Mixed weather and a series of unfortunate events made the Seattle round of Formula DRIFT one for the ages.
by Armin H. Ausejo by Armin H. Ausejo & Vinnie Nguyen
July is traditionally the driest month of the year for the greater Seattle area, and with as hot as the weather has been lately, there was no reason to believe that Formula DRIFT weekend would be any different. Of course, as luck would have it, Formula DRIFT’s fifth round in Seattle would turn into a meme: “Best Seattle Summer in Years? Here’s some rain for FD weekend.” While the rain didn’t affect the majority of the PRO or PRO2 competition, it definitely made its presence felt at some very key moments.
Friday’s PRO practice started off quite dry, albeit under overcast skies. However, once qualifying began, showers pushed through, making the drifting slow and serene rather than its exact opposite. Many of the PRO drivers spun out on their first runs, making many people question if an entire field of 32 drivers would even be possible. 1000+ horsepower and slick roads don’t mix well together, and the highest qualifiers barely scored 60 out of 100 possible points. Even much of the media retired to drier surroundings, but being Made in the Rain, NWMotiv’s photographers toughed it out. Things were looking pretty dire, but as the first round of qualifying came to a close, the rain stopped and smoke once again filled Evergreen Speedway. Kenny Moen soon became the top qualifier, with championship points leader Ryan Tuerk qualifying second and Fredric Aasbo qualifying third.
After a short break, the PRO2 competition was on, but not without a few retirements during practice and qualifying the day prior. Local favorite Chris Jeanneret ran into some mechanical issues during Thursday’s PRO2 qualifying, leading to him hitting the wall and taking him out of competition altogether. During Friday’s practice, Hiro Sumida hit the wall right after the 5/8s in spectacular fashion, throwing headlight glass and fender parts everywhere. Cameron Moore and Ian Fournier were pitted against each other in the 8th and 9th qualifying spots respectively, which was bittersweet for the crowds as both are local drivers.
Fournier ended up with the win, and along with fellow Vancouver area native Brody Gobble, led the local charge for PRO2’s second round victory. Unfortunately, neither was able to make it to the finals, and James Evans ended up on the top spot of the PRO2 podium after PRO2 championship points leader Alex Heilbrunn retired after hitting a wall.
Saturday morning started off with some apprehension thanks to the weather. The skies opened up as pit crews were getting the PRO cars ready, and it was clear that everyone was worried that it would continue to rain throughout the day. Fortunately, as the gates opened at 11 am, the raindrops stopped and practice conditions remained dry, but cool. The Top 32 was fierce from the very start, with a handful of one-more-times and a few questionable wins.
The strangest of all of these was undoubtedly between Tyler McQuarrie and Justin Pawlak, where it looked as if Pawlak nudged McQuarrie off his line and into the wall, McQuarrie aggressively tried to take his line back, and Pawlak ultimately T-boned him into the final wall. After a long judging conversation, Pawlak ended up with the win over McQuarrie, much to the chagrin of the crowd.
Not long after this, it was as if the weather gods agreed with the crowd and opened up the skies once again just as the Top 4 competition began. The newly slick roads were incredibly challenging for the remaining four drivers, but Alec Hohnadell was able to best Pawlak to move onto the finals, leaving Pawlak in third place since he qualified higher than Pat Goodin. With Ryan Tuerck retiring early with mechanical problems, Fredric Aasbo was pitted against Hohnadell for the final rainy battle. Aasbo’s consistency and experience in the rain ultimately led to his victory, but nevertheless Hohnadell had plenty to celebrate with his first ever podium finish. With the victory, Aasbo took over the top spot in the PRO championship standings from Tuerck.
This year’s Formula DRIFT Seattle was definitely one of the more eventful rounds in recent memory. It had just about everything a drift fan could possibly ask for, and we’re quite happy as always to be able to cover it. Hopefully next year, more local drivers will be able to show everyone what they can do.