Vaughn Gittin Jr. Returns to Formula Drift, Pulls Off Perfect Event at 2023 Road Atlanta Round 2
The Formula Drift series started at this track 20 years ago and the venue continues to hold a special place in the American Drifting landscape. A warm evening just north of Atlanta, at Road Atlanta in Georgia brought out the best single evening of drifting competition! Saturday night was filled with storylines, a big shake up in the Championship points and an amazing return of Vaughn Gittin Jr. back to Formula Drift.
Vaughn Gittin Jr. hopped into the new S650 Ford Mustang chassis at Road Atlanta and scored the top qualifying spot with a 93.3 as he put the hammer down and soared around the course. Forrest Wang qualified in second place and Odi Bakchis put his S15 in third place to wrap up the top qualifiers of the night.
Top 32: Vaughn’s Grand Return
After a yearlong hiatus, Vaughn Gittin Jr. started the main event and made an easy work of Robert Thorne to advance into the Top 16. Ryan Tuerck had an emergency engine swap the team discovered at the start of Top 32 and they managed to pull and replace the entire motor in less than one hour to get Ryan Tuerck to the starting line! Ryan Tuerck had a tough battle with Kristaps Bluss and made a few too many mistakes in his GR Corolla. Kristaps Bluss moved onto the Top 16.
Chris Forsberg faced off against former teammate Jhonnattan Castro next in a battle that proved to be fantastic. Chris Forsberg moved on as Castro suffered car troubles and couldn’t complete both laps. Fredric Aasbo then ran into Rome Charpentier who pushed him hard in a tandem battle. The battle was super close as Aasbo seemed to underperform a little bit, but two judges picked him as the winner with one judge opting for a One More Time.
James Deane then faced off Trenton Beechum who struggled to keep up with Deane in his RTR Ford Mustang. James Deane made some big mistakes along with a mis-shift on his chase run but still managed to squeeze out a victory over Trenton Beechum in this case.
Chelsea DeNofa closed out the Top 32 with a battle against his longtime friend Travis Reeder. It was one of the fastest battles we saw on the day and the judges called a “One More Time” battle for them. On the OMT battle, Reeder made a mistake that gave Chelsea DeNofa the advance into the Top 16 as night fell over Road Atlanta.
Under The Lights: Top 16
Vaughn Gittin Jr. started off the nighttime battles with an easy win over Alec Robbins as he spun his car around and was unable to complete both laps with a score. Fredric Aasbo takes on James Deane in a battle that should have happened in the finals! Both drivers went after it exchanging aggressive moves that put the crowd on its feet! The judges pick James Deane on a split decision with a battle I would have loved to see go One More Time.
Chelsea DeNofa looked really good chasing after Odi Backhis but he put way too much angle onto his entry flying down the hill and it was the mistake that made the difference in the tandem battle giving Odi Bakchis an advance into the Great 8.
The Big Battles: Great 8
Matt Field met Vaughn Gittin Jr. in one All-American chassis battle! Vaughn Gittin Jr. warmed up his ultra sticky Nitto NT555 G2 tires for a hard-fought competition and Matt Field put down a very smooth and fluid lead run with a fantastic line around the keyhole. The judges had to deliberate using a side-by-side camera view and two judges picked Vaughn Gittin Jr. to move into the Final Four. Matt Field was knocked out but still holds first place in the Championship after two rounds with 148 points.
Chris Forsberg took on James Deane in the RTR Mustang in a battle that represents six Formula Drift Championships in the 20 years of the sport between the two drivers. These two drivers really put it out and Forsberg was able to chase so close he was tapping the Mustang around the course and lost his headlight in the process. Forsberg managed to pull away in the lead run and the judges granted him the win in this really tight battle.
A Veteran Final Four
Vaughn Gittin Jr. took on Kristaps Bluss and Kristaps was so aggressive in the chase run he pushed Vaughn Gittin Jr. right off the track coming down the hill! Kristaps Bluss had to get his BMW towed off the course and did not return to competition.
Chris Forsberg was putting down so much smoke on his battle with Odi Bakchis we have no idea how he could see but he really managed to wheel it behind him. His entry was super close with a few taps coming down the hill as Forsberg looked unstoppable in his Nissan Z chassis. The judges gave Chris Forsberg the win and he booked a place in the finals against his longtime friend Vaughn Gittin Jr.!
Drift Alliance Reunion: Final Battle
An insane final battle was booked between two of the most well-known drivers in Formula Drift. These drivers haven’t won an event since the 2020 Formula Drift season and Chris Forsberg recently finished in second place here during the 2022 season.
The two friends took off down the hill in a great first run of the battle with Forsberg in the chase. Once the drivers reset and Chris Forsberg took the lead as he lost fourth gear in his transmission coming down the hill and had a very late entry into the first turn after putting it back in third gear. Vaughn quickly recovered and stuck it to his door to complete the battle. Both drivers went hard, but the judges quickly came to a decision and gave Vaughn Gittin Jr. the victory!
Vaughn Gittin Jr. locked in his 13th career win and has maintained his title as the second most winning Formula Drift driver in series history. Vaughn Gittin Jr. has now won at Road Atlanta three times in his career (2014, 2016, and now 2023).
It was great to see his return into the driver’s seat after a small hiatus he took in 2022. Vaughn Gittin Jr. is only five victories away from being the Formula Drift driver with the most all-time career wins which is currently held by Fredric Aasbo with 18.
This was a great event weekend, and all the teams will be packing up this week and making the six hour drive to Orlando, Florida when the series will continue with Round 3 in just under two weeks at Orlando Speed World!