Formula Drift headed south to Road Atlanta for Round 2 of the 2014 Formula Drift Championship. After Friday's rain soaked qualifying, the sky was clear for Saturday's main event. With 2013 Champion and current points leader, Michael Essa being eliminated in Top 32 competition, the podium was up for grabs. See how it all went down.
Ford Round of 16
Wang Vs Saito
Saito Lead: Road Hotlanta’s Round of 16 started off with an epic upset as number 32 qualifier Daigo Saito out-powered number one qualifier Forrest Wang. Saito pulled away from Wang on initial drift and maintained a good advantage when leading.
Wang Lead: As the chaser, Saito dogged Wang into the near circular Keyhole turn, sealing the victory.
Grunewald Vs Aasbo
Grunewald Lead: Grunewald had huge rotation on his almost backwards entry but Aasbo was right there and maintained decent contact throughout the run.
Aasbo Lead: Aasbo, who was 2-0 versus Grunewald going into the heat, pumped out big smoke and pulled out to a decent gap. He stayed aggressive to the end of the course where Grunewald lost a little of his edge in the final turn. It was a One More Time (OMT) and two votes for Aasbo for the now 3-0 Aasbo.
Mordaunt Vs Bakchis
Mordaunt Lead: Mordaunt was a touch too hot in initial drift and dropped a tire off the surface then was slow to rotate elsewhere during his lead run. Bakchis was on him like the car’s door handles were welded together, leaving no question who had the advantage going into the second run.
Bakchis Lead: Bakchis was on top of his game pulling Mordaunt early and keeping the gap to the end of his lead run.
Forsberg Vs Ng
Forsberg Lead: This all-Nissan 370Z versus G37 battle was a barn-burner. Forsberg led and pulled some gap going into the Keyhole turn, dropping some big angle. Ng was out-rotated early but seemed to make up ground in the later stages.
Ng Lead: The Infiniti was strong from the Keyhole turn to the end of the course where he seemed to get a little distance. It was a surprising 3-0 win for Forsberg, in a heat that felt closer than most.
Nishida Vs McNamara
McNamara Lead: In another nail-biter McNamara went hard at initiation but Nishida’s S14 was as even as could be.
Nishida Lead: This one looked to be tied going into Nishida’s lead. Nishida jumped out at a big angle and opened a gap at initial drift. D-Mac closed the gap after the Keyhole turn but Nishida’s early success gave him an OMT-2 win.
Gushi Vs Kearney
Gushi Lead: Gushi got a great start in his 2JZ Supra-powered Scion FR-S but Kearney with his big V10 Viper tracked him like a bloodhound, the two nearly tapping coming out of Keyhole.
Kearney Lead: After two mis-starts from Gushi, the two cars accelerated into battle with Kearney leading. He manage some daylight at initial drift and at the same spot the two nearly touched on the first run, Gushi closed the gap to mere inches. At the end of the run Gushi was exhibiting big angle when Kearney comes out of drift, sending Gushi off the track, where he mildly tail-slapped the wall. Gushi advances OMT-2.
Gittin Jr. Vs Pawlak
Gittin Lead: The highly anticipated battle of the Mustangs was heated. Pawlak enjoyed a 4-2 record over Gittin Jr. coming into the round of 16 showdown. With Gittin Jr. leading, both cars initiated in unison like their strings were being pulled by the same puppeteer. Gittin Jr. and his Monster Energy/Nitto Tire Mustang were too hot and slid right off course. Pawlak also ventured into the grass.
Pawlak Lead: In JTP's lead, he over rotated on initial drift, got out of synch, and ended up losing drift. There was a mist falling at the time so an OMT was awarded.
Denofa Vs Moen
Denofa Lead: The short-lived mist had stopped but Denofa and Moen made a shakedown run to check out the track anyway. In competition, Denofa led first in his BMW and he didn’t go wide enough through Keyhole and hit a clipping point on the far side. Moen’s Supra 2JZ motivated S14 240SX bobbled at initial drift but was able to close up tight and sweat Denofa from Keyhole to the termination of the run. Advantage Moen.
Moen Lead: Moen led a clean and tidy run while Denofa lost his drift, and any chance to advance, heading into Keyhole. Win Moen 3-0.
Gittin Jr. Vs Pawlak Re-run
Gittin Lead: The round ended with the Mustang rematch. Understandably Gittin Jr. was a touch tentative at initial drift but went really wide with a nice, open angle through Keyhole. JTP was close early doing well to match angle but got pulled by a hair near the end of Keyhole.
Pawlak Lead: As leader, JTP bobbled a bit on initial drift and set some sweet angles but Gittin Jr. was amazing on proximity, looking like a smoky shadow. 2 OMT- 1 Gittin Jr. Would the third time be the charm?
Gittin Jr Vs Pawlak OMT
Gittin Lead: With Gittin Jr. leading, Pawlak ran into the side of the Monster Energy/Nitto Tire Mustang punting it off track. JTP was cited as being at fault.
Pawlak Lead: With Pawlak leading, Gittin Jr. just had to keep it close to move on. That’s what he did and Pawlak spun out at the end of Keyhole, putting an exclamation point on Gittin Jr.’s advancement to the round of 8.
Nitto Tire Great 8
Saito Vs Aasbo
Aasbo Lead: Saito had engine trouble so Aasbo’s run was a victory lap.
Forsberg Vs Bakchis
Forsberg Lead: Forsberg exhibited more angle at initial drift but Bakchis was tucked in close. It was a back-and-forth battle as each driver made nominal gains on the other during the run.
Bakchis Lead: With Bakchis leading, both initiated early and hard but Bakchis didn’t take Keyhole as wide as he could have and Forsberg pounced, making the car’s look like they were attached in some manner. The vote was 3-0 for Forsberg but this could have easily been an OMT.
Gushi Vs Nishida
Gushi Lead: Gushi led Nishida’s Soarer into the initial drift zone and made a stylish entry. He carried his momentum into a nice, wide drift through Keyhole. Nishida was shallow in Keyhole to make up the gap. Advantage Gushi.
Nishida Lead: Nishida found his stride as lead car and dropped a clean run. Things still looked good for Gushi but he went off in the grass and the resulting deduction cost him the win.
Gittin Jr. Vs Moen
Gittin Lead: Gittin showed some bravery coming into the initial drift hot and heavy. His tires held and he puffed some serious smoke while taking Keyhole wide and at an acute angle. Moen was late on the transition out of Keyhole and could match strides with the Mustang.
Moen Lead: Like Gittin Vs Pawlak, all Gittin had to do was keep close. Gittin stayed close during Moen's leading run. Gittin moves on.
Forsberg Vs Aasbo
Forsberg Lead: Forsberg went into initial drift fast, but he pulled big angle and the car’s transition took it wide and slow and Aasbo, the Norwegian Hammer, passed him on the inside - the crowd went wild! Passing in Formula Drift is rare, but legal as long as the passing car is in drift and the pass is clean. The 2006 season is the last time we saw a pass made in competition.
Aasbo Lead: In the second run Aasbo and his turbocharged four cylinder Scion ran clean and advanced to the final.
Gittin Jr. Vs Nishida
Gittin Lead: Gittin Jr. led stoutly, showing big angle while gapping Nishida on the last set of turns. Nishida was a touch shallow going into Keyhole. Advantage Gittin Jr.
Nishida Lead: Nishida put together a good lead run but Gittin Jr. was on his game as the Monster Energy/Nitto Tire Mustang lifted its front left tire going into Keyhole. Gittin Jr. out-pivoted Nishida in the final set of turns. A 3-0 vote put Gittin Jr. in the final.
Gittin Jr. Vs Aasbo
Gittin Lead: Gittin Jr. led and checked out from the get-go taking a daylight lead all the way from Keyhole to the finish.
Aasbo Lead: Aasbo answered the bell, gapping Gittin Jr. through Keyhole and keeping him at bay for the entire run. The vote was an unsurprising 3 OMTs.
Gittin Jr. Vs Aasbo OMT
Gittin Lead: Gittin Jr. once again pulled on Aasbo early, took a dramatic wide line though Keyhole with more pitch in his angle compared to Aasbo. Aasbo did get closer near the end of the run but never pressed the issue.
Aasbo Lead: Aasbo put down a smooth lead run. Gittin Jr. charged into Keyhole, where his car seemed superior throughout the night, and closed dramatically, disappearing into Aasbo’s considerable tire smoke coming out of Keyhole. Gittin’s big angle and smooth transitions through the last series of corners put him over the top.
Vaughn Gittin Jr. Monster Energy/Nitto Tire Mustang2014 Formula Drift Round 2 Road Atlanta Champion
Its fair game at Round 3 in Miami when Formula Drift holds its first ever event at Homestead-Miami on May 31st. Drivers will be forced to adapt to the new track quickly to earn a spot on the podium. 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