denofa
GUSHI LEAD – Gushi has a good line and steering angle while continuing to push out incredible amounts of tire smoke, Denofa continues to keep drivers within a car length of his grasps while chasing them down.
DENOFA LEAD – Denofa with big angle in the lead, a little off the outside clip under the bridge, otherwise a near-spotless run from Denofa. Gushi has a good follow, again not too much differentiation between the drivers. One judge votes for “One More Time”, the other two judges vote for Denofa. Denofa will make his first career Final round appearance. In the last three rounds, Denofa has taken out Forsberg, Gittin Jr. and Gushi, three drivers who have all been involved with Formula Drift since the first event in Atlanta back in 2004.
Gushi will earn Third place due to being seeded higher than Bakchis.
Aasbo vs. Denofa
Before Aasbo can take the line to start the final, he calls his competition timeout. We’ve waited around five minutes, as normal between the top 4 and the finals, and are now subjected to another five minute delay waiting for Aasbo. He finally appears at the line, and we’re ready to do battle. If Aasbo were to win, it would be his second consecutive event win dating back to last season, and second consecutive Long Beach event win. If Denofa were to win, it would be his first career podium finish.
AASBO LEAD – To say that Denofa left it all out on the track on this chase run is an understatement. Aasbo has another textbook lead run, pushing his car to within a foot of nearly every wall. Denofa pushes his car all the way to the wall in the first turn and tags his wing along the chain link fence, then transitions under the bridge and closes the gap down from around a foot to just inches! Denofa backs off almost perfectly from Aasbo before the final transition in the peninsula, then sucks back onto Aasbo’s door.
DENOFA LEAD – Wow, this was yet another insane run! Denofa again smashes his wing into the fence around the first turn, then stays deep by the wall under the bridge and again onto the wall in front of the judges. Aasbo backs off after the wall near the judges stand, a bit earlier than when Denofa backed off. Aasbo isn’t as quick to close the gap after the transition, and Denofa pulls around a three-car gap between the transition for the peninsula and the finish line. What a great set of runs by both drivers!
AND THE WINNER IS...
Chelsea Denofa! With his first career win, Chelsea Denofa becomes the 23rd unique driver to take the top spot on a Formula Drift podium, and the 38th unique driver to earn a podium in Formula Drift history. A well-deserved win for Denofa!
(Photos: Luke Munnell and Cory Mader)