This season’s first round of the Formula Drift series is one of the most amazing automotive events that I’ve attended in my entire life! Although I’ve been to countless events including the American Le Mans Series, X-Games, Global Rally Cross, Champ Car, International Auto Shows and more, this was my first time to Formula Drift and it definitely won’t be my last. The vibe, the racing, the smell, the action and the everything was absolutely intoxicating, and if you’re a car enthusiast with a bucket list, a Formula Drift event should be on the number one spot!
Read more past the jump for the full article or skip to the full set of pictures in our forum, here!
Thursday was dedicated to set-up and the paddock was almost empty. Drivers walked around with no threat of being mobbed by fans, and mechanics were concentrating on last minute tweaks to their cars before the start of qualifying the next day. Thursday night’s action involved a cruise through downtown Long Beach and continued to Second Street in Belmont Shores, and along the way served notice that Formula Drift was in town for the weekend and was not to be missed. The evening concluded with great food at the Tantalum restaurant on the waterfront of Alamitos Bay, with the cars proudly on display right in front!
Friday was dedicated to qualifying, with over 60 drivers taking their best shot at the Top 32, the bracket system which Formula Drift follows to crown a winner by day’s end on Saturday. The process involves two runs per person, with judges awarding scores for each run. Scoring criteria consists of four factors: Speed, LIne, Angle and Overall impression. Each driver needed to hit 3 out of 4 clipping points and reach a particular velocity through the speed traps in order for the run to count. By the end of the day, the Top 32 were chosen and now drivers began strategizing about who would compete with whom in their quest to reach the podium.
Saturday was race day and for the first time Formula Drift boasted a sold out crowd, a very competitive field of drivers and a vendor area filled with enthusiastic fans snagging swag from their favorite suppliers. Oh…..and did I mention spectacular weather to accompany the countdown to the start! The action began with the Top 32 engaged in tandem drift battles to establish the Top 16, then the Top 8, then 4, and then it was down to just 2. Now the defending champion, Daijiro Yoshihara in his V8 powered Nissan S13 would face off against Justin Pawlak in a 2013 Ford Mustang, both running Falken tires. After fighting through the entire field and then besting the defending champion, Justin Pawlak proudly emerged the winner of the first round of the 2012 Formula Drift season.
For fans of the Scion FR-S or Subaru BRZ, attending Formula Drift this season is a necessity just to see Ken Gushi’s all new Scion FR-S drifter. Despite very little pre-season testing under his belt, Ken Gushi had an incredible weekend battling the V8 powered majority with his Crawford built EJ25 STi powered machine. He finished an impressive 9th place overall and was knocked out in a heated battle by none other than the defending champion Daijiro Yoshihara! Gushi followed Yoshihara for the first engagement, where straightening out a little too much before the big left hand sweeper pushed him to the outside, causing him to hit the wall backwards resulting in a broken wing and rear diffuser. With only 5 minutes to repair the car, the GReddy Scion Racing Team assessed the situation, removed the wing and taped down the trunk. In the second round Gushi was leading Yoshihara in an amazing run until the last turn when the lack of rear wing downforce caused the FR-S to lose its drift, allowing Yoshihara to take the win. We’ve captured excellent video of the entire event and of Ken Gushi’s run, so stay tuned later this week for the full video coverage.
Special thanks to Formula Drift, Scion Racing, GReddy Performance and Ken Gushi for their hospitality and the opportunity to document such an unforgettable weekend!