2016 Formula Drift Orlando Speedworld Top 32 Play-by-Play
For the second consecutive year, Formula Drift’s third event of the season took place at Orlando Speedworld. This track is a 3/8-mile banked oval, and the layout is fairly similar to the Wall Speedway course that is the fourth stop on the schedule this year, but with substantially less banking. Drivers leave the starting line of the drifting course at the end of the back straight, heading clockwise around the track into the traditional turns two and one in reverse. Drivers are initiating around 75 to 80mph, staying high on the bank and hopefully rubbing the rear bumper along the wall that lines the top of the track.
After filling the outside zone towards the end of the bank, drivers will come off the bank and transition across the bumpy asphalt infield in a figure-8 pattern. After dragging the bumper as close to the inside clip that is set at the opposite end of the infield, drivers should take the outside line around the apron that lines the bottom of the bank of turns three and four without allowing their wheels to ride up on the actual bank. Finishing the sweeper will put the drivers near the start of the traditional front straight where an outside clipping point marks the finish line.
Vaughn Gittin Jr. earned the top qualifying position for the second consecutive event with an impressive first qualifying run that earned him 95 out of a possible 100 points. After all other drivers took their qualifying run, Gittin Jr’s initial run still stood atop the qualifying order, which meant Gittin Jr. didn’t need to make a second pass. 2015 Orlando winner Ryan Tuerck took the second qualifying position, while Odi Bakchis, Fredric Aasbo and Matt Field rounded out the top 5.
Friday evening’s schedule was highlighted by the second round of Formula Drift Pro 2 competition, where Marc Landreville backed up his top qualifying effort from Thursday with the event win, defeating Atlanta Pro 2 winner Jeff Jones in the final. Matt Madrigali earned the final podium position over Andrew Lewis due to a higher qualifying position, the finish was a career high for both Madrigali and Lewis.
Weather is looking clear for Orlando, a big shift from the rain we saw last year and the predicted thunderstorms we had as far as a week out. Temperatures are in the low 90s with relatively high humidity, but it’s definitely more tolerable than the weather on practice day.
Fast forward to the Ford Top 16 or Blackvue Final 4.
AIR FORCE TOP 32
Vaughn Gittin Jr. vs. Alex Heilbrunn
GITTIN JR. LEAD – A battle of Nitto Tire drivers, Gittin Jr. is the well-established veteran who will be going up against the up-and-coming Heilbrunn, who won the Pro 2 class last year. Gittin Jr has a good initiation and rides the top of the wall. Heilbrunn is a bit shallower on the bank, but slowly progresses to the high line by the exit of the bank. Heilbrunn slowly closes the gap through the entirety of the course. Gittin Jr. paints his tire along the outside line on around the second turn, while Heilbrunn is on a shallower line. This was a good chase run from Heilbrunn, but Gittin Jr. definitely had superior angle and line through the course.
HEILBRUNN LEAD – Heilbrunn is much higher on the bank on his lead run, Gittin Jr. is lower on the bank and around four car lengths behind Heilbrunn through the entirety of the bank. Heilbrunn keeps a four to five car lead ahead of Gittin Jr through the rest of the course, this could easily overcome the shortcomings in line that Heilbrunn had on his lead run. Two judges vote for a “One More Time” (OMT) showdown, while one judge decides for Heilbrunn. We go One More Time!
ONE MORE TIME
GITTIN JR. LEAD – Gittin Jr. again with a good high line on the bank, Heilbrunn is around three to four car lengths behind until the final portion of the bank where he closes the gap down to around two car lengths. Gittin Jr. extends the gap to around four car lengths coming off the bank through the middle of the track, and Heilbrunn isn’t able to close the gap much around the second turn like he was on his first lead run. This run will likely be a slight advantage to Gittin Jr.
HEILBRUNN LEAD – Heilbrunn with a snappy initiation, Gittin Jr. narrows the gap down from around four car lengths down to around two car lengths, but has to dump a ton of angle towards the end of the bank to avoid hitting Heilbrunn. Heilbrunn pulls away coming off the bank and opens around a two car length gap, Gittin Jr. closes the gap aggressively and stays tight to Heilbrunn around the second large turn. Heilbrunn starts to dump more steering angle and slows fairly dramatically towards the end of the turn. Gittin Jr. gets even closer in proximity to Heilbrunn, both drivers stay sideways across the finish line. All three judges vote for Gittin Jr., citing a dramatic slowing by Heilbrunn at the end of the bank as the reason Gittin Jr. had to dump angle and lose proximity.
Chelsea Denofa vs. Jhonnattan Castro
DENOFA LEAD – Denofa isn’t at the line when the battle was supposed to start, so track staff had to find him and we temporarily moved on to the next battle. We found out that Denofa had to use his competition timeout to avoid being disqualified. Denofa pulled to the line, but both drivers are waived off the start. We find out that Denofa has some sort of technical violation, and Castro will be handed the win. Castro makes a solo pass and will move on to the Top 16 for the second consecutive event.
Dai Yoshihara vs. Juha Rintanen
YOSIHARA LEAD – Yoshihara is high on the bank with great angle, he’s really looked strong in the past two events. Rintanen keeps the gap fairly close through the bank, but taps the front clip coming off the bank. Yoshihara’s transition is smooth and he finishes the track strong, while Rintanen has some steering corrections and isn’t as deep on the outside line around the final turn.
RINTANEN LEAD – Yoshihara slams into the wall in chase shortly after initiation, Rintanen continues on his lead and finishes smoothly. On replay, it looks like both drivers tapped the wall shortly after initiation, Rintanen was able to control the car and get it sideways again while Yoshihara got sucked into it. At one point on his lead, Rintanen actually lost his entire front right fender as well. Odd run, but Rintanen moves on unanimously.
Tyler McQuarrie vs. Faruk Kugay
MCQUARRIE LEAD – McQuarrie and Kugay both spend a lot of time at Sonoma Raceway in Northern California, although they have never faced each other in drifting competition. McQuarrie initiates smoothly while Kugay goes for a big feint entry that carries him into the wall. Kugay tries to recover and re-initiate drift, but spins out again. McQuarrie finishes his run smoothly and will have a heavy advantage moving into the second run, if Kugay can get his car back together. Kugay calls a competition timeout to assess damage.
KUGAY LEAD – Kugay is unable to make repairs during the competition timeout; McQuarrie makes a solo pass and moves on to the Top 16.
Fredric Aasbo vs. Andy Gray
AASBO LEAD – Aasbo initiates high on the bank, Gray is around four car lengths back but quickly closes the gap down to around two car lengths. Aasbo opens up the gap as they come off the bank and transition through the infield, but Gray closes it down again through the second turn. Aasbo has a much better line, but Gray has great steering angle and smoke in his chase. Replay shows a few steering corrections from Gray through the infield transition and taking out the inside clip at the exit of the bank, but overall an impressive and aggressive chase from Gray.
GRAY LEAD – Both drivers initiate around a car length or two away from Gray, but Gray quickly extends that gap to around three to four car lengths. Gray keeps the four car gap through the transition and the entirety of the second turn, Aasbo takes the inside line but can’t close the gap at all. One judge votes for Aasbo, a second judge votes for Gray and the final judge votes for a OMT. It feels like the judges were digging deep to try and find an excuse not to eliminate Aasbo; Gray was definitely the more impressive driver through the combination of runs.
ONE MORE TIME
AASBO LEAD – Gray initiates two car lengths behind Aasbo and maintains good proximity through the bank. As both drivers come off the bank, Aasbo extends his lead and Gray looks to cut through the smoke to close the gap, but hits a bump on the infield as the car is transitioning which causes him to over-rotate and wash out. Aasbo finishes the run cleanly.
GRAY LEAD – Gray initiates around three car lengths ahead of Aasbo, but extends it to around four car lengths through the bank and extends it again to around five car lengths through the transition on the infield and the big sweeper. Aasbo has a clean run, but is nowhere near Gray on the chase run. All three judges vote unanimously for Aasbo. This feels very close to an inactive chase from Aasbo, especially knowing how much horsepower and traction the car has available to the wheels.
Charles Ng vs. Kyle Mohan
NG LEAD – Ng is borrowing Juha Rintanen’s former S14 chassis as he’s had misfire issues in his G37 for a few events now. Ng is looking strong in the chassis, tapping the wall shortly after initiation but maintaining drift. Ng exits the bank with around a five car gap, Mohan closes the gap down to around two car lengths through the transition. Ng opens the gap up briefly by another car length, but Mohan uses a slightly shallower line to close the gap down again around the large sweeper. Ng had a good run overall, Mohan closed the gap a few times but was much twitchier with his steering angle.
MOHAN LEAD – Mohan takes out a cone on his first attempt to lead, so we have a restart. On the second attempt, Ng jumps the line to try and make up for his lack of horsepower, but then doesn’t initiate when he’s supposed to and is lacking angle for most of the big bank. Mohan has a good lead run with tons of tire smoke, Ng isn’t able to close the gap at all despite having less angle and a shallower line. Mohan’s Miata looks much more comfortable in the lead as compared to his chase runs. All three judges vote for Mohan; this will be his first Top 16 appearance of the season.
Matt Field vs. Robbie Nishida
FIELD LEAD – Field initiates high on the bank with tons of angle, Nishida is around three car lengths back but lower on his line and with less angle and smoke. Field’s run is nearly flawless, looking like the top-5 level of qualifying run that Field earned yesterday, while Nishida isn’t able to close the gap much. Likely an advantage to Field after this run.
NISHIDA LEAD – Nishida fails to initiate; Field initiates aggressively behind him but is able to shut it down and avoid hitting Nishida. Field will be moving on to the Top 16.
Kenneth Moen vs. Geoff Stoneback
MOEN LEAD – Moen’s 2JZ-powered BMW is clearly one of the fastest on course, but has made some mental mistakes at previous rounds. If he can stay focused, he will be a championship contender in this car. Moen initiates high on the bank, Stoneback is a bit more conservative on his line but with good angle and smoke. Stoneback closes the gap down briefly towards the end of the bank, but Moen extends the lead transitioning through the infield. Stoneback takes the inside line around the sweeper and closes the gap back down towards the end. It’s hard to assign a specific advantage from this run, both drivers had strong points at times.
STONEBACK LEAD – Stoneback is much higher on the bank on his lead, Moen starts around three car lengths back but closes the gap down to less than a car length by midway through the bank and stays close through the end of the bank. Moen backs off exiting the bank to give Stoneback room to transition, then closes the gap again after the transition and stays aggressive around the sweeper. All three judges vote for Moen.
Ryan Tuerck vs. Pat Goodin
TUERCK LEAD – Tuerck is the defending event winner from Orlando, while Goodin has had some car troubles all weekend at his home track. Tuerck is high on the wall with tons of smoke, showing exactly why he qualified second. Goodin has a good line and stays around three car lengths back through the bank. Goodin has a few small steering corrections through the infield transition, and less angle starting the sweeper, but eventually gets the car to full angle and stays fairly close to Tuerck. Likely a small advantage to Tuerck, but nothing too big for Goodin to overcome in his lead.
GOODIN LEAD – Goodin has a smooth run on the bank, Tuerck has a similar three car gap behind Goodin through the bank. Goodin extends the lead to around five car lengths through the infield transition, Tuerck has a similar steering bobble to Goodin’s on his chase run. Goodin took out the final clipping point at the finish line, but overall a very smooth run for Goodin. Overall, similar errors from both drivers in chase, it’s hard to pick a distinct winner. Replay shows that Goodin’s trunk may have opened slightly on his lead, which could lead to a zero score. All three judges for OMT, which seems appropriate.
ONE MORE TIME
TUERCK LEAD – Tuerck continues to put down solid lead runs, with some of the best tire smoke we’ve seen in the Top 32. Goodin dives ahead of the smoke on his transition, but ends up off course and takes out the inside clip entering the sweeper. Goodin loses drift completely and has to re-initiate midway through the sweeper, Tuerck will have a substantial advantage going into the second run.
GOODIN LEAD – Goodin with good steering angle and a high line on his lead, Tuerck is about three car lengths back through the sweeper and doesn’t make up much ground through the entire course. Goodin has much better steering angle through the sweeper, then hits the final clipping point at the finish line again. Tuerck didn’t chase as aggressively as the judges probably like, but unlikely considered an inactive chase. Tuerck earns the unanimous decision.
Pat Mordaunt vs. Matt Coffman
MORDAUNT LEAD – Both of these cars have domestic V8 engines in their Nissan chassis; Mordaunt’s 350Z is powered by a Chevy V8 while Coffman’s S13 has a Ford Racing motor in it. Both drivers have a clean initiation into the bank, Coffman is only two car lengths back and maintains a consistent gap through the bank. Mordaunt has a smooth lead run, Coffman doesn’t make any major mistakes, but neither driver really does anything to wow us.
COFFMAN LEAD – Coffman initiates around three car lengths ahead of Mordaunt, and quickly extends the gap to around four car lengths, but has some steering corrections early in the bank before rubbing the wall mid-bank. Coffman tries to power through the wall rub and dumps a lot of angle towards the end of the bank, which allows Mordaunt to close the gap down to a single car length. Mordaunt keeps the gap close, Coffman drops a tire up onto the bank behind the sweeper (which was something the judges requested to avoid during the drivers meeting), and Coffman takes out the final clipping point at the finish line. All three judges side with Mordaunt.
Michael Essa vs. Kristaps Bluss
ESSA LEAD – Essa with a huge smokey initiation on the bank, Bluss initiates lower on the bank and less smoke. Through the transition, Essa’s car snaps around and he spins out onto the back straight. At the same time, Bluss over-rotates and ends up taking a shortcut through the lawn, also going off course. These look to be independent events, and both drivers are likely to be sitting on a zero.
BLUSS LEAD – Bluss has a higher line on his lead, Essa closes the gap down from around four car lengths on initiation down to around two car lengths as both drivers come off the bank. Essa looks to get lost in Bluss’ smoke through the transition, and lets off the throttle, finishing his course early. Bluss finishes his run smoothly and earns the unanimous win as Essa doesn’t finish either run.
Forrest Wang vs. Alec Hohnadell
WANG LEAD – This is a teammate battle as both cars are maintained by Wang’s “Get Nuts Lab” shop. Wang has fantastic angle on the bank with tons of smoke, Hohnadell is aggressively chasing behind him. Hohnadell dives in aggressively through the infield transition, then has to dump big steering angle to avoid hitting Wang as they enter the second sweeper but stays in drift. This is a great chase run from Hohnadell! It’s clear that these drivers have spent a lot of time driving behind each other, and know what to expect in tandem.
HOHNADELL LEAD – A knocked over cone from Hohnadell is going to cause a restart, but both drivers fail to see the waiving red flag until they are mostly through the run. Drivers are given a chance to change tires due to how long they drove before seeing the flag.
Back for the actual run, Hohnadell’s rear quarter panel flips up on initiation, Wang isn’t affected and is a single car length behind Hohnadell and maintains that same gap through the entire bank. Hohnadell has tons of smoke as they enter the infield portion of the track, Wang loses ground through the transition and is around three car lengths back as they get to the sweeper. Wang closes a bit of gap, but overall, Hohnadell’s chase run was much more aggressive. Two judges vote for Hohnadell to move on, one judge votes for a OMT. Hohnadell moves on.
Odi Bakchis vs. Jeff Jones
BAKCHIS LEAD – Bakchis has big lead run and looks to have his Hyundai Genesis Coupe pretty well dialed in! Jones is around four car lengths back of Bakchis through the bank and looks to be making a move through the transition when he gets out of the throttle. Bakchis finishes the run strong, Jones attempts to re-initiate but is only spinning one rear wheel through the finish line. Looks like Jones broke an axle, and calls a competition timeout to resolve the Axle issue.
JONES LEAD – Jones is unable to fix his axle issue; Bakchis moves on to the Top 16.
Ken Gushi vs. "Mad" Mike Whiddett
GUSHI LEAD – After a quick restart due to a knocked over cone, the second attempt at a run is successful. Whiddett is extremely aggressive on Gushi from initiation all the way across the finish line! Gushi has a great lead run with tons of smoke and no noticeable adjustments, but the story of this line is the chase run from Whiddett! Looking at the replay, there were definitely some steering corrections from Whiddett at times, but keeping the gap around one car length or less especially through the big bank is absolutely worth it from a spectator perspective!
WHIDDETT LEAD – Whiddett’s tire debeaded while chasing Gushi, which is going to cause him to bow out of competition. Formula Drift rules require that tires must be able to make two passes, and drivers are not allowed to change tires between runs due to the competition advantage that would be gained from newer tires. Whiddett can’t use his competition timeout to re-bead or replace the tire, so this will be the end to his day. Gushi will move on to the Top 16, but this is a rule I would definitely like to see changed as we saw the best tandem run of the day and the driver was unfairly punished due to a technical mishap.
Chris Forsberg vs. Cameron Moore
FORSBERG LEAD – This is a rematch from a Long Beach tandem battle that was hampered by wet weather. Forsberg has good angle and tire smoke, Moore has less steering angle on the bank but only two or so car lengths back. Forsberg briefly opens the gap up to around three car lengths through the transition, but Moore stays close to Forsberg around the final sweeper. Probably a slight advantage to Forsberg.
MOORE LEAD – Moore has a few steering corrections on the bank, but still a good line and good smoke. Forsberg is around two car lengths back at the start of the bank and is running a slightly lower line, Moore briefly opens up the gap to about three lengths towards the end of the bank. Forsberg dives aggressively on the infield transition and closes the gap down to a single car length, then sticks close to Moore’s door around the big long final sweeper. Moore takes out the final outside slipping point that marks the finish line. All three judges side with Forsberg.
Justin Pawlak vs. Dean Kearney
PAWLAK LEAD – Both drivers are aggressive with their entries, Kearney is just a single car length away from Pawlak on initiation and keeps a very close gap through the entire bank! Wow, this is a great tandem battle! Pawlak lays down a solid wall of tire smoke through the infield transition and Kearney looks to get a little lost in the smoke. Pawlak opens up a good lead entering the sweeper, Kearney is about five or six car lengths back, and tries to take the inside line to close the gap but doesn’t make up much ground. Pawlak finishes strong, Kearney is likely at a disadvantage due to the gap opened up over the second half of the course. Upon pulling back to the line, Pawlak calls a competition timeout.
KEARNEY LEAD – Kearney with a few different wall rubs on the big bank, and even his wing rips off mid-bank. Pawlak isn’t phased, and stays a single car length from Kearney through most of the bank. Kearney briefly opens up a gap through the transition on the infield, but Pawlak closes the gap again entering the sweeper. Pawlak stays tight and aggressive on Kearney through the sweeper, Kearney appears to spin out as he’s crossing the finish line and thankfully, Pawlak is able to avoid hitting him. Doubtful that it will matter much as Pawlak definitely had the stronger chase run overall. All three judges send Pawlak to the Top 16.
FORD TOP 16
After the VIP track walk wraps up, the crowd witnesses eight young men and women taking the oath of enlistment for the US Air Force, followed by the national anthem from a currently enlisted Air Force Master Sargent. Vaughn Gittin Jr. is presented his second consecutive check for $250 as the top qualifying driver, and the other 15 drivers who have earned their spot in the Top 16 are introduced. Some donuts and burnouts ensue, and we’re ready for the Top 16 eliminations!
Gittin Jr. vs. Castro
GITTIN JR. LEAD – Gittin Jr. again with a good high line through the bank, Castro is a bit lower but decent proximity. Castro keeps a two-car gap through the sweeper on a slightly shallower line, overall a good follow from Castro but a better run with bigger angle and a better line from Gittin Jr.
CASTRO LEAD – Castro is a little higher on the bank on his lead, good smoke and a good line. Gittin Jr. loses a lot of ground on Castro towards the end of the bank, Castro’s lead extends to almost five car lengths. Gittin Jr. takes the inside line to try and catch up, hits the inside clip at the end of the infield transition, Castro continues with a clean line around the sweeper and finishes strong with Gittin Jr. many car lengths behind him. Castro earns the unanimous win and takes out the current championship points leader!
McQuarrie vs. Rintanen
MCQUARRIE LEAD – McQuarrie initiates smoothly, Rintanen is higher on the bank and closes the gap from around four cars down to around a car and a half by the end of the bank. McQuarrie quickly extends the lead to around three car lengths through the infield transition, Rintanen tries to close the gap but has to slam on the brakes to stay on course and takes out the front clip entering the sweeper. McQuarrie has a good line around the outside of the sweeper, Rintanen closes the gap a bit by taking the inside line. Probably an advantage to McQuarrie due to smoother driving.
RINTANEN LEAD – Rintanen again initiates much closer to the wall than McQuarrie, McQuarrie has had some bad crashes into the wall so perhaps it’s smart for him to be slightly conservative here. Rintanen extends his lead to around five car lengths by the end of the bank, McQuarrie briefly closes it down to around three car lengths but Rintanen opens it up again to five lengths through the transition and keeps that gap through the end of the course. Judges want to see them run again and decide on a OMT.
ONE MORE TIME
MCQUARRIE LEAD – McQuarrie with a solid lead run, Rintanen with a good chase. Rintanen has really looked comfortable in this S15, it’s hard to believe this is his first event in the car. McQuarrie has good tire smoke and gets through the course smoothly, tough to see an advantage either way.
RINTANEN LEAD – McQuarrie initiates with a two-car gap or so, and mirrors Rintanen’s line and angle. Rintanen has a clean run, no major bobbles, but McQuarrie is able to stay much closer to Rintanen in chase. All three judges give McQuarrie the win. Rintanen should be proud of his tandems and will likely be a threat for the rest of the season in this S15.
Aasbo vs. Mohan
AASBO LEAD – Aasbo initiates on the high line while Mohan is a bit lower on the bank and initiates a bit later. Mohan closes the gap from around three car lengths down to around two by the end of the bank, both drivers transition smoothly through the infield, Mohan takes the inside line around the sweeper and slowly closes another car length in gap or so. Not a great run from Mohan, but no major mistakes. Aasbo’s lead was clean and smooth.
MOHAN LEAD – Mohan is higher on the bank this time after initiation, Aasbo is only a car length back. Mohan has good angle, especially exiting the bank, and opens up around a four car gap through the infield. Aasbo has very shallow steering angle and line through the sweeper, Mohan extends the gap by another car length through the sweeper and finishes strong, although he spins out well past the finish line. All three judges send Aasbo to the Top 8; perhaps Mohan’s spin was deemed to be part of the continuation of drift?
Field vs. Moen
FIELD LEAD – Both of these cars have been very quick at the past few events, this should be a good tandem! Field rubs the top of the wall shortly after initiation, Moen is about two car lengths behind at the start of the bank. Field dumps huge amounts of tire smoke and steering angle through the latter part of the bank, Moen sucks in to within a single car length by the end of the bank. As Field transitions, Moen nudges the rear bumper and bash bar off of Field’s car, but Field isn’t affected at all. Field opens the gap up to around two car lengths through the infield, then Moen sucks back in to Field and keeps the gap around one car length through the end of the sweeper and across the finish line. Wow, impressive chase run from Moen!
MOEN LEAD – Both drives use a slight feint initiation, Moen rubs the wall similarly to how Field did, Field is even closer to Moen in his chase! Field gets very close to Moen mid-bank, but then backs off and is around three car lengths back by the exit of the bank. Field was offline for the clip at the exit of the bank, Moen had a great line through the infield and the sweeper. Moen keeps a solid four car gap through the entire sweeper; Moen earns the win from all three judges likely due in large part to the gap he opened up over the second half of the course.
Tuerck vs. Mordaunt
TUERCK LEAD – Tuerck is high on the wall, Mordaunt is extremely tight on Tuerck through the entirety of the bank - wow, what a chase from Mordaunt! Tuerck has tons of smoke and smooth angle, Mordaunt has some steering corrections but the proximity is insanely impressive! Tuerck has a fantastic line all the way around the course, while Mordaunt was definitely on the shallow line through the sweeper.
MORDAUNT LEAD – Mordaunt keeps around two car lengths of gap through most of the bank, Tuerck sucks in tight towards the end of the bank but Mordaunt quickly opens the gap up through the transition on the infield and keeps the gap large for the entirety of the sweeper. Mordaunt’s rear bumper starts falling off midway through the sweeper, and takes out the clip at the finish line, but it stays attached somehow. Tuerck’s line through the sweeper was much shallower. One judge votes for a OMT, but two judges vote for Mordaunt, and he has now eliminated the 2015 Orlando event winner!
Hohnadell vs. Bluss
HOHNADELL LEAD – Hohnadell has a quick manji entry, Bluss has some corrections in the bank as he surges closer to Hohnadell. Bluss takes out the front clip at the exit of the bank, Hohnadell extends his lead through the transition, Bluss has many steering corrections but eventually closes the gap midway through the sweeper by taking the inside line. Hohnadell had a much smoother run, but Bluss was able to gain proximity at times.
BLUSS LEAD – Bluss rubbing the wall almost immediately on initiation but stays in it. Hohnadell is around two car lengths back through the bank. Bluss extends the lead to around four car lengths exiting the bank and keeps a similar gap through the sweeper. Hohnadell tries to take a slightly shallower line but still can’t catch up. Definitely some corrections from both drivers in chase, wouldn’t be surprised to see this go to a OMT. One vote for Hohnadell, two votes for Bluss. Bluss moves on by a split decision.
Bakchis vs. Gushi
BAKCHIS LEAD – Bakchis knocked over a cone on the first attempt, so we have a re-run. Bakchis has a very shaky initiation, Gushi is able to adjust accordingly and keeps around a two-car gap through most of the bank. Gushi has a few steering corrections in chase, taps the inner clip exiting the bank and continues smoothly through the sweeper. The gap was consistent through most of the course, tough to decide an advantage as both drivers had some small corrections throughout the run.
GUSHI LEAD – Gushi is high on the bank, Bakchis is extremely close through the early part of the bank but loses proximity towards the end of the bank and loses a ton of angle, possibly straightening out. Bakchis takes out the clipping point at the exit of the bank, a gap briefly opens up between the cars then Bakchis closes the gap to Gushi through the sweeper. Replay shows that Gushi had much better steering angle through most of the bank, Bakchis actually tapped Gushi towards the end of the bank, which is why Bakchis lost proximity. Bakchis may have had a fire at the end of the run. Fire safety inspects everything, but no fire is to be found.
Judges are completely split; one votes for Bakchis, one votes for Gushi and one votes for OMT. We’re going at it again!
ONE MORE TIME
BAKCHIS LEAD – Bakchis has a manji entry, Gushi adjusts well and is only a car length from Bakchis through most of the bank, although on a shallower line. Bakchis extends the proximity gap through the infield, Gushly slowly closes it down around the sweeper back down to around a car and a half.
GUSHI LEAD – Gushi taps the wall shortly after entry, Bakchis leaves a bit of room then sucks in again towards the end of the bank, but is able to back off a bit earlier to avoid the contact this time. Gushi extends the lead to around two car lengths, Bakchis closes the gap again through the sweeper while taking the outside line. When watching the runs side-by-side, there are small mistakes from both drivers at different times through the runs, but tough to see a clear-cut winner. Overall, it looked like Gushi was more consistent, although Bakchis had better proximity at times. All three judges vote for Gushi; looks like the judges are going to reward consistency.
Forsberg vs. Pawlak
FORSBERG LEAD – A battle of V8-powered black coupes! Pawlak leaves some room on initiation, Forsberg has a good initiation and high line while Pawlak is a bit lower on the bank with as lightly shallower line. Pawlak sucks in close to Forsberg near the end of the bank, then stays super tight on Forsberg through the sweeper. Wow, Pawlak is insanely close through the end of the sweeper, some contact between the cars but both drivers keep drift and continue sideways across the finish line! Pawlak wasn’t on the ideal line through the sweeper, but the proximity was impressive and seems worth the sacrifice. Since Pawlak caused the contact, Forsberg is given an opportunity to inspect his car.
PAWLAK LEAD – Forsberg appears at the line, but Pawlak is missing. We’re told over the announcement that Pawlak’s tire was debeaded in the contact, and since he used his competition timeout earlier (as well as the rule related to not being able to change tires between runs), Pawlak is out of the competition. Not a moment after the announcement is made, a wild Justin Pawlak Ford Mustang appears, and we hear clarification that the tire was deflated but holding sufficient pressure to pass tech and Pawlak is allowed to compete.
Pawlak initiates, tons of smoke and high on the bank, Forsberg is less than a car length away on initiation. Pawlak extends the lead to around three car lengths. Transitioning through the infield, Pawlak clearly loses the tire and ends up overshooting the entry to the sweeper, drifting onto the second bank which is off course. Forsberg keeps drift and finishes the sweeper cleanly, Pawlak’s car looks very shaky and slides back onto the bank behind the sweeper a second time. Forsberg will earn the win; this run seems excessively unsafe due to the debate around whether a tire is debeaded or just deflated.
NITTO TIRE GREAT 8
McQuarrie Vs. Castro
MCQUARRIE LEAD – McQuarrie high on the bank and rubs the wall, Castro is very tight to him initially but leaves some space. Castro keeps around a two-car gap through the infield transition and most of the sweeper, using a slightly shallower line around the sweeper to close the gap. Overall, McQuarrie’s lead is very good with plenty of smoke, Castro has shallower steering angle but relatively good and consistent proximity control.
CASTRO LEAD – Castro again is high on the bank after initiation, rubbing the top of the wall almost every run. Castro stays high on the bank and rubs the wall again towards the end of the bank, but extends the drift too long on the bank and slides past the line to exit the bank, over-rotating coming down the bank, and losing drift. McQuarrie attempts to keep drift and pass Castro, but has to get out of the throttle to avoid contact. McQuarrie gets around Castro and drifts the final sweeper to keep the fans entertained. McQuarrie will clearly be moving on to the Final 4 after Castro’s mistake.
Aasbo vs. Moen
AASBO LEAD – Both of these drivers are from Norway and are very familiar with each other. Aasbo initiates high, Moen is low on the bank, but sucks in tight for the final portion of the bank. Moen backs off perfectly and leaves enough room for Aasbo to transition exiting the bank, then closes the gap down again to a single car length through most of the sweeper. Aasbo definitely had a better line through the bank, but the proximity near the end from Moen was quite impressive!
MOEN LEAD – Moen high on the bank as predicted, Aasbo is a bit shallower but can’t make up much of the gap. Moen has tons of tire smoke and taps the clipping point at the end of the infield transition, then takes the outside line around the sweeper as requested by the judges. Aasbo has a smooth run, but never really closes the gap at all, but has a clean, consistent run that looks more like a pair of solo runs than an actual tandem battle. All three judges vote for Aasbo. Moen’s runs were definitely more exciting, but Aasbo’s seemed smoother technically.
Mordaunt vs. Bluss
MORDANT LEAD – Mordaunt has big angle and a high line around the bank, Bluss closes the gap by midway through the bank and stays very tight exiting the bank but gives Mordaunt narrowly enough room to transition. Bluss stays aggressive after the transition and stays very close to Mordaunt around the sweeper, on a slightly shallower line with shallower angle, but with good proximity. Tons of tire smoke from both cars, probably a slight advantage to Bluss.
BLUSS LEAD – Mordaunt tries to initiate late and suck in very tight to Bluss, but gets too close and has to back off, which causes him to spin. Bluss finishes the run cleanly, while Mordaunt pulls off course. Replay looks like Bluss may have slowed slightly after initiation which threw Mordaunt’s timing off, but some slowing is to be expected after initiation and Mordaunt will likely be seen as at fault for not leaving room to adjust. All three judges give the win to Bluss, who will make his first Final 4 appearance of his Formula Drift career.
Gushi vs. Forsberg
FORSBERG LEAD – Forsberg hit a cone leaving the start line, which means we will have a restart. Forsberg is high on the bank with tons of smoke, Gushi keeps around a single car gap through most of the bank and stays close exiting the bank, taking out the inside clip at the exit of the bank. Forsberg has a great lead run with no major corrections, and a solid line both on the bank and through the second sweeper. Gushi hits the other inside clip on the infield, likely will be at a slight disadvantage for the second run due to hitting the clipping points.
GUSHI LEAD – Gushi has a smooth run around the bank, Forsberg starts around two car lengths back but closes it down to a single car length mid-bank. Both drivers exit the bank cleanly, Forsberg leaves just enough room for Gushi to transition, then dives in tight to Gushi through the infield and into the sweeper. Gushi has great steering angle and line through the sweeper, but Forsberg’s proximity is much better than what Gushi was able to do on his chase run. All three judges vote for Forsberg.
BLACKVUE FINAL 4
Aasbo vs. McQuarrie
AASBO LEAD – Aasbo initiates very early, while McQuarrie is notably late to initiate and shaky once he gets the car sideways. Aasbo has around a four-car lead early in the bank, McQuarrie uses a shallower line to close the gap down to around two car lengths by the end of the bank. Aasbo keeps around a three-car lead through the sweeper, McQuarrie isn’t able to make up any ground. Aasbo has looked slow through most of the day, but with the sun setting, perhaps the cooling temperatures are helping.
MCQUARRIE LEAD – McQuarrie again with a shaky initiation, although much smoother once he gets the car sideways. Aasbo is around one-car length behind McQuarrie through most of the bank, but eases up exiting the bank and the gap grows to around four-car lengths through the infield. Aasbo takes the shallower inside line through the sweeper, but again can’t make up much ground. Other than McQuarrie’s shaky entries, these runs looked fairly similar. McQuarrie was closer in his chase through the sweeper, but his shaky entries won’t help his cause. Two judges vote for a OMT, one judge votes for Aasbo. We will go One More Time!
ONE MORE TIME
AASBO LEAD – Aasbo with a good initiation, McQuarrie looking much cleaner on his initiation. McQuarrie is around two-car lengths back on the bank, Aasbo briefly opens up a slightly larger gap through the infield but McQuarrie slowly closes the gap through the sweeper. Both drivers have very clean runs, no major mistakes from either driver, likely an even battle going into the second run.
MCQUARRIE LEAD – Aasbo sucks in tight to McQuarrie shortly after initiation, loses ground through the bank, then gets a bit closer towards the end of the bank. McQuarrie surges ahead to another four-car gap through the transition, Aasbo tries to close the gap through the sweeper but doesn’t make up much ground. Looking at the replay side-by-side, Aasbo is possibly a half-car length closer on the bank, but McQuarrie is closer through the infield and the second sweeper. Judges have said the bank and infield transition as slightly more important in qualifying, but these runs are as close to identical as you can get.
All three judges want to see it again, we go OMT for a second and final time.
ONE MORE TIME (x2)
AASBO LEAD – Aasbo is high on the bank, McQuarrie starts around a single car length back on the bank but Aasbo opens it up to about two car lengths, much smoother initiation from both drivers. Aasbo opens up a slight gap through the infield transition, but McQuarrie closes a little bit of gap through the sweeper. Overall, again no major mistakes from either driver, and consistent driving from both drivers with good tire smoke.
MCQUARRIE LEAD – McQuarrie taps a cone leaving the start line, so we have a re-run.
On the re-run, McQuarrie rubs the wall shortly after initiation much like Mordaunt was doing on earlier runs, Aasbo is around two-car lengths back but doesn’t make up much ground. McQuarrie is slightly lower on the bank than we’ve seen on previous runs, but McQuarrie opens the gap up another car length or so through the sweeper. Picking a winner from these runs is going to come down to splitting hairs, and McQuarrie appears to have closed the gap through the sweeper a bit better than Aasbo did, but McQuarrie’s initiation could be seen as a bigger fault. All three judges side with Aasbo.
Forsberg vs. Bluss
FORSBERG LEAD – Forsberg high on the bank with tons of smoke, Bluss sucks in tight early on the bank, but has to back off a few times to avoid contact. Bluss backs off through the infield, then dives in on the inside line through the sweeper and closes the gap back down to a single car length. Great chase run from Bluss! He’s really looked strong all day.
BLUSS LEAD – Bluss high on the bank, Forsberg starts tight on Bluss but the gap opens up to around three car lengths by mid-bank, then extends to around five car lengths through the infield transition. Bluss looks nearly unstoppable, and has probably the best lead run he could possibly have, but it appears that Bluss tapped a cone in the chicane and this run won’t count. Both drivers will need new rubber as they annihilated their tires. If Bluss can reproduce that run, he’ll likely be on his way to his first final.
Forsberg’s team used their competition timeout during the tire change period to make an adjustment. Perhaps they were dialing some more grip into the car.
Bluss initiates with Forsberg hot in tow, Forsberg again sucks in very tight to Bluss shortly after initiation, then loses ground through the bank. Bluss is around two-car lengths ahead through the transition, then extends the lead to around three-car lengths to start the sweeper. Forsberg might have narrowed down the gap a bit through the sweeper, but again it's hard to see a major difference between the runs. Bluss was tighter at times, but also backed off several times and didn’t look as consistent. All three judges vote for Bluss, Forsberg will have to await the winner of the second OMT battle to see who wins. If Aasbo goes to the final, Forsberg will earn third place. If McQuarrie wins, Aasbo will earn third place by virtue of a higher qualifying seed. Both third and fourth positions are worth equal championship points, but only third place gets the elusive trophy and photo opportunity.
Aasbo moves to the finals to face Bluss, and Forsberg gets third place.
Aasbo vs. Bluss
AASBO LEAD – Aasbo with an early initiation, Bluss enters a bit later, but quickly closes the gap from two car lengths down to less than a single car length. Aasbo dumps big angle towards the end of the bank, Bluss mirrors it almost perfectly. Bluss allows enough room for Aasbo to transition, then sucks in super tight to Aasbo through the sweeper. Similar to the chase run we saw from Bluss’ first run against Forsberg that didn’t count due to tapping the cone, this was easily an event-winning chase run!
BLUSS LEAD – Bluss and Aasbo initiate almost identically, Bluss opens up the gap from one car length to almost three mid-way through the bank and extends the gap to more than four-car lengths through the infield transition. As Bluss transitions, he hits a bump and maxes out his steering but runs out of lock and slides off line as he enters the sweeper. Bluss has to straighten out to prevent from driving on the grass, Aasbo is hot on his tail, Bluss re-initiates and finishes the course but this is definitely going to be a major deduction if not a zero for Bluss. Aasbo is handed this win on a golden platter; this was definitely Bluss’s event to win had he finished this run cleanly.
WE HAVE A WINNER...
The cars are brought out in front of the fans, along with Forsberg who will be announced as the third place winner. MC Jarod DeAnda makes the announcement that we have a decision, and Bluss is humbly announced as the second place winner, giving Aasbo the event win. With the win, Aasbo launches into the championship lead over Gittin Jr. and Forsberg, while Bluss becomes the thirty ninth unique driver to earn a Formula Drift podium.
The Formula Drift series will roll into Wall, New Jersey in about two weeks time for the fourth stop on the eight-event series (see the Wall Speedway Top 32 Play-by-Play).
(Photos: Julius Mayo Jr.)