There was a lot of hype about the arrival of the Worthouse Drift Team in Formula Drift for the 2017 season. Two new drivers on the grid, two new cars and a lot of unknowns. James’ victory in Long Beach was proof for many that he could walk the walk, although for some, his immediate success was enough for them to overturn their longtime support, instead preferring to take the more trendy view of him being overhyped and his win being a one-off.
Some of the things that I heard and read after Long Beach certainly elicited a laugh or two, including one claiming he had an advantage because the car was right-hand drive. Others, who previously sung his praises were now chomping at the bit, eager for his failure. Wait until he gets to the ovals they said…
It just happened that Round 2 this year is an oval circuit, with the Orlando Speed World venue having swapped places with Road Atlanta in the Formula D schedule. One ex-Formula D competitor warned me in advance that OSW made Ireland’s Rosegreen – itself a tiny short oval in rural Tipperary – look like Talladega.
It was an over exaggeration, of course, but we were certainly a long way from the well groomed streets of Long Beach. Orlando is the first stop on a tour which takes in four corners of the United States, a trip across to Canada, along with a round in the heart of Texas. Leaving the familiarity of California behind, it felt like we were about to enter the real war for the Formula Drift Championship.
It was certainly less glamorous in Florida, but we were not there for the scenery. By the time I arrived on Thursday morning, the Bridges Racing crew already had a foothold established in the paddock. With the Orlando round also being a Pro 2 event, it meant an extra day of practice for all Pro 1 competitors.
Drivers initiate on the back straight, running the track in clockwise fashion around the first bank. Judges have asked the drivers to ride the wall of the bank as much as possible, treating it like a giant outside clipping zone. There’s an inside clipping point towards the end of the bank, then drivers transition off the bank onto the bumpy infield portion of the track. Drivers will transition from left to right across the infield, hitting an inside clip at the end of the infield before riding the outside line on the flat bottom of the second turn. If any drivers push a tire up onto the bank of the second turn, there will be a deduction, while sliding the front tires up onto the bank will result in an “Incomplete Run” which is the new term for a zero-point run.
Overall, only 27 drivers were able to put up a score in Qualifying, which meant that the top five drivers would earn a bye in the first round. Dai Yoshihara came out tires blazing and laid down a 95-point first Qualifying run which would hold up as the top score on the table. Fredric Aasbo and Ryan Tuerck both earned scores of 93, with Aasbo earning the higher qualifying position by virtue of a higher secondary score of 90 points to Tuerck’s 89-point secondary score. Long Beach winner James Deane earned 92 points on his run, while Michael Essa rounded out the top five Qualifying order with a score of 91.
Robbie Nishida, who qualified in Long Beach, moved into his new Nissan GTR for this round but was unable to put up a qualifying score. Additionally, Faruk Kugay had some teething issues getting his BMW car prepped for the event and didn’t make the trip, while Georgy Chivchyan also was absent from this round. In their place, Taylor Hull made his Formula D Pro debut by qualifying 25th, and Kyle Mohan put down his first qualifying score of the season to earn the 27th qualifier position. Continue reading 2017 Formula DRIFT Orlando Top 32 Play-by-Play by Driving Line
The path towards the 2017 Formula Drift Pro Championship continued on the banks at Orlando Speed World (OSW) in Orlando, FL after a very interesting opening round in Long Beach. This is the 3rd year the series has run in Orlando where competition keeps getting more tense for the best runs against the wall; it keeps getting hotter too, even after this year was moved up to April. The differences between Long Beach and Orlando are stark, flat streets versus the high banked oval of OSW. An extremely rough and even bouncy transition section in the middle of the track continues to shake drivers up, lifting nearly all 4 tires off the ground in some situations as drivers try to gauge how much throttle to give and not thrash into the lead driver, all while trying to keep close proximity into the final turn.
The OSW layout continues to be somewhat basic even, but before you know it, OSW’s high banked wall will suck you in or the hard bank-to-track transition will wreck havoc on a driver’s car. There were many questions to be answered like how would James Deane fair on the very different Oval track? Would Alex Heilbrunn continue to show the leaps and bounds of growth that we’ve seen? OSW would prove to also be quite interesting and continue to shake up the Championship standings, still very early in the 2017 season.
Pro qualifying gave us a look at who would later have the most success during competition with Dai Yoshihara (95), Fredric Aasbo (93), Ryan Tuerck (93), James Deane (92), and Michael Essa (91) rounding out the Top 5 qualifiers. Qualifying scores do not always tell the complete story of the day however with Vaughn Gittin Jr. qualifying all the way back in 22nd and later nearly taking it all the way, deep in Top 16 competition. But were Gittin Jr. and other teams just playing it safe all along? After qualifying, Round 2 had a whopping 5 bye-runs, which Formula Drift chose to not even make the drivers complete their normal 1-run dance. Definitely the first of a few fan-favored moves to ensure cars continue to move on to Top 16 without the risk of mechanical issues or a silly error during a non-tandem lap around OSW.
I also don’t think that anyone could disagree with the result either. Florida was the first real unknown for the Worthouse Drift Team, with neither driver having experience at the Orlando Speed World oval, or the heat on the peninsula at this time of the year.
For all the euphoria that was felt after FD Long Beach, the atmosphere was very different as the sun set this evening.
Both cars were parked up after the Top 16, with James having been beaten fair and square by Jhonnattan Castro – who put in one of the all-time great chase runs, it has to be said – and Piotr being unable to return to the start line after making contact with the wall on his lead run against Dean Kearney.
Strong disappointment and frustration were definitely the initial reactions, but they were soon replaced by calm and considered reflection.