Super Drift Challenge 2018: Returning to the Street
Just when you thought you’ve had enough drifting coverage...there's more!
For the unfamiliar, think of Formula D's annual Super Drift Challenge as the after-party to the first round of their official pro competition. While drifters compete for championship points at The Streets of Long Beach, both competitions are held on the same course layout (on and around turns 9-11 of the Grand Prix of Long Beach circuit) looking to earn both prize purses and respect. Super Drift competitors keep their eyes on a sweet $25,000 purse.
There is of course a higher calling in all of this, and that is spreading the good word of drifting to the masses. FD’s Round 1 competition isn’t technically part of the Grand Prix, but Super Drift is, taking place as the final event on Friday and Saturday evenings of the Grand Prix weekend. The idea is to give fans of traditional motorsport an idea of what drifting is all about. Judging by the masses who kept stands packed until about 8:30 p.m. each night, it’s been a wild success.
Held among a small, invite-only field of drivers, Super Drift might seem like it should be a relaxed event. But walls are still walls, drifting is still murder on cars, fierce competitors still want to win and this year they had to emerge in one piece to make Round 2 of FD only two weeks later, on the other side of the country. Needless to say, the stakes were high.
Piotr Wiecek in his S15 Nissan Silvia and Forrest Wang in his S14 240SX laid down the cleanest, most consistent and flat-out ballerest (we’re making that a word) practice runs, and looked the surest bets to take the win. Forrest narrowly missed the win in official competition the week prior, but clinched second place just ahead of Piotr in third. Both were hungry for redemption, and if ever there were a Super Drift to watch, this would be it.
Just behind them were drift vets Alec Hohnadell in his confusingly similar-looking S14, Justin “JTP” Pawlak in his Ford Mustang, Team Nitto Tire's Alex “Hellfire” Heilbrunn and Long Beach local Kyle Mohan in his turbo three-rotor Mazda MX-5 Miata, all laying down some killer runs of their own.
Joining them were some wildcards to keep things interesting. Trent Beechum was someone who consistently impressed us in Top Drift pro-am competition, and he’s steadily improving from behind the wheel of his own Ford Mustang in Pro 2 competition. Dylan Hughes’ Pro 2 performance from within his S13 coupe is also impressive, especially considering his introduction to drifting was as a mechanic for Chris Forsberg’s pro team. Then there’s George “K” Kiriakopoulos, who’s on when he’s on. All were competing this time.
Round 1 of 2
After the obligatory driver introductions, the first tandem elimination round of Friday’s competition kicked off with George K. succumbing to mechanical gremlins against Trent Beechum.
Then it was Forrest eventually besting JTP, Alex Heilbrunn successfully deploying his Nitto Tire smoke screen against Kyle Mohan and Alec Hohnadell outing himself against Piotr.
The Final Four saw Beechum fall to Forrest and Piotr pick off Heilbrunn, leading to the final battle everyone wanted to see: Forrest vs. Piotr. No matter who won, redemption would be earned and the masses would be entertained.
After two very close battles, it was decided that Piotr had emerged victorious.
His first order of business: congratulating the opponent who made him work so hard for the win.
Round 2 of 2
Saturday’s practice sessions began much the same as Friday’s, with Forrest, Piotr, Alex and Kyle scraping banners off walls and giving fans one heck of a smoke show. Absent this time was George K., but everyone else seemed in fine form to pick up the slack.
The mood in the pits and in the stands was relaxed and upbeat, with competitors joking around with one another in between strategizing for battle, and Kyle once again eliciting the strongest cheers from fans and foes alike.
Sadly, it would be a short evening for Kyle, who unbeknownst to all suffered a handbrake failure in practice and forfeited his first-round bout to Trent Beechum, exiting stage left with one more smokey burnout for his hometown fans in the process.
JTP dispatched Ryan Hughes, Forrest bested Heilbrunn and Piotr made quick work of Hohnadell.
The semi-finals saw a battle of the Mustangs, with JTP coming out ahead of Beechum. It continued with Piotr and Forrest battling through their two runs, and then a One More Time match, which Piotr narrowly survived.
When Piotr laid down a killer lead run to kick off the final battle against JTP, we all felt pretty confident that we’d see repeat wins from the relative FD-newcomer. With such a strong follow by JTP and a great lead run of his own, that confidence faded a bit and we wondered if an upset was in store.
Alas, it wasn’t, and the foreigner had once again successfully stormed the streets of Long Beach, with back-to-back Super Drift wins.
Formula Drift competitors take off for Orlando Speed World in just over a week for Round 2 - Scorched of the pro competition, and if the recent Super Drift weekend is any indicator, you’ll know who to watch out for when they get there.