2016 Formula Drift Texas Top 32 Play-by-Play
Formula Drift held a good ol’ fashioned drifting showdown in Texas, the fourth consecutive year that the drifting circus has visited the famed Texas Motor Speedway. This season’s layout is quite similar to the layout that has been run for the past two seasons, starting midway between turns three and four on the infield road course. Drivers get up to around 75 mph before initiating into turn four of the road course, taking an inside line to hit an inner clip at the exit of turn four before drifting out to a touch-and-go zone between turns four and five.
From there, drivers transition to inside clip two at the entry of road course turn five, then switch back and brush the outside touch-and-go zone along the k-rail wall at turn six and continuing the drift along the escape road that heads back towards turn three and the drifting start line. Outside zone three along the wall in front of the judges' stand was the highest impact area of the course in qualifying and accounted for more qualifying points than other areas of the track.
Overall, 14 different drivers earned a qualifying score of at least 90 points, showing how much smoother this course layout is compared to previous years at this track. The top four drivers all earned 96-point runs, with the score from their second qualifying run counting as the tiebreaker. Vaughn Gittin Jr. laid down the first 96-point run of the day in his Ford Mustang RTR, and it would stand as the top qualifying run after all drivers had finished both qualifying laps. His 93-point second run would win the tiebreaker challenge over Ryan Tuerck’s 91-point second run in his Scion FR-S, Fredric Aasbo’s 90-point run in his Scion tC and Ken Gushi’s 85-point run in his Scion FR-S; Odi Bakchis rounded out the top five with a pair of 92-point runs in his Hyundai Genesis coupe.
Three drivers earned 92-point runs, four drivers earned 91-point runs and two drivers earned 90-point runs, showing just how close the top echelon of drivers are in Formula Drift. Although 32 drivers made the event in Texas, Robbie Nishida faced technical gremlins in his Infiniti G37 drift car on both of his qualifying runs and couldn’t complete a qualifying lap, which left him out of Saturday’s competition.
Temperatures were in the mid-‘90s at the start of the Top 32 competition – a welcome change from the sweltering temperatures well over 100 degrees during last year’s competition at this track.
Fast forward to the Ford Top 16 or the Blackvue Final 4.
AIR FORCE TOP 32
Vaughn Gittin Jr. – Bye Run
GITTIN LEAD – After totaling his car at this same track last season, Gittin Jr. was truly looking for redemption this year. Laying down a 96-point run and backing it up with a 93-point second qualifying run really set the bar high. Robbie Nishida faced technical issues in qualifying and was unable to earn a qualifying score, giving Gittin Jr. the bye run. Gittin Jr. makes a pass at around 90 percent of his maximum ability, keeping the car in one piece for the Top 16 round.
Matt Field vs. Tanner Foust
FIELD LEAD – After a quick false start, Field has a good initiation into the first turn with Foust hot on his tail. Foust takes an inside line through inside clip two and takes a conservative line through the highly-important outside zone three – a pair of fairly substantial deductions for Foust. Field has a good clean run outside of tapping inside clip two, but likely has an advantage going into the second run.
FOUST LEAD – Foust has a much smoother lead run, hitting the clipping points almost perfectly. Field has a good line around the course as well, but is about three or four cars ahead of Field through the majority of the course. Judges mention on the PA system that Foust’s lead run is likely better than Field’s lead run, but Field had substantially fewer mistakes in his chase. One judge sides with Foust; the other two vote in favor of a “One More Time” (OMT) battle.
ONE MORE TIME
FIELD LEAD – Field initiates around three-car lengths ahead of Foust and maintains a fairly large gap through the entirety of the course. Field is off the first inside clip at the exit of the sweeper, but the lack of proximity from Foust through most of the looks much cleaner overall than his previous chase run.
FOUST LEAD – After an early false start from Foust, the second attempt at a start is clean. Foust has a bit of a feint entry into the first turn; Field enters around a single car length behind Foust and keeps the proximity through the entire first turns weeper. Field is a bit shallow on the switchback between the sweeper and inside clip two, but stays close on Foust and finishes the second half of the course strongly. All three judges vote for Field; his proximity and overall car control definitely looked much smoother than Foust in this second round of tandem battles between the drivers.
Dai Yoshihara vs. Juha Rintanen
YOSHIHARA LEAD – Yoshihara initiates much earlier than Rintanen, while Rintanen also loses angle midway through the first sweeper. Rintanen takes out inside clip two; both drivers have a good line through outside zone two and finish the course clean. Rintanen has a lot more steering corrections than Yoshihara, but overall fairly good proximity.
RINTANEN LEAD – Rintanen initiates much earlier on his lead run; Yoshihara has very shallow angle and line through the first sweeper. Rintanen over-rotates inside clip two and spins out, while Yoshihara carries too much speed and slides off course. This is deemed as two independent incidents, and both drivers will likely earn a zero for this run. Going back to the first run, Yoshihara had a much cleaner run and will earn the win from all three judges.
Forrest Wang vs. Jhonnattan Castro
WANG LEAD – Wang with big angle into the first turn, Castro is much later to get sideways and has shallow angle through the big sweeper. Wang starts to lose angle midway through the first sweeper, then dumps more angle at the exit of the sweeper. Castro has several steering corrections and has very shallow angle inside clip two and the outside zone in front of the judges, never really putting much pressure on Wang. Wang will likely have a good advantage heading into the second run.
CASTRO LEAD – Both drivers have more consistent angle through the first sweeper; Castro has good angle through the course but struggles to get to the outside zone in front of the judges. Wang closes some ground over the second half of the course and finishes just a car length behind Castro. All three judges vote for a OMT sudden death round. It looks like Castro had more mistakes overall, but apparently, the judges want to see two perfect runs before they decide on a winner.
ONE MORE TIME
WANG LEAD – Wang, again, has better steering angle through the sweeper. Castro doesn’t lose much proximity but takes out inside clip one and inside clip two and can’t get out to outside zone three. Overall, Wang has a very clean lead run, while Castro struggles to hit the line that the judges have requested.
CASTRO LEAD – Castro has a much smoother run through the first sweeper on his lead and opens up a gap of around three cars through the first half of the course. Both drivers have a much cleaner run than the first set of tandem battles, Wang doesn’t make up much ground on Castro. Wang isn’t able to get out to the outside zone near the judges, and Castro leaves outside zone three which puts him on an odd line into the final turn. No major mistakes from either driver, but a few small ones that may add up against them. All three judges vote for Wang to move on; his pair of runs definitely looked smoother.
Ken Gushi vs. Andrew Gray
GUSHI LEAD – Gushi is at the line, but Gray is not present. Gushi will have a bye run. Gushi’s car clearly doesn’t sound like it’s 100 percent; hopefully his GReddy Performance team can get the car repaired in time for the Top 16.
Jeff Jones vs. Kristaps Bluss
JONES LEAD – Jones with a good initiation; Bluss is less than a car length from Jones on initiation and through most of the sweeper. Jones slides a bit wide after exiting the sweeper and drops a tire near inside zone two at the exit, but is way off inside clip two just before the wall in front of the judges. Bluss stay close through most of the course and has a smoother line especially through inside clip two. The mistakes from Jones weren’t major, but Bluss’s chase run was one of the better runs we’ve seen today.
BUSS LEAD – Bluss with big angle and a big gap shortly after initiation; Jones is unable to make up any ground over the entirety of the course. Bluss has big angle and tons of speed through most of the course, but Jones car has notably less grip and less horsepower despite qualifying higher than Bluss. Bluss earns all three votes from the judges, and Jones’ day will end here.
Odi Bakchis vs. Chelsea DeNofa
BAKCHIS LEAD – Chelsea DeNofa has borrowed a Nissan S14 from a local Texas driver for the weekend, but appears to have had issues in practice and is unable to make the call against Bakchis. Bakchis has a bye run, making a good clean pass and is ready for Top 16 tandem battles.
Matt Coffman vs. Michael Essa
COFFMAN LEAD – A false start from Coffman means we have to re-grid the cars. Coffman with a good line and plenty of smoke through the first turn, Essa takes out the clipping point at the exit of the sweeper. Essa increases the pressure on the switchback and gets very close to Coffman, then allows Coffman to transition before hitting outside zone three. Essa was a bit off the outside zone in front of the judges, but overall had very good pressure on Coffman.
ESSA LEAD – Essa has great angle and tire smoke through the sweeper; Coffman has nearly identical pressure through the sweeper and the switchback. Essa opens up a gap on Coffman near inside clip two and fills outside zone three well, and Coffman is conservative through the second half of the course. No major corrections or mistakes from Coffman, but a lack of pressure and proximity through the second half of the course may hurt his chances. All three judges side with Essa.
Ryan Tuerck vs. Kyle Mohan
TUERCK LEAD – Tuerck has never lost to Mohan in three previous matchups. Tuerck has big angle and smoke through the first sweeper, while Mohan is late to get the car sideways and has shallow angle through the sweeper. Tuerck opens up around a four-car gap through the switchback, and Mohan takes a shallow line to catch up but ends up on the wrong line through outside zone three and the final turn. A clean lead run from Tuerck and a plethora of mistakes from Mohan likely will give Tuerck a strong lead into the second run.
MOHAN LEAD – Mohan has a good initiation and much smoother run through the first sweeper; Tuerck has good angle behind him and good pressure on Mohan. After transitioning out of the sweeper towards inside clip two, Mohan straightens out and pulls off course, essentially ending the tandem battle. Any time a lead driver earns a zero, the chase driver is not required to finish the course, but Tuerck slows slightly to get around Mohan and finishes the course with plenty of tire smoke to give the fans a full show. All three judges easily vote for Tuerck to move on.
Charles Ng vs. Alec Hohnadell
NG LEAD – Ng with a good line and angle through the big sweeper; Hohnadell with a good chase right behind him. Hohnadell has shallow angle between the exit of the sweeper, while Ng is a bit smoother in that section of the course but has a lot of throttle adjustments between inside clip two and outside zone three. Hohnadell has a few small corrections behind Ng, but this might be blamed on Ng making the first mistakes and Hohnadell trying to adjust accordingly.
HOHNADELL LEAD – Hohnadell with a much better run through the sweeper, Ng has shallow steering angle through the sweeper but loses proximity through the middle portion of the course. Hohnadell has a good line through inside clip two and fills outside zone three nicely, while Ng loses a bit of proximity through the final portion of the course. This was a much smoother run; all three judges vote for Hohnadell to move into the Top 16.
Tyler McQuarrie vs. Dean Kearney
MCQUARRIE LEAD – McQuarrie is undefeated in three previous matchups with Kearney, so this is surely going to be one of the loudest battles of the Top 32. Big angle from McQuarrie on initiation, Kearney doesn’t look phased and has very tight proximity through the first sweeper, but takes out the inside clip at the exit of the sweeper. McQuarrie extends a lead through the exit of the sweeper with tons of angle; Kearney has a major steering correction just before inside clip two and drops at least a tire. McQuarrie is wide on outside zone three, then Kearney comes in hot and collides with McQuarrie midway through zone three. Both cars appear to be incapacitated – this might take some time to clean up. Kearney is deemed to be at fault for the collision, which means McQuarrie will have "adequate time" to fix his Chevy Camaro.
KEARNEY LEAD – Kearney gets his car back together nicely after using his competition timeout, while McQuarrie has to use the ten minutes allotted to him due to being run into, as well as his competition timeout. Had McQuarrie not gotten his car back together, he would have been awarded the round win but would NOT have been allowed to compete in the Top 16. McQuarrie isn’t one to take the easy road and his team wants to make sure he could battle in future rounds. Both cars make it to the line. Kearney has a good clean lead run; McQuarrie is around three to four car lengths back of Kearney through the course. No major mistakes from either driver, but it’s unlikely that Kearney can earn the win without McQuarrie earning a zero. One judge votes for a OMT, but the other two vote for McQuarrie.
“Mad” Mike Whiddett vs. Cameron Moore
WHIDDETT LEAD – Whiddett’s car is much snappier to get to angle, while Moore’s car is very slow to get sideways. Whiddett has a steering correction midway through the sweeper, but pulls a huge four-car gap exiting the sweeper and keeps the gap large through the second half of the course. Moore has a similar correction behind Whiddett, but the loss of proximity through the rest of the course will likely be a major deduction. Whiddett’s car has much more horsepower and grip than Moore while being much lighter, which explains some of the gap between the cars. This would be a tough advantage for Moore to overcome in his lead run, but crazier things have happened.
MOORE LEAD – Moore’s car looks nice and settled, with smooth steering angle through the sweeper and looking very settled. Whiddett loses some ground between the sweeper and inside clip two, and is never really able to make up proximity on Moore. Moore has big angle at inside clip two, which allows Whiddett to close proximity briefly, but Moore extends the lead through the outside zone in front of the judges and the final turn. There is noticeably more tire smoke from Whiddett’s Nitto tires over the course of both runs, which may not have an influence on the judges but definitely factors into the unofficial fan vote. One judge votes for Whiddett, the other two judges vote for a OMT. We will go “One More Time”!
ONE MORE TIME
WHIDDETT LEAD – Whiddett is a bit wide through the sweeper, but pulls it together and gets close enough to inside clip one to be considered on the desired line. Moore has better proximity this time around, but loses a car length or two in proximity around the second half of the course. Whiddett’s car is so loud that you can clearly hear every fluctuation in the throttle, although there’s very little fluctuation due to Whiddett’s “all-out” style.
MOORE LEAD – Moore again has a very good line through the sweeper, but Whiddett is close behind him. Moore dumps a ton of angle after transitioning out of the sweeper, then takes out inner clip two with the outside of his fender, looking way off line. Whiddett has a bit of a conservative chase, but knowing how awkward Moore’s line has been through the course, perhaps this is planned. Moore gets through outside zone three smoothly and finishes the course well, but Whiddett has much fewer mistakes. All three judges side with Whiddett to earn the win.
Fredric Aasbo vs. Faruk Kugay
AASBO LEAD – Aasbo has a good initiation and a clean run through the sweeper, although a bit off the inside clip while exiting the sweeper. Aasbo has good angle through the course, but a little shallow through outside zone three. Kugay is around three cars back from Aasbo, possibly losing another car length behind Aasbo on the second half of the course. This will likely be a slight advantage to Aasbo due mostly to proximity.
KUGAY LEAD – Faruk with a big feint initiation, Aasbo is shallow on steering angle through most of the sweeper but closing the gap towards the end. Kugay starts to pull away through the switchback; Aasbo gets in tight near inside clip two and taps Kugay with his front bumper. Aasbo loses his front bumper, but Kugay looks unphased and continues through the course. Looking at the replay, it looks like Kugay is much slower through that section than he should have been, which explains why Aasbo is able to close the gap so quickly. All three judges vote for Aasbo to move on.
Geoff Stoneback vs. Alex Heilbrunn
STONEBACK LEAD – Stoneback has a great run through the sweeper with plenty of tire smoke. Heilbrunn is around two car lengths behind Stoneback through most of the sweeper; Heilbrunn transitions through the switchback and has a fairly major steering correction before inside clip two, taking out that inside clip. Stoneback has a clean run and is deep into outside zone three, then finishes the course cleanly. Heilbrunn’s tire smoke from his Nitto NT05s is really something to see – it’s noticeably more than almost any other driver on grid.
HEILBRUNN LEAD – Heilbrunn’s BMW is very quick to angle into the first turn; Stoneback has good proximity behind him. Heilbrunn takes out inside clip two and can’t get as deep into outside zone three as the judges would like to see, but Stoneback isn’t as deep either. Heilbrunn has around a two-car length lead ahead of Stoneback fairly consistently through the course; no major mistakes from either driver. Stoneback gets the unanimous vote from all three judges, moving into the Top 16.
Chris Forsberg vs. Pat Mordaunt
FORSBERG LEAD – Mordaunt is aggressively on Forsberg’s door through the sweeper, but Forsberg opens up a solid three-car gap after the transition. Forsberg takes out the inside clip at the exit of the sweeper, then takes out the final inside clip near the exit of the final turn, but otherwise has a good run. Mordaunt loses several cars of proximity for the second half of the course and may have dropped a tire on the transition exiting the sweeper. This will likely give Forsberg an advantage, but probably not a big one.
MORDAUNT LEAD – Mordaunt with good angle, Forsberg around a car and a half behind Mordaunt but looking much more controlled. Mordaunt has his wheels in the right spot around all the clipping points and zones, but Forsberg keeps a very consistent proximity to Mordaunt through the entire course and mimics Mordaunt’s line and angle almost perfectly. All three judges give Forsberg the win.
Justin Pawlak vs. Pat Goodin
PAWLAK LEAD – Pawlak is always big on initiations, and this track suits his driving style well. Goodin has good proximity through the sweeper, but Pawlak opens up a slight gap just before inside clip two. Pawlak has a big snappy transition between inside clip two and outside zone three, but is shallow on outside zone three. Goodin has a smooth run through inside clip two and outside zone three, but takes out the final inside clip – lots of mistakes from both drivers.
GOODIN LEAD – Goodin has big steering angle through the sweeper; Pawlak tucks in nicely right behind him through the sweeper. Goodin extends a lead after the transition exiting the sweeper, but takes out inside clip two. Pawlak is shallow through outside zone three in front of the judges, but it looks like Goodin had more corrections. One judge votes for Pawlak, one judge votes for Goodin and one votes for OMT. The drivers will change tires and go at it again!
ONE MORE TIME
PAWLAK LEAD – Smooth initiation from Pawlak, Goodin is only a car length or two behind him. Both drivers have a good line through the sweeper. Pawlak has much more angle through the switchback and a great line into inside clip two; Goodin punts inside clip two after having much shallower angle on the switchback. Pawlak stays deep through outside zone three, and Goodin has much less steering angle, likely an advantage for Pawlak.
GOODIN LEAD – Goodin has an equally good initiation and line through the sweeper, and Pawlak is much wider and way off the inner clip at the exit of the sweeper. Goodin has much better angle this time around through the switchback, but Pawlak is around two car lengths back but with good steering angle. Goodin sweeps nicely through outside zone three; Pawlak isn’t as wide this time around. Judges vote for another OMT, though we think this could have easily gone to Pawlak.
ONE MORE TIME x2
PAWLAK LEAD – Pawlak has another lead run like his previous one which looks to hit all the clips very smoothly, while Goodin is straight through most of the switchback and possibly a zero.
GOODIN LEAD – Goodin takes out the inside clip at the exit of the sweeper, then takes out inside clip two in front of the judges. Pawlak isn’t overly aggressive or close on Goodin, but doesn’t make many mistakes. Then again, most of the clipping points are gone by the time he gets to them since Goodin keeps hitting them. Pawlak is deemed the winner, and we can finally take our halftime break!
FORD TOP 16
Prior to Top 16 tandem battles, we get an amazing rendition of the National Anthem. During driver introductions, Vaughn Gittin Jr. is given a $250 check from Black Magic and a $250 gift card to AutoZone for being the top qualifier. After driver introductions, we see the normal burnouts and donuts that preclude the Top 16; the drivers then clear the track and grid up for the tandem battles.
Gittin Jr. vs. Field
GITTIN LEAD – Gittin Jr. goes hard into the first corner, with Field hot on his tail. Both drivers stay within a car length of each other through the entire sweeper; Gittin Jr. briefly opens up a small gap on the switchback, but Field closes the gap again by inside clip two. Gittin Jr. fills outside zone three well, and Field keeps the proximity close around the final turn. On replay, it looks like Field has slightly more shallow angle in the first sweeper, but otherwise a good chase from Field.
FIELD LEAD – Field has a good initiation; Gittin Jr. is equally as tight to him as Field was on the previous run. Field starts to open up a gap towards the end of the sweeper, with Gittin Jr. struggling to keep up with him. Field stays on a good line through inside clip two and through outside zone three; Gittin Jr. over-rotates behind Field and spins out as he nears outside zone three! It looks like Gittin Jr. was trying too hard to catch up to Field and made a fatal mistake in the same area he totaled his Mustang last season. All three judges vote for Field; this could be tragic for Gittin Jr.’s championship hopes pending the results of the other contenders in this round.
Yoshihara vs. Wang
YOSHIHARA LEAD – Yoshihara has a shaky entry but is sideways in the entry zone. Wang isnt’t too close to Yoshihara through the sweeper, but closes the gap through the second half of the course. No noticeable corrections from Yoshihara, although the run isn’t overly exciting. Wang has a small correction near inside clip two, but the close proximity near the end of the track will help him.
WANG LEAD – As both cars pull to the line, there seems to be an excessive amount of smoke from Yoshihara’s car. Upon closer look, there’s actually a fire under the hood. Formula Drift’s safety crew extinguishes the fire, and we have a brief pause to sort out the situation. Yoshihara is charged with his competition timeout but is cleared to continue competition. Wang enters smoothly into the sweeper; Yoshihara is around two car lengths back but loses ground through the switchback. Yoshihara transitions a bit too early and ends up driving through the infield on the wrong side of inside clip two, then gets back on course just before outside zone three. Yoshihara clearly has four wheels off course, so that will likely be a zero for Yoshihara. All three judges vote for Wang.
Gushi vs. Bluss
GUSHI LEAD – Gushi’s team had to replace the 2JZ engine in his FR-S between the Top 32 and Top 16; we found out via an interview that Gushi made his Top 32 run on only five cylinders knowing the engine was about to expire. The car is fixed now and ready for tandem battle! Bluss is very tight on Gushi through the sweeper, then leaves just enough room for Gushi to transition and dives in tight on him near inside clip two. Bluss gets too aggressive through outside zone three and has to back off, but shows a lot of pressure on Gushi.
BLUSS LEAD – Gushi takes a slightly inside line on the big sweeper to try and stay close to Bluss, keeping around a single-car gap between the cars through the sweeper. Bluss is a little wide around inside clip two, while Gushi hugs the clip perfectly and tucks in nicely behind Bluss through outside zone two and the final turn of the course. There are a few small corrections from each driver on each run, but overall, it wouldn’t be surprising to see this go to a OMT. All three judges agree: "We’re going 'One More Time'!"
ONE MORE TIME
GUSHI LEAD – Gushi with a great initiation again, Bluss again takes a slightly inside line but stays very close to Gushi through the sweeper. Gushi opens up a slight lead through the switchback; Bluss has shallow angle after his switchback transition, but Gushi takes out inside clip two. Gushi looks good through the outside zone, then pulls a bit of a gap on Bluss around the final turn. Tough to call an advantage after this run as Bluss has some moments of great proximity but doesn’t do well on the second half of the course.
BLUSS LEAD – Bluss opens up around a two-car gap through the sweeper, then extends it to almost four cars through the switchback and into inside clip two. Gushi closes the gap a bit near outside zone three, then uses a shallower line to stay close around the final corner. Bluss is definitely faster, but Gushi has much better steering angle through the entirety of the course and doesn’t try to use shallow angle to catch up like Bluss did. One judge votes for a OMT, the other two side with Bluss. Bluss will move into the Top 8!
Bakchis vs. Essa
BAKCHIS LEAD – Essa takes an inside line around the sweeper and collides with Bakchis shortly after initiation. At first glance, it looks like Essa is at fault, although replay shows that Bakchis was hard on the brakes shortly after initiation. It will be interesting to see how fault is decided as both drivers appear to have made mistakes on that entry. Both drivers look their cars over and determine if there’s any damage. Essa is determined to be at fault and is given 10 minutes to repair the car. Essa calls his competition timeout to repair his car.
ESSA LEAD – Essa has a good line through the sweeper and extends the gap to around three car lengths through the switchback and inside clip two. Bakchis has a clean run; no major mistakes other than being several car lengths behind Essa. Essa is off the clipping points, but in absence of Bakchis spinning or otherwise scoring a zero, he will likely earn the win. All three judges agree; Bakchis gets the win.
Tuerck vs. Hohnadell
TUERCK LEAD – Tuerck is quick to get his car to angle; Hohnadell enters a bit late to stay tight on Tuerck, keeping good proximity through the sweeper. Hohnadell surges forward a handful of times through the course to stay close to Tuerck. Hohnadell takes out inner clip two, but only because he’s sucked in so tightly to Tuerck. Hohnadell stays very tight through outside zone three, slowing a few times to give Tuerck room, but the aggressive chase is likely to be rewarded with an advantage.
Hohnadell’s team calls a competition timeout as the cars cross the finish line.
HOHNADELL LEAD – Hohnadell drops a tire on initiation, but gets back on course and looks good through the sweeper. Tuerck exits the sweeper and drops a tire at the outside zone before the switchback. Hohnadell has a good transition and continues through inside clip two and outside zone three smoothly, Tuerck straightened out after dropping his tire and cruised around the final two turns out of drift, which will likely end his day. Hohnadell gets the win and will make his way to the Great 8.
McQuarrie vs. Whiddett
MCQUARRIE LEAD – McQuarrie is on an outside line through the sweeper, Whiddett is on a better line but doesn’t close the gap very well. Despite having an obscure line, McQuarrie looks smooth through the switchback and lines himself up nicely for inside clip two but takes the clipping point out. Whiddett is on the wrong line heading towards outside zone three and loses a lot of angle, possibly losing drift. Both drivers with small mistakes, but could easily see an advantage for McQuarrie.
WHIDDETT LEAD – McQuarrie is tight on Whiddett at the beginning of the sweeper, but loses some ground by the end of the sweeper. McQuarrie has shallow steering angle just before inside clip two, but flows nicely into outside zone three and stays fairly close around the final turn. Whiddett’s car has a blue flame hanging out of his wastegate for the final turn of the track, which looks amazing in the dusk conditions. One judge votes for Whiddett, while the other two want to see a OMT.
ONE MORE TIME
MCQUARRIE LEAD – McQuarrie has a good initiation; Whiddett is around two car lengths back through the sweeper. McQuarrie’s car seems to be emitting much more smoke on this run than previous runs. Whiddett has shallow steering angle through the switchback and into inside clip two but gains close proximity. McQuarrie doesn’t get out to outside clip three; Whiddett stays in tight on McQuarrie’s door and stays close around the final corner. McQuarrie may have been tapped by Whiddett midway through outside zone three but stays on throttle and finishes the run cleanly. McQuarrie is at fault for the contact due to shallow steering angle when the contact occurred.
WHIDDETT LEAD – Whiddett keeps around a two car gap through the sweeper, then opens it up to around four cars across the switchback. McQuarrie loses a lot of ground and appears to hit his back bumper on something which sends pieces of his bumper onto the grass. Whiddett again fills the outside zone in front of the judges nicely, while McQuarrie is very shallow and way behind. All three judges vote for Whiddett to move on; his car looks much more controlled this round than any previous round.
Aasbo vs. Stoneback
AASBO LEAD – Stoneback is insanely aggressive on Aasbo through the sweeper; Aasbo pulls a bit of a gap on Stoneback across the switchback but closes the gap again near inside clip two. Replay shows that Stoneback narrowly takes out inside clip one in the sweeper, also narrowly tapping inside clip two, but overall this is an amazing chase run from Stoneback! Aasbo has great angle and smoke through outside zone three, but Stoneback never drops more than two car lengths back. This seems to be a clear advantage to Stoneback – definitely the best chase run in tandem so far tonight!
STONEBACK LEAD – Stoneback with a feint entry, Aasbo is aggressive on Stoneback with almost a mirror image of Stoneback’s chase. Aasbo stays hot on Stoneback through the switchback and both drives hug inside clip two almost perfectly! If this run doesn’t go down as an ideal lead and chase for both drivers, then a pair of "perfect" runs simply doesn’t exist. Both runs are flawless from both drivers, especially given the changing conditions of the track. One judge votes for Aasbo, the other two judges thankfully vote for a “One More Time.” This feels like the first run, which truly deserved a OMT.
ONE MORE TIME
AASBO LEAD – Stoneback again stays close through Aasbo around the entire track – this is a great battle! Aasbo opens up around one car of proximity exiting the sweeper; Stoneback sucks in pretty tightly across the switchback, then Aasbo opens up another slight gap around the final turn. Otherwise, both drivers look to be mirroring each other nicely around the track. This is a great chase run from Stoneback; it feels like this battle is his to lose.
STONEBACK LEAD – Aasbo again is very tight to Stoneback through the sweeper. Stoneback opens up another slight gap on the switchback, but Aasbo sucks in tight before inside clip two and stays tight through outside zone three. Aasbo definitely seems to be closer to Stoneback in his chase; it would be a shame for Stoneback to lose this battle due to a difference of inches between both cars. All three judges vote for Aasbo. This is definitely the battle of the night and one that Stoneback can hang his hat on as being one of his best performances to date.
Forsberg vs. Pawlak
FORSBERG LEAD – Forsberg has a great line through the sweeper, and Pawlak has a bit more shallow steering angle through the sweeper. Forsberg has a good line through the switchback; Pawlak is off the clipping point at inside clip two, then goes shallow through outside zone three. Forsberg opens up a big gap around the final turn, finishing around five car lengths ahead of Pawlak. This is likely a big advantage for Forsberg.
PAWLAK LEAD – Pawlak opens up a two-car gap through the sweeper, Forsberg with slightly shallower angle through the sweeper. Forsberg transitions a bit early in the switchback, and Pawlak has a great line and finishes the last two corners quite nicely. Forsberg appears to have gotten lost in the smoke and has to make a major steering correction near inside clip two and then is shallow on outside zone three. This is almost identical to the mistakes that Pawlak made in his lead. This seems to be going for a “One More Time” for all the wrong reasons as both drivers had fairly major mistakes in chase. All three judges vote for OMT.
ONE MORE TIME
FORSBERG LEAD – Forsberg initiates into the first turn, Pawlak drives to the first turn but doesn’t initiate. Forsberg runs the entire course cleanly with a good line and plenty of angle, but Pawlak’s car is noticeably having mechanical issues and sounds like it is misfiring. Forsberg will have a huge advantage going into the second run, and Pawlak drives to the grid to investigate the issues coming from his Ford Mustang. Pawlak has to call his competition timeout to evaluate the car; turns out there were fuel starvation issues.
PAWLAK LEAD – Pawlak returns to the line and looks ready to battle. Pawlak has a good initiation into the sweeper, and Forsberg sits around three car lengths behind Pawlak and slowly closes the gap through the sweeper. Pawlak opens the gap again briefly, and Forsberg has a slight steering correction near inside clip two; Pawlak opens up a much larger gap around the final turn. If Pawlak had made a full pull in the first run, it may have gone OMT again, but with the complete zero from Pawlak, it seems like Forsberg will be moving on. All three judges vote for Forsberg, unsurprisingly.
NITTO GREAT 8
Wang vs. Field
WANG LEAD – Both of these drivers drive aggressively, so this should be a good matchup. Wang has a solid initiation and line through the sweeper, Field has slightly less angle but keeps close proximity. Wang has a good transition across the switchback, and Field stays consistently around one car length back. Considering how some drivers have gotten lost in the smoke, Field is doing a good job staying close enough to avoid falling victim to low visibility. Both drivers finish the run smoothly. Field definitely has a few small steering corrections, but strong proximity overall.
FIELD LEAD – Field has much better steering angle on his lead and opens up a much larger gap on Wang through the sweeper. Wang loses proximity through the switchback, but Field pours big steering angle on near outside zone three, allowing Wang to get tight through the final corner. All three judges vote for Field; his proximity definitely looked more consistent than Wang's.
Bakchis vs. Bluss
BAKCHIS LEAD – Bluss continues his aggressive chase and sucks in tight to Bakchis through the sweeper; Bakchis takes out inside clip one but Bakchis stays consistently around one car length back of Bakchis. Bluss doesn’t push out to outside zone three as much as the judges would like to see, but Bakchis also took out inside clip two and had a steering correction shortly before inside clip two that might be counted as deductions.
BLUSS LEAD – Bluss has a good lead run, Bluss again opens up a bit of a gap through the switchback and fills outside zone three better than in his lead run. Bakchis has a good chase run, but definitely lacks proximity in a few different areas of the track. One judge votes for Bluss, the other two vote for a OMT. We’ll see these guys battle again!
ONE MORE TIME
BAKCHIS LEAD – Bakchis's Genesis seems slower to get to angle on initiation, but Bluss is prepared for it and is hot on his door shortly after initiation! Both drivers have a great line through the sweeper; Bakchis has more angle through the switchback, but Bluss's proximity is impressive. Bakchis takes out inner clip two, and Bluss is a bit shallow on steering angle through outside zone three. Both drivers have small mistakes through the run and neither really appear to have a clear advantage after the first run.
BLUSS LEAD – Bluss takes the proper inside line, while Bakchis is a bit wider on his line and loses proximity through the sweeper that he never makes up. Bluss extends his lead slowly and steadily across the entire course, starting around three car lengths ahead of Bakchis and ending around five car lengths ahead. Bluss also fills outside zone three immediately in front of the judges better than Bakchis did, which is a high impact zone. All three judges vote for Bluss.
Hohnadell vs. Whiddett
HOHNADELL LEAD – During one of the breaks between tandem battles, Whiddett reveals that his intake manifold has ruptured, and he won’t be able to compete. Hohnadell gets a bye run into the Final Four and lays down a clean exhibition run for the fans.
Aasbo vs. Forsberg
AASBO LEAD – Forsberg definitely takes an inside line into the first sweeper, but maintains a consistent one car lead around the sweeper and through the switchback. Aasbo opens up another car length gap through inside clip two, Forsberg closes the gap again around the final turn. Both drivers have a clean run, no clipping points were hit, and no major steering corrections from either driver. This is what you would expect from the last two Formula Drift champions!
FORSBERG LEAD – Forsberg has a much better line through the sweeper this time, Aasbo is left-foot braking through the entire sweeper to keep the proximity close. Forsberg extends the lead slightly across the switchback, Aasbo is wide from inside clip two which puts him off line through outside zone three. Forsberg had a much smoother line and was closer to the qualifying line on both of his runs than Aasbo. One judge votes for Forsberg, another votes for Aasbo and a third votes OMT. We’re going to see this matchup again!
ONE MORE TIME
AASBO LEAD – Both drivers initiate around a car length away from each other. Forsberg takes out the clip at the exit of the sweeper and loses some proximity around inside clip two, very shallow on his line near outside clip three. Aasbo definitely has a much better line around the second half of the course. Aasbo has as much as a four-car length lead against Forsberg, but finishes only two car lengths ahead of Forsberg. This is likely an advantage for Aasbo.
FORSBERG LEAD – Forsberg takes the outside line this time on his lead and again takes out the inside clip at the exit of the sweeper, while Aasbo is only a car length away through most of the sweeper. Aasbo appears to be much wider through the switchback, then starts transitioning too early before inside clip two and has to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting Forsberg. Forsberg takes out inside clip two, but transitions smoothly towards outside zone three and maintains drift through the rest of the course. Aasbo definitely loses drift behind Forsberg as shown in the replay, so this will be a zero run for Aasbo. Forsberg earns all three votes and is guaranteed a podium finish by having the highest remaining qualifying position in the bracket.
BLACKVUE FINAL 4
Field vs. Bluss
FIELD LEAD – Field has a good entry and run through the sweeper. Bluss starts sliding from the inside line out towards the outside and is way off the inside clip by the end of the sweeper. Bluss ends up on the grass through the switchback and ends up landscaping the entire area between the exit of the sweeper and inside clip two. Bluss rejoins near outside zone three, but it’s too little too late. Field’s run is very smooth, and he will carry a large advantage into the second run.
BLUSS LEAD – Bluss opens up a big gap entering the first turn, around three car lengths through the sweeper. Field starts to close the gap towards the end of the sweeper. Bluss briefly opens it back up to around four car lengths, then Field sucks back into around three car lengths through outside zone three. While this isn’t the most exciting chase run from Field, he definitely does enough to warrant a score and avoid being docked for "inactive chase." All three judges vote for Field to move into the Finals! This will be Field’s second Final round battle, his previous Final round appearance taking place at this same track in 2013.
Hohnadell vs. Forsberg
FORSBERG LEAD – Forsberg has a smooth initiation. Hohnadell has very shallow angle heading to inside clip two; Forsberg punts inside clip two, which doesn’t allow us to see how far off Hohnadell is from that position. Forsberg gets back on the correct line through outside zone three and finishes the course smoothly – likely an advantage for Forsberg.
HOHNADELL LEAD – Pulling to the line, Hohnadell catches fire. He’s had electrical gremlins for most of the day; hopefully this isn’t catastrophic. Both of these drivers qualified ahead of Bluss and thus will still be on the podium with a loss. Hohnadell leaves the line and his car looks to have full power. Both drivers initiate into the first turn. Forsberg opens up around a three car lead through the sweeper. Exiting the sweeper, Forsberg has a good line; Hohnadell appears to be closing the gap to Forsberg but slides off course in almost the same location that Yoshihara slid off course earlier. Forsberg finishes the course cleanly and will move into the Finals against Field. Hohnadell will still take the final podium position as a consolation.
Forsberg vs. Field
Forsberg will extend his lead in the championship with this appearance, but is still looking for his first event win since Long Beach 2014. Field on the other hand is looking for his first career win; his only previous podium occurred at this same track as well. Field tackled Foust, Gittin Jr., Wang, then Bluss. Forsberg took out Mordaunt, Pawlak, Aasbo and Hohnadell. In five previous battles between these two drivers, Forsberg has won every matchup. This should be a great battle!
FORSBERG LEAD – Field doesn’t give Forsberg any room on the first turn, staying only a short car length away from Forsberg through the entire sweeper. Forsberg avoids hitting the inside clip at the exit of the sweeper that he’s taken out many times before, which is a plus in his court. Field has a small steering correction through the switchback, but keeps good proximity to Forsberg. Both drivers slide through inside clip two and through outside zone three cleanly, with just a short car length between both drivers. Perhaps a slight disadvantage to Field due to the steering correction through the switchback, but overall a great battle from both drivers and nothing that Field can’t overcome with a solid lead run.
FIELD LEAD – Field initiates into the first turn. Forsberg initiates shortly behind him and closes the gap way too aggressively, hitting Field before spinning out. Field pulls away from Forsberg and continues drift through the sweeper. Forsberg drives off course, while Field finishes the course cleanly. This looks to be a clear win for Field. Looking at the replay, Field is definitely off throttle for awhile, but that might be part of his initiation. This will definitely come down to determining fault.
A winner has been determined, and both drivers are brought in front of the crowd. Hohnadell is announced as the third place winner. Field and Forsberg are chatting about the hit prior to the announcement, but both drivers are all smiles awaiting the winner. Field is announced as the winner and becomes the 24th unique driver to win a Formula Drift event. Forsberg earns a record 34th podium; no other driver has more than 23! Forsberg extends his lead in the championship despite not winning a single event this season, but he’s earned a podium at the last six events, which has resulted in his substantial lead in the championship.
(Photos: Andrew Jennings)