Play by Play: Formula Drift Rd 1 Long Beach
Formula Drift kicked off the 2014 season as they do every year - by filling the streets of Downtown Long Beach with clouds of tire smoke. The track this year is unchanged, but the rules have. With a majority of the field making 700 horsepower or more, the competition is tougher than ever. As we mentioned in our qualifying results coverage, 51 drivers from all over the world fought for 32 spots to compete. On Saturday, the 32 qualifiers went head-to-head narrowing the field down to 16 drivers fighting for a spot on the podium. This is how it all went down.
Ford Top 16
Mike Essa Vs. Mats Baribeau
Essa Lead: The reigning Formula D champion came out of the blocks quickly in 2014, hitting all his marks as lead car. Baribeau, the 2013 Rookie of the Year, made no glaring mistakes but was a step slow. Baribeau Lead: Baribeau takes it wide with a nice angle. Essa keeps it close, has a slight bobble but advances on the strength of his lead run.
Forrest Wang Vs. Dennis Mertzanis
Wang Lead: Wang drops some big angle in the first turn and is fluid throughout his lead run. Mertzanis Lead: Wang is close all the way, and Martzanis looses his drift at the critical transition into the final hairpin turn. Wang moves on.
Kenneth Moen Vs. Kyle Mohan
Moen Lead: Moen gets away early and pulls some intense angles in the early stages but Mohan closes at the hairpin. Advantage Moen. Mohan Lead: The rear of Mohan’s RX-8 has been decimated by a Round of 32 crash and looks like a sandrail, with tubing and a fuel cell out back. The car is fully functional and Mohan nails the start and has a nice first turn. But like many racers on the day, the drastic transition into the hairpin gets the better of him. Moen moves on to the Great 8.
Fredric Aasbo Vs. Conrad Grunewald
Aasbo Lead: Both cars initiate at the same time but Grunewald has too much steam and the two slam door-to-door. Run is DNF. Grunewald Lead: The second half of this skirmish went down after the rest of the Top 16 battles were settled so Aasbo could fix his car. He ran a conservative lap as Grunewald was behind the eight ball for causing the contact.
Vaughn Gittin Jr. Vs. Darren McNamara
Gittin Lead: Gittin brings his A-Game with big angle and good separation early. McNamara closes in the mid-section of the run and sweats Gittin through the hairpin. McNamara Lead: McNamara is stone cold consistent but Gittin uncharacteristically bobbles and looses the drift in the middle of the run and McNamara moves on.
Chris Forsberg Vs. Pat Goodin
Forsberg Lead: Chris "The Force" Forsberg was on a mission in Long Beach. He initiated hard, kicked it out big on the first turn, and pumped the smoke throughout his lead run. Goodin Lead: Goodin carried good speed into the initiation zone but Forsberg left no question as his dry carbon V8-powered 370Z looked like it was physically attached to Goodin’s 240SX. Forsberg wins 3-0.
Tyler McQuarrie Vs. Odi Bakchis
McQuarrie Lead: McQuarrie does not take the first turn as wide as some of the other competitors, but Bakchis was not doing well enough himself to capitalize. McQuarrie checks up at the hairpin, which is proving a tough customer today. Bakchis Lead: Bakchis pulls away from McQuarrie on in initial drift and maintains through the first turn. McQuarrie straightens at the hairpin, sealing his fate.
Justin Pawlak Vs. Ryan Tuerck
Pawlak Lead: Pawlak told everybody at the driver’s meeting that he intended to feint on drift initiation by pivoting to the left quickly to set the car on a right turn drift. But the maneuver still seemed to throw Tuerck, who didn’t go wide in the first turn. JTP was solid. Tuerck Lead: Tuerck attained a better angle in the first clipping zone as lead car but he was far away from the wall which meant his line was too conservative. JTP was shadowing Tuerck all the way and advanced to the Great 8.
Nitto Tire Great 8
Mike Essa Vs. Forrest Wang
Essa Lead: Essa hung it out big time on initiation and carried the drift all the way into the first turn. Wang lost his drift in the first clipping zone transition area and brushed the wall. Advantage Essa. Wang Lead: Wang’s Supra 2JZ-powered 240SX blasted though the first clipping point and Wang made a very good run, but Essa was up to the task and kept his BMW up-close-and-personal with the Nissan. Entertaining battle… Essa FTW.
Kenneth Moen Vs. Fredric Aasbo
Moen Lead: This all-Norway battle was a good one as both cars initiated in unison. Moen took a wide angle while Aasbo was shallow early in the run and fell behind his fellow Norwegian. Aasbo Lead: Aasbo made a worthy run but was matched stride-for-stride by Moen who eerily tucked in Aasbo’s smoke like a ghost ship, disappearing from sight for most of the run. In the end Moen moved on 3-0.
Chris Forsberg Vs. Darren McNamara
Forsberg Lead: Forsberg laid it down from the get-go, dropping a hard angle and big speed on McNamara, who lacked good angle in the final stages of the run. McNamara Lead: McNamara did not initiate as deep as Forsberg, who was like a shadow McNamara could never shake. 3-0 Forsberg.
Justin Pawlak Vs. Odi Bakchis
Pawlak Lead: Pawlak hit all his marks with surgical precision and as exact as JTP was was how out of control Bakchis seemed. Bakchis was late to initiate early in the run, shallow, and out of shape the rest of the time. Advantage JTP. Bakchis Lead: Bakchis got away a little bit early but JTP had this one in the bag and only needed to keep it close to advance, as he did decisively.
Mike Essa Vs. Kenneth Moen
Essa Lead: Essa was killing it, running a great line and working a mean angle. All this made the fact that Moen was slipstreaming Essa’s smoke trail and rotating with him at every transition all the more impressive. Close battle so far. Moen Lead: Moen initiated first and was seriously throwin’ it out, his sweeping tail scraping the wall ever so slightly. Essa fell three or four lengths off the pace. Moen moved to the finals 3-0.
Justin Pawlak Vs. Chris Forsberg
Pawlak Lead: Pawlak used every inch of the course, taking an aggressive line and harsh angles through the early stages of the run. Forsberg was in sync with JTP early on before disappearing in the billowing smoke. He emerged at the end and gained some points on the hairpin. Forsberg Lead: After calling a Competition Timeout to fix a loose battery terminal, Forsberg impressed in the first two clipping zones as he was both very sideways and very fast. JTP was right there but Forsberg ‘s style seemed to carry the day as he won 2-OMT.
3rd Place, Mike Essa.
Kenneth Moen Vs. Chris Forsberg
Moen Lead: Perhaps concerned by his tail-scrapping incident in the previous round, Moen came in a bit shallow, running a conservative line in the first turn. When Moen made a mid-turn correction in the second turn Forsberg pounced and two looked like mirror images of one another. Forsberg once again nailed the hairpin. Forsberg Lead: Forsberg was a bit shallow at initial drift, which allowed Moen to stay in touch but the Norwegian couldn’t close the gap enough to make up for his first run deficit. Your Long Beach winner, Chris Forsberg. Check out the gallery below for more pictures from Long Beach. The Formula Drift Championship makes its next stop in Georgia on May 10th. We'll be continuing with a Top 16 Play by Play of each round this year, be sure to bookmark DrivingLine.com for more Formula Drift coverage. Words: Evan Griffey & Andrew Modena | Photos: Alex Wong & Andrew Modena