Sneak Peak- Matt Coffman’s 2015 Formula Drift Nissan S13

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Sneak Peak – Matt Coffman’s 2015 Formula Drift Nissan S13

by Mike Kojima

21 year old Matt Coffman is currently in his second year of Formula D competition.  The second youngest driver on the Formula D circuit, in his freshman year Matt campaigned his S13 to 33rd in points.  Lacking experience Matt had a tough time on his first Formula D tour and didn’t qualify for 3 of the 7 rounds.  For his second time around, Matt and his team have attacked the season with renewed vigor, building a new car and having an aggressive pre season test schedule to enable Matt to become more familiar with his new ride.

Matt’s team consisting of Crew Chief Bill Conway, Nick Byatt, Jeff Mailley and Spike Chen has worked really hard in the off season to put together a strong program for Matt and the team is truly one of the best privateer teams in Formula D.

Growing up driving sideways on the dirt roads around his Medford Oregon home and starting his competition career in rally has given Matt a good base to build on.  He has rapidly made the transition to drifting, rising from the level of just messing around at local drift events to getting his Formula Drift Pro license in a very short amount of time.

Matt’s new S13 really caught our attention on media day.  Since we know a little about the S13 chassis we can say that Matt’s new car shows a high degree of build quality and technical sophistication.  It is perhaps one of the nicest S chassis cars to run on the Formula D circuit. Let’s take a close insider’s look at Matt’s new ride.

 

The Coffman Racing crew run a tight ship and we were impressed by their professionalism even withon a small privateer’s budget.  You will not find a nicer bunch of guys either.  Matt’s car is very cleanly built with topline parts and set up well.  With good support, look for this young driver to do much better the second time around!
The Coffman Racing S13 is not powered by the typical Chevy LS or small block but instead by a Roush Yates Ford FR9 410 Sprint Car engine.  At least it started life that way before it was reworked by Matt Rodgers at Rodgers Racing Engines for a broader powerband and more torque.  The engine was switched over to Thunderbolt E99 bio ethanol fuel and it runs an extremely high compression ratio of about 14:1 and a cam with a tighter lobe separation angle and less duration for more bottom end and midrange torque.  A huge Mishimoto black series radiator dominates the front of the car to keep things cooler than cool.
The Ford engine was chosen because it has been extensively developed by Roush Yates and simply makes more power than the Chevys in an off the shelf package. The Ford engine features Kinsler ITB injection, the minimal runner volume and 8 throttle blades make for very fast throttle response with excellent mid to top end power.  The ITB’s feature 60mm  throttle bodies and huge 1100 cc ASNU injectors.  The ITB’s are responsible for the car’s unique engine note.
The Ford engine is a much bigger package than the compact LS Chevy engine and is positively huge compared to a Small Block Chevy.  The Ford cylinder heads are much wider and the deck height of the Ford block is about an inch taller.  While an LS or Small Block Chevy is considered to be an easy fit into an S chassis the Ford takes a little more doing.  The custom stainless headers bend tightly around the exhaust port  for clearance and have to be dimpled a bit around the shock towers to make room in the tight confines of the S13 engine bay.  For this year the headers have been modified with longer primary tubes for better mid range.  You can see each cylinder has individual EGT probes which allows for individual tuning of the MoTeC M150 ECU for each cylinder.

 

ROUSH Performance Talks Formula Drift with Justin “JTP” Pawlak

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jtp_newsletter_1ROUSH Performance drifter Justin “JTP” Pawlak took a little time to sit down with us and talk all things Formula Drift, including how comfortable he is behind the wheel of his 2013 ROUSHcharged Ford Mustang (after only having one day of testing before the car’s Formula Drift debut), how he feels about the understated livery of the car, and his relationship with SLP-counterpart Michael Essa. Read on!

Stephanie Davies: If you would’ve had it your way, how much seat time would you have needed to feel really comfortable in the car going into the Streets of Long Beach event?

JTP: In years past, we get like two to three test days potentially, and I mean, that’s kind of enough but if I had it my way, I’d probably want a handful of days. The more seat time you have in a vehicle, the more comfortable you are with exactly what it’s doing, and also you can use that seat time to develop the suspension and the overall handling characteristics of the car. It’s just one of those things, like practice makes perfect. The proof is in the pudding on that.

SD: Would you say the majority of your time is spent doing chassis/suspension stuff, as opposed to engine tunes?

DKAR-8991JTP: Yeah, definitely. Once you get the engine, like now we feel confident in the tune we have in the car, the car makes good power. To be honest in-between Round 1 and Round 2, the only thing that we’re really working on is the cooling system. We didn’t really experience any high temperatures per say, but we’re also in Long Beach at 72 degrees. We’re not in Atlanta where it’s going to be mid-80s to 90s with high humidity. Same thing with Florida and New Jersey the next three rounds. So we just want to make sure that the cooling system is more than capable of keeping the temperatures down, especially since we are running a blower setup and there is heat-soak with that setup. Also in Atlanta, there is no real cool down time in-between runs. It’s just knowing the obstacles that we’re going to be facing, we’re just trying to rectify any potential issues that we may have that would take away from our competitive advantage. We’re working on the cooling system and then also, we are paying attention to some suspension changes as well that should give us a competitive advantage. We will be dialing-in the suspension setup throughout the year. That’s kind of like an ever-changing deal because every track is different, every suspension setup is going to be different, since there are different characteristics on each track that you are tuning for.

SD: About this car, it’s obviously a pretty understated look that you guys have gone with this year. It’s much different than the other cars on the track that tend to be over the top in styling. Do you wish it was a little more over the top? Is that more your style?

DKAR-0963JTP: No, I love it, I love it. I think it’s definitely a good representation of me. I’m not really a flashy guy per say. I’m more into the performance aspect of drifting. I definitely like the styling, but I’m more on the just clean, classic styling. In the past, it’s more about kind of a Japanese-influence styling with other cars that I’ve built, even with the most recent project that I’ve done with ROUSH and StangTV – it’s more of a Japanese styling twist on a Mustang. With this one, we kind of went with more of a classic hot rod – you know the satin black, clean lines, simple livery, and I think that really just plays well into the Mustang kind of being a retro-styled car. I’m not really into the super flashy neon colors and that sort of thing. I mean, it works for other drivers and the style that they’re going for, but I really like the whole classic hot rod style that both Essa and I chose to go with this year.

SD: Do you have a close working relationship with Essa and his team? Do you guys have any sort of rivalry brewing up? What’s going on there?

JTP: I mean it’s definitely like a friendly rivalry if anything. We’ve known each other for quite a long time. We both live in Southern California, we both actually started drifting in RX-7s. I met him a long time ago, and we traded some tires. I was looking to get some road racing tires and he wanted some drift tires, so we traded some tires probably in 2004 or ‘05 or something like that. It’s been probably 10 years that we’ve known each other. We’re both kind of cut from the same cloth where we build our own cars, we drive our own cars, we both run our own shops. This off season, being that we’re partnering, I helped him a little bit with his car, and at the track, our crew guys kind of help each other out and what not. It’s cool because his crew and my crew are all kind of cut from the same cloth too, so we all get along really well. When Mike got knocked out early in Long Beach, his crew guys came over and helped us out, so that was really cool. The following weekend we were all kind of helping each other as well at the Super Drift during the Grand Prix, and then we ended up lining up against each other. Obviously when we’re lining up against each other there’s a rivalry there because that’s the nature of the beast, however there’s not really a grudge per say.

SD: Do you have a favorite Formula Drift event? Do you have a favorite track?

DKAR-7892JTP: Long Beach is probably one of my favorite tracks. It’s right up there, just because it’s in the streets of Long Beach. You rarely have an opportunity to drift on public streets legally so it’s pretty cool. The back drop is amazing. I lived in Long Beach for quite a few years, so it was always kind of special for me in that respect. Just being able to ride my bike from my house down to the track was always pretty cool, and it’s a super challenging track. It may not look that impressive from the stands looking down on the track, however when you’re going through K-rails that are above your window and you’re making corners that you can’t see where they open up to, it’s a pretty cool experience inside the car. And then I would say, another track that I really like is Irwindale (I don’t know why they’re both in Southern California), but Irwindale is one of the first professional tracks I drifted on, and it’s the “House of Drift” – it’s where drifting started in the United States. And at the end of the season, there’s always a lot of emotions, or you know a championship on the line. It’s just always a really unique event and there’s always some drama that unfolds or something amazing that happens.

Keep it locked right here for more from ROUSH Performance and Justin “JTP” Pawlak!

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How Tragedy Can Motivate You to Perform Better Drifter Geoff Stoneback relied on the spirit of his dying friend to deliver his best race ever

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The plane ride from Philadelphia to Los Angeles lasted 6 hours, but Geoff Stoneback felt like he was trapped in the sky for eternity.

The professional Formula Drifter was headed out west to do some last-minute maintenance on his Nissan S14 before the 2015 season opener, held on the streets of Long Beach. The reigning rookie of the year looked forward to not just kicking off his sophomore campaign in Formula Drift, but to hanging out with his L.A.-based best friend and crew member, Mark Lenardon, in the days leading up to the big event.

Shortly into his Sunday-night trip, however, Stoneback noticed something strange: He had working WiFi, which was out of the norm. Minutes later, he received a haunting message from a friend.

 

Mark was in a crazy accident, the text read. If you can, call his mom.

Stoneback’s heart sunk. “I had a real creepy feeling,” he says. “I was stuck on this plane for hours and hours, and I didn’t know how bad his accident was.”

Immediately after touching down at midnight, Stoneback jetted to Long Beach Memorial to see Lenardon. The police had found him 100 feet from his motorcycle and couldn’t determine the cause of the crash, though they suspected speed was a factor. By the time Stoneback had arrived to see him, doctors had placed Lenardon in a medically induced coma on account of dangerously high brain pressure.

Stoneback stayed in the hospital for the next 24 hours and simply sat beside his unconscious friend. An aspiring videographer, Lenardon filmed Stoneback’s drifting videos and photos, and helped the driver edit event recaps, rope in sponsors, and constantly work on his car. “Anything he coulddo, he would,” Stoneback says. “He just wanted to make me as successful as possible.” (See another great example of What Male Friendship Really Looks Like.)

With his race approaching on Friday, Stoneback mustered up enough might to drive to the course for prep on Tuesday—but only at the strong insistence of Lenardon’s family, who told him that he needed to practice.

On his trip to the track, however, Stoneback broke down in tears. “There I was crying in my car,” he says. “How was I supposed to go drive this 1,000-horsepower, $100,000 car when my best friend was in a hospital bed dying?”

That week, he drove like “complete crap,” and ran into a mechanical issue that prevented him from practicing before his qualifying round on Friday. He felt hopeless. “It was so emotionally tough.”

Still, Stoneback told himself that “Mark would have just wanted me to rip it that weekend,” and vowed to find inspiration in his ailing friend. He partnered with apparel companies to make T-shirts in Lenardon’s honor, with proceeds going toward his medical costs, and helped spread awareness for the Mark Lenardon Family Fund, which has since raised more than $34,000 in just 18 days.

Stoneback even wrote “I <3 Mark Lenardon” in big, white letters on top of his purple Nissan, the brightest symbol of a season-long dedication to his crew mate.

On Friday, April 10, race day rolled around. Right before he headed to the track, Stoneback stopped by Lenardon’s hospital room to place a bracelet on the teddy bear in his bed.

“I told Mark, ‘I know you’re with us,’” Stoneback says. “And he was.”

Despite his lack of practice, Stoneback qualified 14th out of 40 pro drifters—the best he’s ever placed in Formula Drift. The next day, he won his first tandem battle and moved on to the top 16. Although he lost in that round to the drifter who ended up winning the whole competition, Stoneback is proud of his performance—and knows Lenardon helped give him an extra push.

“When you dedicate a performance to someone, you attack it with double the amount of energy and power,” Stoneback says. “You act as though that person is by your side. It gives you a drive you never thought you had.”

(Check out 7 more Mental Tricks to Help You Crush Every Workout.)

Lenardon passed away on April 14, from injuries sustained during the motorcycle accident. He was just 26, but “he had already touched everyone in the drifting community,” Stoneback says.

As for what his best friend taught him most, Stoneback singles out Lenardon’s unstoppable drive. “He always tried to be the best at he wanted to do, and he made himself better. His videos will always be here. His photos will always be here. But the way he was so passionate is how I’m going to remember him. Now I’m going to apply that in my life.”

Continue reading How Tragedy Can Motivate You to Perform Better Drifter Geoff Stoneback relied on the spirit of his dying friend to deliver his best race ever