10 Things Learned From Formula Drift Atlanta

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Written by Joey Redmond of Wrecked Magazine
 

10. Is James Deane’s Kryptonite a BMW?

While James Deane is quickly becoming a staple in the Formula Drift history books, he cannot seem to buy a win against his fellow European Kristaps Bluss. A record of 0-2 against Bluss is the only driver in Formula Drift who hasn’t lost to Deane after meeting him more than once. In fact, only two drivers in Formula Drift history have beaten him more than once at this point in time. That would be Kristaps Bluss (2-0) against Deane and Chris Forsberg (2-3) against Deane. Those are some pretty wild statistics and I am personally finding Deane’s tandem much more enjoyable this season compared to last. Kristaps Bluss and his HGK Eurofighter BMW might be the only thing to just stop this championship repeat from James Deane.
 
 
 

9. Matt Coffman Jumps the Light

This was a pretty wild turn of events for the weekend. Matt Coffman jumps the light and leaves Ken Gushi in his dust during Top 32. Matt Coffman is given the win and after Top 32 a protest is reviewed and the first run (leading to the protest) must be re-run just before Top 16 starts. The new runs result in Ken Gushi advancing to the Top 16. I think the judges and staff made the right call to rectify a bad situation. I do think this should have this of been caught in the first place (I’m sure Ken Gushi agrees!). Who is monitoring the light at the start line? This should be monitored more carefully in the future. It’s probably not a crisis since this really hasn’t happened before but I have to wonder how much more trouble this would have caused if it was done in a faster moving part of the event like the Great 8.
 
 
 

8. Ryan Tuerck Looked Really Good

One driver who hadn’t caught my eye yet this season was Ryan Tuerck! His Toyota 86 looked really dialed and if he had avoided James Deane that early in the event I think a podium was an easy score for him. His battle against Vaughn Gittin Jr. in Top 32 was one of the best tandem runs of the weekend and likely overlooked since it was so early on. I even would make the argument on his first group of runs against James Deane he had perhaps slightly the better runs. I hope this is a sign the team is gearing up for a strong second half of the season. Tuerck hasn’t landed an event victory since Orlando Speed World in 2015 so he does feel really overdue for his fourth career victory.
 
 
 

7. Pro 2 Was the Best of Times and Worst of Times

Some of the Pro 2 battles were ugly and some were really really fun. I want to put a little focus on the positive and say I think the top 5 guys in Pro 2 that drove in Atlanta could likely beat the bottom 5 drifters in the Pro ranks right now. The Riley Sexsmith and Ryan Litteral battle was quite a highlight of the weekend with Sexsmith constantly smashing into the KORU Works 350z in the tandem runs but Litteral held his line and finished the lap. Ola Jaeger looked like a younger Fredric Aasbo (in his old MKIV Supra) as he went on to victory against Dylan Hughes whom also really looks like a future top drifting Pro as well. Pro 2 after some rough teething years is starting to look like a great success story.
 
 
 

6. The Livestream Dual Run Replay is so Key

I really found these to be one of my main highlights from Road Atlanta. Some of the battles really needed these to help you realize where each driver made different mistakes. I think split view drifting in this manner will really help the general fan understand how a call was made. The icing on the Livestream cake will be when they get more camera angels live (especially for car to car contact) or just let us view that drone they are always flying around for the CBS broadcast please!
 
 
 

5. The Rookie Race is Tighter than Ever

Just 36 championship points split the top five drivers competing for the Rookie of the Year crown. Dirk Stratton in fact, only holds the lead over Matt VanKirk by just 1 championship point right now. This has to be the most exciting and close rookie races in recent memory. I don’t really see a clear ROTY winner this season yet, so this is a competition I’m going to keep a close eye on for the Top 10 through the rest of the season. That is, until one driver rises to the occasion and starts dominating the Rookie Championship standings.
 
 
 

4. Jhonnattan Castro DNF Raises An Interesting Question

After thinking about this incident between Castro and Rad Dan, I realize you have to call it a racing incident, but man it hurts for Jhonnattan Castro. You can almost attribute his mechanical failure to the fact that Rad Dan slammed his Supra into his Toyota 86 in that same spot earlier. However, Formula Drift staff cannot really make that kind of retroactive call so it’s a tough spot for everyone. This should be a stark reminder for teams to really check over their suspension when given the free pass to inspect the car after racing contact. I do have to wonder under what conditions it would have been possible to catch this.
 
 
 

3. Justin Pawlak’s Second Qualifying Run was Incredible

Everyone has stepped up their qualifying game this season and you have to imagine the free gift of 16 championship points by drawing “bye run” has to be a factor the top teams are considering. Scores are edging closer and closer to a perfect 100, event after event which means the driving level is at an all time high. If you need any evidence, just look at Justin Pawlak’s insane second qualifying run he put down a strong 97. That run came after his first pass scored him a respectable 95. I really think the 100 score run is coming this season sooner or later. Network A was kind enough to make a video of the top 5 qualifying runs in case you don’t want to spend hours watching the Livestream digging for the gems.
 
 
 

2. The Crashes and Car-to-Car Hits Really Piled Up this Season

Matt Field and Pro 2 driver Jonathan Burnstad took some hard hits into the uphill wall at Road Atlanta. Both incidents were Thursday crashes so the footage was limited but it caught my attention, as I don’t consider Road Atlanta to be a car-destroying track. The amount of car-to-car contact in Pro was also increased this weekend to a very high percentage over the past few years. What caused these supposed increases? Was it increased speeds or were these mistakes part of the progression of drifting increasing from year to year? I’m not quite sure yet but these mishaps pave the way for a potentially dangerous Wall Speedway round next which tends to claim a couple cars into the banked wall on any given drift weekend.
 
 
 

1. Kristaps Bluss Gets his Revenge

I am sure Kristaps Bluss envisioned his first Formula Drift victory over and over again in his head. He would finally become the 27th drifter in history to win a Formula Drift event. It just happened to be a rematch of the last time he made the finals against Fredric Aasbo at Orlando Speed World. From my perspective that battle was Kristaps to lose. So I am sure it felt rather poetic that he managed to beat the same driver to take home his first ever event victory! With the way his car looked at Road Atlanta, I can see him winning his second event this season. His BMW also becomes just the third one to ever win a Formula Drift event.

KRISTAPS BLUSS SCORES FIRST FORMULA DRIFT VICTORY AT ROAD ATLANTA

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Formula DRIFT arrived at Road Atlanta this weekend for the NAPA Auto Parts: Road to the Championship presented by Rain X. Round Three would be the first time in 2018 that the Formula DRIFT Black Magic Pro Championship would run alongside the Formula DRIFT Linked ECU Pro2 Championship. The series was also joined by Global Time Attack and the US F4 championship to give fans an action-packed weekend.

That action leapt into overdrive during Friday qualifying for the Pro category when two familiar faces rose to the top. This included Justin “JTP” Pawlak (USA) qualifying first in his Roush Performance / Falken Tires 2018 Ford Mustang. With 13 years drifting experience, he scored 97 points in qualifying, narrowly beating Daijiro Yoshihara (Japan) in second place. Dai scored 96 points in his Turn 14 Distribution / Falken Tire Subaru BRZ and is one of a handful of drivers who have been with Formula DRIFT since the series was founded in 2004. The 2011 FD champion held off Fredric Aasbo (Norway), himself the 2015 FD champion, in his Rockstar Energy Drink / Nexen Tire Toyota Corolla. Aasbo recorded a best score of 95 points to put him third. He was placed ahead of James Deane (Ireland), the 2017 FD champion, who also scored 95 points in his Worthouse / Falken Tire Nissan Silvia S15. However, James was awarded fourth by virtue of a lower score on his second run.

To give an indication of the competitive nature of the 2018 Formula DRIFT season, positions five through eight all scored and identical 94 points. In fact, the top 12 drivers were only separated by seven points on their best scoring runs. They were placed according to the combined score from the two permissible qualifying runs, with very little to choose between these top drivers.

Qualifying fifth with two very consistent runs – scoring an identical 94 points each time – was Kristaps Blušs (Latvia) in his HGK Racing Team / Achilles Radial / MAST Motorsports BMW E92 “Eurofighter”. He’s been a professional drifter since 2010 and completed his first full Formula DRIFT season in 2015 when he finished 28th overall. The following year Blušs finished 12th and stepped up to fifth overall in 2017. And with such steady progression through the ranks, it should come as no surprise to students of Formula DRIFT that he won his first event at Road Atlanta in 2018.

The maiden victory for Blušs didn’t come easy. With the field separated by the smallest margin, the competition was among the toughest of any Formula DRIFT event. In fact, there was a record number of “One More Time” runs with 11 called throughout the competition. For those who don’t know, “One More Time” is requested when the judges call for the drivers to repeat their runs because it was impossible to pick a winner from the first runs.

The climb to the top for Blušs began in the Top 32 against Kevin Lawrence (USA) driving his Enjuku Racing / BC Racing Nissan S14.3. Following that victory, his path was blocked by Forrest Wang in his Vapetasia / Achilles Radial / NRG Innovations Nissan S15. Wang is back from a one-year sabbatical and finished second at the opening round before standing on the podium twice at the 2018 Motegi Super DRIFT Challenge. The on-form Wang didn’t make things easy for Blušs. In fact, the judges called for “One More Time” an unprecedented two times.

The Latvian would move on to the Top 8, where he met 2017 Formula DRIFT champ James Deane in yet another Nissan. It was a similarly titanic struggle against Deane that must have had Blušs seeing double because once he’d vanquished the Irishman, Kristaps lined up against Deane’s teammate, Piotr Wiecek (Poland) in an identical Worthouse / Falken Tire Nissan Silvia S15. The intensity continued to mount as Wiecek – currently sitting fourth in the championship – piled on the pressure, determined to reach the final himself. However, the Pole was on the Blušs hitlist and would fall like the drivers before him.

In the Final, Blušs met 2015 FD champion, Fredric Aasbo. The Norwegian drifter is top of the 2018 championship standings thanks to a win and third place in the previous rounds. Driving his brand new Rockstar Energy Drink / Nexen Tire Toyota Corolla, Aasbo had a slightly easier path to the Final thanks to a bye round in the Top 32. He then brushed aside Dan Burkett (USA) in his RAD Industries / Nexen Tire / Toyota Supra in the Top 16, and Chelsea Denofa (USA) in his BC Racing / Nitto Tire / Ford Performance Mustang RTR in the Top 8. The semi-final was against multiple Formula DRIFT champion Chris Forsberg driving his NOS Energy Drink Nissan 370Z on Nexen Tires. Forsberg put up a valiant fight but couldn’t resist Aasbo, who proved to be unstoppable until the final.

When Blušs met Aasbo it was a meteoric contest. Both drivers committed everything to the struggle and the judges once again requested “One More Time.” It would take one tiny mistake to separate them and eventually the decision went to Blušs.

“I’m exhausted but happy to be covered in champagne,” said Aasbo immediately after stepping from the podium. “This is exactly how I want to be after a night like this. I’m ecstatic that we broke our Atlanta curse – we haven’t done well here since 2012 but today we got on the podium and lost against the guy to beat. Kristaps (Blušs) totally deserved the win. He’s been at it for many years and his car was a rocketship. I’m super-relieved to be on the podium and stoked to extend my lead in the championship.”

For Kristaps Blušs it was an emotional moment to finally claim a Formula DRIFT Pro category win. “It feels really great to have achieved this. I had two One More Times against Wang before battling both Worthouse guys, who are crazy good. Fortunately, my Achilles tires performed well and I got to the Final with Fredric Aasbo. I’d battled with him five times before and always lost but finally I beat him. It feels crazy to be standing here and I’m going to try to maintain the momentum for the rest of the season.”

The excitement of Formula DRIFT Atlanta was summed up by FD president, Jim Liaw. “Road Atlanta never fails to excite. The fans are amazing and contribute so much to the energy of the event. What they bring is contagious and the drivers feel it – you see it on-track with amazing competition, which gave the judges a really hard time to pick a winner from some of the battles. This is why Road Atlanta has been on our calendar for the last 15 years. It’s a great place and the fans are awesome.”

Round Four: The Gauntlet takes place in Wall, NJ on June 1-2. Visit formulad.com for event details, ticket purchases, driver profiles and Livestream information.

PRO2 CHAMPIONSHIP
Road Atlanta hosted the opening round of the 2018 Link ECU Formula DRIFT Pro2 Championship. A full field battled for the top step of the podium and Travis Reeder (USA) put everybody on notice by qualifying first in his Achilles Radial Nissan 240SX. He would defeat Crick Filippi (USA) in his Fitzgerald Glider Kits / Nexen Tire USA Nissan S13 in the Top 16 run-off, and then Kelsey Rowlings in his Top 1 Oil / Achilles Radial Nissan S14 in the Top 8. Travis’ run would eventually be halted by second place qualifier, Dylan Hughes (USA) in his Advanced Auto Parts / Nexen Tire Nissan S13.

For his part, Hughes had to overcome Adam Knapik (Poland) in the Knapik Racing / Achilles Radial Nissan S14 in the Top 16 before meeting Kenric Meyer (USA) in his BC Racing / Achilles Radial BMW M3 in the Top 8.

Hughes would eventually lose the final to Ola Jaeger (Norway) who was driving his Team Japan Auto / Nexen Tire Toyota Supra. Having qualified fourth, Ola first met Trenton Beechum (USA) in the Roush Performance / Nexen Tire Ford Mustang. Trenton had finished third in the 2018 Motegi Super DRIFT Challenge in Long Beach last month but couldn’t hold off Jaeger, who would subsequently beat Andy Hately (USA) in the Hateley Motorsports / Achilles Radial / BMW E30 before reaching and defeating Dylan Hughes in the Final.

“It’s been a long day,” said a relieved Ola Jaeger after the Link ECU Pro2 podium celebrations. “I had been a little concerned coming into the weekend but my confidence increased battle by battle. I’m delighted to have beaten Dylan (Hughes), who is among the best in the Pro2. To win each of those battles felt unreal, and I’m delighted to be standing here after the team worked so hard all winter. We’re really looking forward to the remainder of the season and hope for continued success.”

Jim Liaw, Formula DRIFT president, was also extremely happy with the outcome: “After developing the Pro2 category for so many seasons, it’s really hitting its stride now. Last season ended well with tough, close competition, and today’s Top 16 was super-exciting and competitive, which is a great sign for the future of the Link ECU Pro2 Championship. We’re definitely looking forward to the rest of the season.”

Round Two of the Link ECU Pro2 Championship takes place at Round Six of the Formula DRIFT series in St Louis, MO on August 10-11. Pro2 then moves on to Dallas, TX on September 14-15 and culminates at the series Finals in Irwindale, CA on October 12-13.

Visit formulad.com for event details, ticket purchases, driver profiles and Livestream information.

2018 FORMULA DRIFT CHAMPIONSHIP

Top 16 finishing places from FD Atlanta

To view the Top 32 finishers, click here:
formulad.com/results/2018/road-atlanta/pro
Top FivePro Championship standings after three rounds

To view the 2018 Pro Championship standings, click here:
formulad.com/standings/2018/pro

Top Five Pro2Championship standings after one round

To view the 2018 Pro2 Championship standings, click here:
formulad.com/results/2018/road-atlanta/pro2

Top FiveAuto Cup standings after three rounds

To view the 2018 Auto Cup standings, click here:
formulad.com/standings/2018/pro
Tire Cup standings after three rounds

To view the 2018 Tire Cup standings, click here:
formulad.com/standings/2018/pro

#FDATL Stats and Results

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PODIUM

1st – Kristaps Bluss
2nd – Fredric Aasbo
3rd – Chris Forsberg

FULL RESULTS AND STANDINGS

Standings: http://www.formulad.com/standings/2018/pro
Results and Bracket: http://www.formulad.com/results/2018/road-atlanta/pro
Top 32: https://www.facebook.com/FormulaDriftLIVE/videos/207210123221823/
Top 16: https://www.facebook.com/FormulaDriftLIVE/videos/207210666555102/
Winning Run: https://www.facebook.com/FormulaDRIFT/videos/209059346370234/

Photos: http://news.formulad.com/2018-gallery/

Forrest Wang: Atlanta Qualifying

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Forrest Wang qualified 12th Friday Night at Formula Drift Round 3 – Atlanta
Click on the images to view the 90 point qualifying run video

Forrest scored an 86 on his first qualifying run and bettered it on his 2nd qualifying run laying with a 90. The score earned him the 12th qualifying spot, placing him in the bracket against Jeff Jones in Top 32 Competition.

The Formula Drift live stream will be broadcasting the Top 32 starting at 4:30 EST.
Watch Here – http://www.formulad.com/live

Car Title
The Vapetasia / Achilles Radial / NRG Innovations – Nissan s15/s14

Team:
Vapetasia / Get Nuts Lab

Crew:
Garret Nicholich – Crew Chief
Jeff Woodruff – Mechanic 1
Jake Hakaraia – Mechanic 2
Kyle Leblanc – Tuner
Joe Tardiff – Spotter
Nicholas Dizon – Team Manager

Tires:
Achilles 123s

Clutch
Competition Clutch – 215 Ceramic Twin

Transmission
Andrews w/ Get Nuts Lab Bell-housing adapter

Differential
Winters Quick Change IRC

Brakes:
Winmax Pads w/ Get Nuts Lab rear dual caliper brackets

Exterior:
2F Performance / Super Doof
Three Piece US / SSR Vienna Courage
Big Country Labs / 1850 Wing

Interior:
NRG Forrest Wang EditionWheel
NRG RS 600 FIA / HANS Seat
NRG SPH-RS 6pc – FIA Harness

Engine:
Toyota 2jz-VVTI
Supplied by JDM of California
Built by Universal Machine
Turbo By Honeywell GTX3584rs
Brian Crower Internals/Valvetrain
OCD Ported VVTI Head

Electronics
Haltech 2500 Elite ECU

Suspension:
BC Racing ZR Threeway Coilovers w/ Swift Springs,
Wisefab Angle Kit w. Wisefab Crossmember

Fuel System:
Powered by VP Racing Fuels Q16
Radium Multi Pump FST
Radium Multi Pump Regulator
ATI Fuel Cell