It was a wild weekend in the Pacific Northwest for drifting. Perfect weather, crazy driving, carnage, and a vicious points race are a good way to kick off the second half of the the 2019 Formula Drift season.
Rookie rock and roll
I want to start off talking about the two rookies in the series right now; Dylan Hughes and Travis Reeder. Every rookie has had a rocky start this season. Yet Reeder and Hughes are holding strong in a tight points race for Rookie of the Year. With Hughes having some struggles in the beginning, he’s managed to find his rhythm. He’s right behind Reeder in the standings. Reeder is a force to be reckoned with though, as he’s consistently made it into the Top 16 each round. Hughes is slowly catching up, and his Top 8 finish this round is turning Rookie of the Year honors into a real fight. Look out for these two in the coming rounds. I would love to see them go head-to-head.
It isn’t a Formula Drift event without some controversy! Two notable battles in the Top 16 have left the Internet buzzing. First was Vaughn Gittin Jr. vs. Ken Gushi. The two went at it with both providing some clean runs. The judges couldn’t decide a winner and had them go OMT (One More Time). During the OMT battle, Gushi put down a solid lead run while Gittin was falling off line around the bank and had to make some adjustments. The drivers traded spots, and this is where things get weird. Gittin is putting down a solid line around the bank. Coming off of the bank Gushi goes off course and straightens up on a path towards Gittin. Gittin, completely separate from Gushi’s incident, over rotates transitioning into the inside clipping point. With Gushi coming right into his path, he bites up and just manages to escape damaging the cars and gave Gushi a kiss on the front right tire. The judges deemed both drivers made large mistakes and were two separate incidences. They called that run a wash and judged only the previous battle. Considering Gittin had a not-so favorable line on the bank, they gave the win to Gittin. The crowd erupts, Instagram erupts, I managed to get the mishap on film (literally).
Next, there was an incident with another Mustang during the Chelsea DeNofa versus Chris Forsberg battle. Starting in the lead position, Chelsea was off to a good start, but bobbled coming off the bank and got dinged hard for that mistake. Given Forsberg wasn’t necessarily hitting his marks in the chase position either, judges made them go OMT. On the second battle with Denofa giving chase, he spins coming into the inner clip. Denofa claims Chris intentionally checked up coming out of the clip, and it was slow enough that Denofa couldn’t save the car. After watching this battle from the livestream POV, I think he’s right. The wheel speed slows down and there’s no tire smoke for a split second until Chris guns it out the gate. It’s something judges couldn’t immediately see from the tower, but the livestream showed what’s going on. Games are played in FD. When money is involved, it just be like that sometimes.
How the rest was won
Points leader Frederic Aasbo was met with multiple challenges this weekend, yet he continues to lead the championship points race (but only by a small margin). After a few technical issues in practice, Aasbo blew the engine during his first qualifying lap. Like the robots they are, the Papadakis Racing Team got a new engine in the car and on the grid in time for his second qualifying pass landing him in a safe yet secure 18th spot on the bracket.
Odi Bakchis finished the weekend only 2 championship points behind Frederic. The good and bad for both drivers is that
each of them were taken out in their own Top 16 battles. The first and second place championship podium spots are
still in the hands of the same drivers, but the margins are thin.
Ryan Tuerck, coming back from a victory in New Jersey, was taken out in the Top 16 to his protege Dylan Hughes. This dropped him out of the third place spot and way down to sixth as the Piotr Wiecek, James Dean and Chris Forsberg jumped ahead with their 1st, 2nd, and 4th place finishes. Forsberg just missed the 3rd place spot as Dai Yoshihara qualified higher on the bracket. I persoanlly think they should bring back the consolation battle, but it is what it is!
The points margin is still extremely narrow. The top 5 drivers in the championship race are all within 26 points of each other, and the top 11 drivers are all within 110 points. Basically, it’s anyone’s game after this round. Aasbo is a mere 2 points ahead of Bakchis, and the Worthouse team + Forsberg are hard on the tail. Everyone is hungry for a championship this year, and I’m told Nexen has some damn good catering. All we can do from here is sit back and watch the carnage unfold as Round 6 in St. Louis is right around the corner. This is the season to pay attention.
[Images copyright 2019 Redusernab/Matt Ulfelder]