2016 Formula Drift Pro 2, Round 1: Road Atlanta
Formula Drift’s entry-level professional series is back for a third year, and in contrast to last year’s first round held at Orlando Speedworld, this year put its Pro 2 drifters to the test at the much faster, much more precise Road Atlanta round — a decision many are calling “hasty” in hindsight.
What’s important to remember is that Pro 2 competitors have earned their licenses by winning or earning a podium spot for season championship points in a Pro-Am series, like Top Drift, Southwest Drift or Midwest Drift Union. They know how to drift. But the jump from Pro-Am competition to Pro 2 requires much more from its competitors today than ever before.
Formula D's Pro class all but requires 1,000+hp, loads of grip, a fully-built chassis and consistently close, precise tandem abilities for drivers to remain competitive. While its veteran pros have been able to enjoy the series’ gradual evolution to that point, Pro-Ams are graduating from a world where half as much power in mildly modified street cars and inconsistent tandem battles are the norm, and need to prepare for the big leagues in just one off-season.
And as we saw this time around, that’s not the easiest feat to pull off. Over a dozen talented ams filled the Pro 2 starting grid in Atlanta, and most fell victim to mechanical failures in their brand-new cars or had an understandably tough time maintaining close proximity to each other (or even staying on course) throughout Road Atlanta’s fast entry and uphill/downhill tandem section. It’s not surprising that top four finishers were drivers who had either Pro or a previous year of Pro 2 competition under their belts.
Standing atop the Pro 2 podium once the cars were towed back to the pits, oil was cleaned up and ultimately some copious amounts of tire smoke had cleared was FD veteran, Jeff Jones (who also competed in Pro competition for the weekend — don’t ask us how), after his rather impressive battle with Second-place finisher and fellow FD vet Ryan Litteral. Taking Third was Marc Landreville, also a driver with FD Pro-level experience, who after a “one more time” battle narrowly edged out crowd favorite "Rad" Dan Burkett and his Supra, who's returned for his second year of Pro 2 competition.
Look for all these guys to improve on their standings throughout the season, and also Top Drift alums (Pro 2 rookies) Trent Beechum and Matt Madrigali to surpass their technical woes and make a dent on the season standings. Next up: Orlando Speed World in less than a month.