2016 Formula Drift Seattle Top 32 Play-by-Play
Returning to Seattle for the 10th year in series history, Formula Drift took over Evergreen Speedway with another sellout crowd and an event with quality entertainment thanks to a new modified course layout that promotes closer tandem drifting. From the previous configuration, the entry on the front straight was pushed back several feet to help allow drifters to enter the large bank closer together. The judges also allowed drivers to leave the bank earlier so they could enter the "touch and go" or power alley into the next inner clip. These changes really did help improve the flow of the course.
This event had 33 drivers enter and we witnessed some serious qualifying drama with one driver going home at the end of it all. Vaughn Gittin Jr. was one of the biggest stories as he crashed early Friday morning into the bank wall, riding the side of his Mustang for a good 200 feet before coming to a stop. The driver's side wheel came off, which resulted in the emergency crew having to tow his car off course very carefully. Many teams in Formula Drift would have called it a weekend with an accident of that magnitude but Vaughn and his team scrambled to have the car repaired in time to get back out for practice! Vaughn’s first qualifying run sat him in 11th place, and even though his was the last car to qualify, he still pulled out an insane lap that scored him a 91, snatching qualifying’s number one spot on a style point tiebreaker against Odi Bakchis. Unfortunately, Pat Mordaunt was the unlucky 33rd driver who also crashed his car during practice and was unable to return to the start line to make a qualifying pass.
Fast forward to the Ford Top 16 or the Blackvue Final 4.
AIR FORCE TOP 32
Vaughn Gittin Jr. vs. Faruk Kugay
GITTIN LEAD – The first tandem battle of the weekend was with Vaughn Gittin Jr. and Faruk Kugay, and the FD veteran left a huge gap between him and the 2016 rookie. His lead run was virtually a perfect qualifying quality pass and Kugay scrambled to catch up throughout the entire course and have any proximity.
KUGAY LEAD – On his lead run, Kugay puts down his best lap of the weekend, running the bank higher with a decent line this time than during any of his practice and qualifying passes. Vaughn gave him a little space but surged into good proximity throughout the tandem battle and is simply too much to overcome. The judges were given a very easy decision to give Gittin Jr. the victory.
Kristaps Bluss vs. Dean Kearney
BLUSS LEAD – Latvia's Kristaps Bluss (and his insanely fast E46 BMW) had a great battle against Dean Kearney, who always manages to perform really well at Evergreen Speedway. Bluss' car takes off at angle around the bank and gaps Dean Kearney on the lead lap. Bluss does drop a tire over the yellow line in the touch and go area for a small deduction, but Kearney messes up the final clipping zone on the chase run, resulting in a deduction for him as well.
KEARNEY LEAD – Kearney had an insane entry into the bank but Bluss entered right on top of him and almost made contact on the entry. This over-aggressive entry resulted in Bluss correcting his BMW and falling behind through the rest of the bank. Once they got to the touch and go area, Bluss makes up for it and follows Kearney through the rest of the course without much error. All three judges take the result of those two battles and call a One More Time.
ONE MORE TIME
BLUSS LEAD – Bluss takes a much smoother entry and run on his OMT lead, and managed to keep a higher line around the bank overall. Kearney cuts outer zone two short to close in, which looks great for the fans as he had excellent proximity crossing the finish line.
KEARNEY LEAD – Dean runs really high on the bank while Bluss scrambles to chase but manages to make it look good at the last second coming across the finish line. Bluss drops a tire on the inner clip, which seals his fate from the mistakes he's made this round. All three judges give Kearney the advance to the Top 16.
Matt Coffman vs. Andrew Gray
COFFMAN LEAD – Coffman has a sloppy lead, missing the line through the touch and go area while Gray is able to nail the entire course in follow. It's a pretty uneventful run as both are driving evenly against each other.
GRAY LEAD – Gray plays run away on the bank but really missed outside zone one and was not on the proper line throughout the entire course. Coffman did do a good job following him through the incorrect sections of the course, which helped give him the advantage in the judges eyes. All three judges give Coffman the win.
"Mad" Mike Whiddett vs. Alec Hohnadell
WHIDDETT LEAD – Whiddett takes a high line around the bank that Hohnadell couldn’t seem to match, taking a much lower line instead. After the touch and go, Hohnadell is able to catch up to Whiddett, and they run door-to-door all the way through the finish line.
HOHNADELL LEAD – Hohnadell gaps Whiddett high across the bank but has a strange correction leaving it while sliding down into the touch and go. Whiddett doesn't chase nearly as close as Hohnadell did with him but is able to catch up towards the end of the course. The judges have a tough call to make but all three end up awarding the victory to Hohnadell, citing that Mad Mike really suffered at outer clipping zone one, which gave Hohnadell the major advantage in the end.
Mike Essa vs. Jhonnattan Castro
ESSA LEAD – Essa had really big angle coming off the bank and was putting down the most impressive run through the flat part of the course but spun only a few feet from the finish line! Castro couldn’t really keep up in the chase and would face a ton of pressure to hold it together in order to score a victory in his next run.
CASTRO LEAD – Essa puts down a very decent chase but nothing to help him overcome a zero on the lead pass. Castro wasn’t great around the course at any point but does enough to move into the Top 16.
Tanner Foust vs. Justin Pawlak
FOUST LEAD – It was nice to see Foust return after missing the last four rounds and it seemed to bring an excitement to the crowd. He looked awesome on the bank with a really high line but then managed to miss the touch and go area of the course completely. Pawlak washed out right after the touch and go, resulting in a major error for him that would be really hard to overcome.
PAWLAK LEAD – Pawlak has a ton of flair on his lead, going much higher on the bank than Foust with some big angle! Foust has a rotation issue at outer zone two and has to grab a ton of e-brake to correct the car. All three judges call OMT.
ONE MORE TIME
FOUST LEAD – Foust turns the speed up around the course and Pawlak chases smoothly albeit conservatively, leaving the door open for a loss if Foust is able to chase closely.
PAWLAK LEAD – Pawlak has a much more aggressive entry and goes really high around the bank! Foust is super close through outer zone one but lacks Pawlak's angle. Both drivers performed really well with equal amounts of mistakes through the course. The judges wind up favoring Foust after a long deliberation.
Chris Forsberg vs. Cameron Moore
FORSBERG LEAD – Forsberg leads this tandem battle against local rookie Moore, and manages to run a flawless lead run in his Nissan 370Z. Moore makes a big mistake off the bank and cannot find the line to chase Forsberg through the rest of the course.
MOORE LEAD – Moore pulls a decent gap around the bank but Forsberg closes it quickly coming into the touch and go area, and runs door-to-door with Moore from that point until they cross the finish line. Two judges give Forsberg the win and one calls OMT; Forsberg moves on to the Top 16.
Dai Yoshihara vs. Alex Heilbrunn
YOSHIHARA LEAD – Yoshihara was having some serious power steering issues throughout practice and reported that his team was unable to fix it before competition. Dai ran his Top 32 tandem battle against rookie Alex Heilbrunn without power steering in his Subaru BRZ. Yoshihara was scrambling to gap Heilbrunn in his Nitto Tire-sponsored BMW and dialed in some big angle getting ready for the inner clip. Heilbrunn blasted through the touch and go much faster than Dai, flying out of Dai’s smoke, hitting his BRZ rear driver's side wheel hard in the process.
HEILBRUNN LEAD – Heilbrunn could not fix his car during the competition timeout he had to call since he was found at fault for the incident, and since he couldn’t return to the start line, Yoshihara is able to advance into the Top 16. Dai crashes into the bank wall pretty hard during his solo lap and has to be towed off the course.
Odi Bakchis vs. Chelsea DeNofa
BAKCHIS LEAD – Right before the battle starts, we find out that DeNofa was going to be down two cylinders for his runs against Bakchis. Bakchis was set to lead first but DeNofa took off before the light went and grip drove the entire track. Also, Bakchis hits a cone leaving the chicane, forcing a restart between the two drivers. After the restart, DeNofa's left in the dust but gains some proximity after skipping the touch and go completely; DeNofa has his car pushed off from the finish line and calls a competition timeout before his lead run.
DENOFA LEAD – DeNofa is able to return to the start line in time and runs the course pretty slow compared to other drivers of the day. Bakchis does a great job following him considering DeNofa's down on power. All three judges give Bakchis the win.
Forrest Wang vs. Geoff Stoneback
WANG LEAD – Stoneback struggles to keep up with Wang in his Nissan 370Z, lacking the same amount of insane angle while struggling to initiate the car across the finish line.
STONEBACK LEAD – Stoneback goes deep into the touch and go but puts two tires off course during the process. Since neither of his passes are clean, Wang takes his S15 Silvia to the Top 16.
Fredric Aasbo vs. Kyle Mohan
AASBO LEAD – Aasbo has a wild entry coming into the bank, setting an aggressive and high line that looked very fast around the course, which left Mohan scrambling to chase.
MOHAN LEAD – Mohan looks very strong out front and could've been on his way to a win but spins on the last turn just shy of the finish line. Otherwise a great performance for Mohan up until that point. All three judges agree to send Aasbo to the Top 16.
Matt Field vs. Juha Rintanen
FIELD LEAD – Field rides very low on the bank and Rintanen goes even lower. Field makes a mistake and barely drifts across the finish line; Rintanen doesn’t return to the start line and calls a competition timeout.
RINTANEN LEAD – Rintanen cannot return to the start line and Field is given the win and Top 16 advance with little effort.
Tyler McQuarrie vs. Pat Goodin
MCQUARRIE LEAD – Tyler McQuarrie looks really strong and fast in the lead position, and visually looks like the fastest car around this Evergreen Speedway course. Goodin has some small mistakes attempting to keep up with this fast Chevy Camaro but holds it together for a decent chase performance.
GOODIN LEAD – Goodin has a smooth entry but McQuarrie surges right into his door on the bank and sticks to it for the remainder of this battle. McQuarrie puts down the best tandem chase battle of the Top 32 by far, and the three judges reward him with the win!
Kenneth Moen vs. Charles Ng
MOEN LEAD – Moen’s BMW enters the course with an aggressive flick, and he's able to speed around the course very quickly and ride the wall much longer than most drivers, which seems to throw Ng off as the chase.
NG LEAD – Back in his Infiniti G37 this weekend, Ng runs the bank pretty shallow and then drops down into the touch and go quickly from outside zone one lacking any wall ride. Moen has an awesome showing in the chase position all around and moves into Top 16.
Ken Gushi vs. Jeff Jones
GUSHI LEAD – Veteran drifter Gushi has great entry and looks to have a near perfect line around the entire course. Jones struggles to keep up and lacks proximity around the entire course behind the GReddy Racing 86.
JONES LEAD – Jones takes a much lower line on the bank during his lead but Gushi's able to deliver fantastic proximity the entire run. It's an easy call for the judges to make and all three give Gushi the victory.
Ryan Tuerck vs. Robbie Nishida
TUERCK LEAD – Tuerck smokes Nishida off the line, running fast through the bank but can't come down off the bank to hit the touch and go, which sends him crashing into the outer wall hard and coming to a stop. Nishida passes him and completes the course in his G37.
NISHIDA LEAD – Tuerck used his competition timeout for qualifying so he's unable to fix his car and come out to battle again; Nishida goes to the Top 16.
FORD TOP 16
Gittin Jr. vs. Kearney
GITTIN JR. LEAD – Gittin Jr. leads the first Top 16 battle of the evening in Seattle, and on his run, Gittin Jr. takes a middle line around the bank while Kearney swings wide through the touch and go, resulting in a small gap between the two and a little error on Dean’s part. A really solid battle to kick things off for the main event.
KEARNEY LEAD – Kearney runs relatively low on the bank with Gittin Jr. on his door. Dean has a very creative flick right off the bank but that doesn't faze Gittin Jr. and his Ford Mustang one bit. Gittin Jr.'s so close that the judges have to call a OMT.
ONE MORE TIME
GITTIN JR. LEAD – Vaughn looks focused for his OMT lead lap and enters the bank on a very high line that scrapes the wall. Kearney in the chase lap goes off course at the touch and go and makes another mistake as he struggles to keep up with Gittin Jr. across the finish line. The crowd cheers louder during this battle than we've heard all day!
KEARNEY LEAD – Kearney puts down a very smooth and clean lead lap but Gittin Jr. is having none of it, producing a great follow tandem lap except for outer zone one where he left a decent gap. Gittin Jr. lets Kearney transition and then slides right in to his door for the rest of the course. The judges fault Gittin Jr. for lacking proximity during outer zone one, which results in a loss for Vaughn. Two judges vote for Kearney while one votes OMT.
Coffman vs. Hohnadell
COFFMAN LEAD – Coffman has a very aggressive and fast entry into the big bank while Hohnadell struggles to keep up, falling down very low on the bank and straightening up while moving off it. Hohnadell is too aggressive towards the finish line and doesn't leave Coffman enough room to transfer, so the two make contact as Hohnadell is blocking Coffman's car from rotating to the finish. Judges cite Hohnadell at fault for making contact, and he has to call a competition timeout before the second run.
HOHNADELL LEAD – Hohnadell really needs to put it on the line to have any chance to advance to the Great 8. Hohnadell has some aggressive flicks, which seems to set Coffman off line towards the finish, and Coffman almost goes two wheels off and transitions in the wrong place before the finish line. Coffman's mistake isn't as bad as all of Hohnadell's errors, so he's able to move to the Great 8.
Castro vs. Foust
FOUST LEAD – Foust runs a really high line on the bank and Castro simply can't come close to mirroring it. Just past the touch and go Castro cannot transition correctly and straightens his car out. Foust sits on a huge advantage going into his follow run.
CASTRO LEAD – Castro with his Papadakis Racing-prepped FR-S gaps Foust on the entry and runs a mid line like he did all weekend that Foust can't catch up to. The speculation is that Foust missed a gear coming down the straightaway that resulted in a serious gap of over five car lengths. Tanner did fight his way closer towards the finish line but it wasn’t pretty. Two judges ask for OMT while one sides with Foust; we're going OMT.
ONE MORE TIME
FOUST LEAD – Foust continues to run his very high line around the bank and Castro still cannot keep up with him. The two drivers look to be at very different skill levels in this formation of the battle.
CASTRO LEAD – Foust manages to keep up some proximity as he chases Castro, and because of this is able to win the OMT battle very quickly between the two.
Forsberg vs. Yoshihara
FORSBERG LEAD – This battle of the two former champions is off to a great start with both drivers running a very high line on the bank, going into the touch and go very smoothly. Dai has a little issue at the inner clip (which might be due to his power steering problem we mentioned earlier), dropping a tire and hitting the inner clipping point cone coming into the finish line.
YOSHIHARA LEAD – Yoshihara’s car looks slow and off pace going into the bank and Forsberg has no problem keeping a nice proximity behind him. Forsberg is very aggressive throughout and leaves almost no space between the two cars. All three judges give Forsberg the win!
Bakchis vs. Wang
BAKCHIS LEAD – Bakchis seemed to slingshot his car around the bank quickly and didn’t let Wang get set up in time from the entry cones. Wang enters past the last cone that an entry is allowed, which results in a major deduction. Wang was very far behind and low on the bank, and struggled to make up for the big error committed by him on entry. Bakchis has minor trouble rotating the car to angle perfectly towards the finish line.
WANG LEAD – Wang has a good lead but Bakchis manages to follow him pretty well around course. Once again Bakchis has issues past inner clipping point two and the finish line but these aren't as bad as Wang's huge entry error. All three judges send Bakchis to the Great 8.
Aasbo vs. Field
AASBO LEAD – Aasbo seems to produce a flawless lead run that sees Field starting off far back but Field is able to catch him by outer zone one. Field does some surging chase moves into the flat part of the course to close out the lap.
FIELD LEAD – Field has a great initiation onto the big bank that sees Aasbo start the follow run low on the bank and working his way up towards the end of outer zone one; the two runs look similar from the touch and go to the finish line. One judge votes Aasbo; two call OMT.
ONE MORE TIME
AASBO LEAD – Aasbo performs one of his amazing lead runs in a very robotic-like fashion. Field really pushes his S14 to keep proximity and has some nice surging tandem follow to keep on his door.
FIELD LEAD – Field is able to produce really huge angle while running really high on the bank. Aasbo is unaffected by his aggressive lead and keeps great proximity around the entire course. Aasbo runs tight with Field across the finish line, giving the judges a pretty hard call to make. In the end, they all wind up voting for Aasbo.
McQuarrie vs. Moen
MCQUARRIE LEAD – Up until this point, McQuarrie and Moen are doing some of the fastest driving of the day. McQuarrie comes down from the bank wall early and goes shallow around the course; Moen does a poor job of mirroring the strange line that McQuarrie takes around the course.
MOEN LEAD – Moen's higher on the bank but also comes off the bank wall early like McQuarrie did in his lead. Moen filled outer zone two very well but McQuarrie is great at mirroring him around the course. None of the judges can agree with this battle; one judge picks McQuarrie, another votes for Moen and the last calls OMT.
ONE MORE TIME
MCQUARRIE LEAD – McQuarrie has some really insane angle running around the bank wall but does drop down into the touch and go early once again. Moen does a great job this time with his follow and doesn’t go into the touch and go as deep as the last battle.
MOEN LEAD – Moen puts down an aggressive feint entry and is making great pace around the track. McQuarrie goes very low on the bank to start but catches up to Moen in the touch and go section. Right at outer zone two, McQuarrie plants his car into the wall losing his trunk and bumper in the process. Moen over-rotates at the finish line and comes to a stop with his insane smoke masking his mistake. Then McQuarrie smashes into him as he flies through the smoke screen! A pretty crazy finish to this OMT battle! McQuarrie is given the victory by all three judges although he did suffer quite a large amount of damage from the contact and has to be towed off course.
Gushi vs. Nishida
GUSHI LEAD – Gushi looks really good on his lead against Boost Brigade teammate, Robbie Nishida, who looks more like a struggling Pro Am car going around the track with a ton of errors and driver corrections from inner clip two to the finish line.
NISHIDA LEAD – Nishida steps it up on his lead and puts down a smooth run, his best of the day, but Gushi rides his door all the way with the most aggressive tandem chase of the weekend. Nice work by Gushi to snag the win with all three judges going his way!
NITTO GREAT 8
Coffman vs. Kearney
COFFMAN LEAD – Coffman runs a nice line on the bank but Kearney wastes no time to ride his door around the outer zone one that the judges weighed heavily all weekend. Coffman slips during the touch and go, and Kearney's able to really tuck in closer. Kearney then mistimes his inner clip two transition and has to pull back to correct so Coffman can finish the course.
KEARNEY LEAD – Kearney is much faster down the straightaway and Coffman has to do quite a bit of catch-up on the bank. Coffman makes a mistake leaving the touch and go section with too much angle and scrubs a lot of speed. One judge votes Kearney, two call OMT.
ONE MORE TIME
COFFMAN LEAD – Coffman goes so deep on his lead run that he's able to ride the wall through outer clipping zone one; Kearney does a great job chasing around the bank. Coffman loses speed at inner clip one, swinging very wide; Kearney makes wheel-to-wheel contact and the judges call him at fault on the contact.
KEARNEY LEAD – Kearney kisses the bank wall and then he throws in a nasty transition leaving the touch and go section that chokes up Coffman a bit going through inside clip two. Even with that little mistake, Coffman earns the win due to the crash caused by Kearney during the first battle.
Forsberg vs. Foust
FORSBERG LEAD – Forsberg enters strong onto the track and Foust can't keep pace in his VW Passat. Foust almost hits Forsberg at the end of outer zone one by going shallow way up and grip surging towards his 370Z. Then Foust can't follow him deep into the touch and go section either. Forsberg’s lead run looks like a great qualifying pass from him despite Foust’s mistakes.
FOUST LEAD – Tanner Foust with a feint entry gaps Forsberg around the bank and smacks the wall before coming down into the touch and go section. At inner clip one Chris Forsberg makes contact with Tanner Foust while being over aggressive in the chase. Chris Forsberg cannot scrub enough speed in time to not make contact. One judge picks Foust, the other two vote OMT.
ONE MORE TIME
FORSBERG LEAD – Right before this One More Time battle, Forsberg saw Fredric Aasbo eliminated from competition. This puts even more pressure on him to beat Foust to advance his championship hopes past the Seattle round. Forsberg slides down the straightaway and does a big flick into the bank, which messes up Foust on his entry big time. Foust understeers around the bank and struggles to keep up with Forsberg.
FOUST LEAD – Foust pulls out some big angle and shortchanges the touch and go section of the course. Forsberg seems to get lost on his chase at inner clip two to the finish line but that error wouldn’t overcome the huge mistakes made by Foust. All three judges give Forsberg the win!
Bakchis vs. Aasbo
BAKCHIS LEAD – Bakchis really dominates his lead against Aasbo by hanging it out in the touch and go for a very long time while Aasbo transitioned early and planned to dive in on him. A pretty big mistake that is rare to see from Aasbo.
AASBO LEAD – Aasbo’s flawless (as expected) but Bakchis didn’t give him an inch! A really insane chase battle by Bakchis gave him the win with all three judges! Bakchis' battle history with Aasbo has been 0-6 (with Aasbo the winner), so this was huge momentum to push Bakchis forward throughout the remainder of the event.
McQuarrie vs. Gushi
MCQUARRIE LEAD – McQuarrie uses every second of his available repair time to fix his Camaro for the Great 8. Both drivers run a strange line and Gushi struggles to chase with McQuarrie’s car shaking around the course. Gushi does run two tires off at inner clip two as McQuarrie runs way off the line.
GUSHI LEAD – Gushi leaves McQuarrie at the start but doesn't slow down at the bank exit and overshoots the entire course. Gushi puts a full three tires way off as he slings into power alley and pulls it back together for the rest of the course. Gushi going three tires off has two judges going OMT and one judge giving him the win.
ONE MORE TIME
MCQUARRIE LEAD – McQuarrie looks way better this time as opposed to Gushi, who makes a huge mistake following but recovers quickly on the flat portion of the course.
GUSHI LEAD – Gushi goes much higher on the bank with McQuarrie struggling to keep up. All three judges give Gushi the victory on this OMT battle.
BLACKVUE FINAL 4
Forsberg vs. Coffman
FORSBERG LEAD – Forsberg looks aggressive with a very early entry and runs high all around the bank. Coffman chokes up at inner clip two and throws his car to insane angle and parks the car a bit. An unfortunate mistake that puts Coffman way behind in the tandem battle before his lead run even starts.
COFFMAN LEAD – Coffman runs very high on the bank and does everything he can to cause Forsberg to make a mistake. Forsberg manages to stay at his door and perform a world-class chase battle that sends Coffman home. All three judges give Forsberg the victory but note how impressive Coffman’s lead run was.
Bakchis vs. Gushi
BAKCHIS LEAD – Bakchis knocks a cone over in the chicane, resulting in a red flag and a restart. After the restart, Bakchis leaves Gushi behind but takes a pretty shallow line on the bank compared to his earlier runs of the day. Gushi makes up a ton of ground in the touch and go, and sticks to Odi's door from that point on to the finish line.
GUSHI LEAD – Gushi runs a little shallow on the wall as well and cuts down from the bank pretty early on the line. Bakchis has a good chase up until inner clip two and makes a slight error near the finish line as his car starts gripping up. That has happened several times today in tandem battles. All three judges give Bakchis the victory but Gushi still manages to grab third place due to his high qualifying position.
Bakchis vs. Forsberg
BAKCHIS LEAD – Bakchis really gaps Forsberg on the bank; Forsberg pushes too hard to catch him and spins out during the touch and go section of the course. A really shocking moment as Forsberg rarely makes huge mistakes of that nature during tandem competition.
FORSBERG LEAD – Forsberg rides the whole wall but Bakchis keeps knocking on his door with good proximity. A rare occasion happens with Forsberg spinning out again, this time at inner clipping zone one, and can't even make it to the end of the course. This was truly a memorable and shocking moment to see Forsberg hand over a victory like that in Formula Drift. The judges have probably the easiest call of the weekend here in the Finals as they give Bakchis his second ever career victory!
The big news coming out of Round 6 in Seattle is that Vaughn Gittin Jr. has lost the championship points lead due to his early exit in the Top 16, dropping to third place with 404 points. Luckily, Gittin Jr. only sits 15 points behind the new leader, Forsberg, who now has 419 points with two rounds remaining in the championship, the next being in Texas. It is truly going to be a dramatic ending to the season going into the final round at Irwindale!
(Photos: Cullen Cheung and Takuya "TK" Akiyama)
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