Thanks to our incredibly well-connected world, even if you have just a passing interest in the sport of drifting, you probably know that Speedhunters driver Vaughn Gittin Jr. had a serious crash at last weekend’s Texas round of Formula D. It was a brutal hit; the sort of car-meets-wall moment that makes you stop and say, ‘sh*t, I hope he’s going to walk away from this one.’ He did, thankfully.
We needed to know the whats, the whys and the hows, so after giving just enough time for the dust to settle, we sat down with Vaughn (virtually) and talked about the incident, the aftermath and what happens next.
Formula Drift slid into Texas Motor Speedway for the sixth stop of the Formula Drift USA championship, the seventh of the Formula Drift World championship and the third on the Pro 2 championship schedule. Making its third visit to the track (which sits just a few miles outside of Dallas, Texas), the layout from previous years was flipped into a reverse configuration, leveling the playing field for all drivers. With the new layout, drivers enter the track after a short 300-foot run-up, initiating sideways around 60 to 65mph into a long, right-hand sweeper. Judges will be looking for the drivers to hit an outside zone early in the turn, with a single inside clipping point near the exit of the turn. Accelerating in front of both the judges and the main grandstands through a ‘power alley’, drivers will transition to an inside clipping point before transitioning again to rub the rear bumper on a k-rail wall, finishing the course in another right-hand sweeper with an inside clip at the apex of the turn. Unlike many of the courses on the Formula Drift circuit, drivers see faster speeds in the latter half of the course than the first turn.
Wall Speedway in New Jersey has become a staple on the Formula Drift schedule, and the 33-degree banking is the most dramatic on the circuit. The uneven guard railing that lines the top of the bank can rip apart a car in a second, but drivers love to test the limits. New Jersey marks the middle point of the seven round Formula Drift USA schedule, and many championship chases have been curbed via carnage at the track in years past.
The course is a play on a figure eight, and somewhat similar to the Orlando layout just in smaller scale. Drivers take off from the start line and enter the first turn clockwise around the banked track, asked to push their bumpers as close to the guard rail as possible. Before they cross the traditional start finish line, drivers transition off the bank and onto the flat bottom with a switchback before entering the second turn also in clockwise orientation. After pushing their car as far outside on the flat apron without putting a tire onto the bank, drivers switchback once again on the backside of the track before rounding out the track on the apron of the first turn. With three outside clipping zones and a pair of switchbacks, the small track is easily viewed from anywhere in the stands and tends to provide close tandem.
In qualifying, Ken Gushi topped the qualifying charts for the second consecutive event with a score of 93, while his Scion Racing teammate Fredric Aasbo earned the same qualifying score but lost the tiebreaker due to a lower style score. Justin Pawlak pushed his Ford Mustang into the third place qualifying position, with Pat Goodin and Kenny Moen rounding out the top 5.
In case you missed the event or the live Formula Drift Driftstream, here’s a play-by-play of how the top 32 tandem battles shook out.
Gushi Lead: Gushi initiating as the number one qualifier for the second straight event, Hamilton isn’t giving him any room! Gushi is high on the bank, just like in his qualifying run, but Hamilton keeps it close through the entire course. A small steering bobble from Gushi, exiting the second outer zone, but otherwise a smooth run for both drivers.