The Verizon IndyCar Series is just one league bringing together motorsports talent from around the world. Over in Formula Drift, Fredric Aasbo was recently named not just the national champion, but the world champion. IndyCar Examiner conducted an e-mail interview with the Norwegian superstar to talk about his phenomenal 2015 season and his view on the entire world of motorsports.
After being championship runner-up last year, Fredric and the Papadakis Racing team took things to the next level this season. “Everything just came together for us this year, and that’s what has to happen in order to win a championship,” he said. “We did a good job last year as well, but not everything lined up.
“This year we had more experience, a better car, got the setups right, and had some luck go our way. There were definitely some unusual events in terms of weather conditions, and also with some of our competitors basically taking themselves out, and I think we were the best at being adaptable and capitalizing on everything that was thrown at us this season.”
But being named champion was just the last accomplishment of the year; he has a lot to be proud of when he looks back on the Formula Drift schedule, which ran from April 10 to Oct. 10. What are the moments that are going to particularly stick in his memory from his journey to the top?
“The last couple of years we’ve been really consistent. Before 2015, I hadn’t finished outside the Top 8 in two seasons – but I also didn’t have a large number of wins. This year was much more of a rollercoaster,” Fredric reflected. “Definitely starting off the season with a win was a highlight: Long Beach is always an epic event that’s packed with fans, and this year it was our first event with Rockstar, so that was definitely a homerun.
“But we had a couple of tough hits as well, and the one in Orlando was especially hard to take. It was raining – which I consider an advantage for me, because driving in the wet is something I’m usually good at – and I made a driving mistake and ended up out early. I was crushed,” he admitted. “But then coming back from that in New Jersey and Seattle with back-to-back wins gave me a boost of confidence and showed how we can bounce back as a team.”
Formula Drift is a very different league from IndyCar, one that presents its own challenges at the same high speed. “It’s the art of controlling a car that’s out of control,” Fredric explained. “Formula Drift has all the highlights of traditional motorsport condensed into one kick-ass explosive package.
“There’s something super-cool about controlling a car that’s doing something it was never meant to do. It’s like a bull-rider harnessing all of that power, chasing down your opponent in the middle of a smoke cloud. A run doesn’t last very long, but those 20 seconds are the best of my life over and over again.”
One of the things that the two organizations have in common is that they both require discipline from their drivers. “I’m definitely a different racer now than I was when I started out,” he continued. “I got this reputation for being a crazy wild driver willing to take on people who were better than me.
“That got me noticed, but the evolution really started when I joined Papadakis Racing in 2011. I had to dial back the aggression and Steph and the team taught me the ways of being a consistent competitor. I still bring out the wild raw driving when it’s needed, but now I try to save the best for last and put my foot down when I need to take it to the next level.”
Like several of IndyCar’s young guns, Fredric comes from a family with a history in motorsports. “I grew up watching rallycross and rally,” he told us. “Scandinavia has a longstanding legacy of rally and rallycross drivers. My dad was a grassroots rally driver and I’ve always embraced the sports where there is a lot of diversity.
“In an era where there seems to be an increasing emphasis on spec series and cars look more and more the same, I’m interested in the motorsports that allow for different builds and characters to emerge — the off-road racing stuff, the Gatebil Festival back in Norway, the crazy characters and cars in drifting. Basically anything that resembles the Group B era in rally would be my favourite.”
But when he’s not on the track, don’t expect him to be red-lining the car or turning it sideways. “When people get into the passenger seat with me, they think I’m going to drift around every corner,” he laughed. “But when you get to do your dream hobby for a living, it’s nice to sit back in your perfectly nice daily driver and follow the rules. I do have the odd spree wanting to take my car out and slide it around on a frozen lake, but for a daily driver type of scenario, I’m a very responsible driver.”
So how does one celebrate being the Formula Drift world champion?
“I have been celebrating for awhile now and SEMA was a good time for sure!” Fredric said. “But what I’m going to do when I get home is something I promised to all my friends who helped me out seven years ago when I started on this crazy journey.
“I told them that when we won the championship, I would take everybody to this amazing restaurant in the hills above Oslo, Ekebergrestauranten, and spend all of the prize money on one epic meal,” he continued. “I can’t thank them enough for all the help they’ve given me over the years, but this is something that I’ve looked forward to and which has motivated me to keep going for this championship and I’m really looking forward to making good on this promise.
“After that, there will be a lot of ice racing back at home in Norway and maybe a stunt driving gig in February and March,” he said. “And even though the team isn’t competing, we’re still working. I’ll be busy with Steph and the guys at Papadakis Racing to continue to create the ultimate Formula Drift team. We’ve won our first championship together, but there’s still a lot more to achieve and that continues to motivate me and all of us to get better and better.”
Spoken like a true champion. If there’s one thing all racing drivers have in common, it’s never quite learning how to stop.