Mistakes were made, but not by Ryan Tuerck, who won.
BY MARK VAUGHN, AUTOWEEK
- Formula Drift sarted its 19th season at its usual track on its usual dates and all was well – Covid is finally in the rearview mirror.
- The series needs a titla sponsor, but otherwise looks healthy, as driving sideways continues to have a strong appeal to its core audience.
- Seasoned veteran Ryan Tuerck won, but not without controversy.
It was one of those motorsports events where you wish things had been just a little bit different, a game of inches where if there had been just an inch or two more between two cars the whole thing would have been a battle to the finish. But the way it played out in Formula Drift’s season-opener on the Grand Prix track in Long Beach, it was all a bit anticlimactic.
As it was, seasoned Formula Drift pro Ryan Tuerck, the guy who swapped a Ferrari 458 engine into a Toyota Corolla AE86 and got 70 million impressions on social media doing it, won the first round of Formula Drift in his other Toyota, the all-new GR Corolla that made its official debut between media day on Tuesday and the final run on Saturday afternoon. The win was good and Tuerck deserved it.
But the other half of the board? Eeernh…
Formula Drift is a single elimination competition that looks just like your office pool for NCAA basketball, with each driver taking to the streets of the LBC in a pair of side-by-side powersliding “battles” with only one driver advancing. In that regard it’s the same as NHRA, with a series of races, or like we say, battles as they call them, determining which of the drivers goes on and which goes home.
Then Tuerck faced the Nissan Z of multi-time FD winner Auramis “Odi” Bakchis, who came to the season-opener with nine career wins overall and three 3rds in the championship. That round was close, with both drivers staying door-to-door through all corners until Bakchis scraped a wall and Tuerck advanced.
But on the other side of the elimination board things got a little loopy. Sure, two-time- and defending-champ Fredric “The Norwegian Hammer” Aasbo took his shiny gold Toyota Supra right up into the semi-final, and last year’s championship runnerup Matt Field likewise zipped up there, too. And it was in that semi-final battle between Aasbo and Field on the right side of the brackets that things went a little goofy.
In Formula Drift there are two runs per battle, with one driver leading the first and the other driver leading the second. When Aasbo had been following, he had been following too closely, or appeared to be following too closely, so that when his opponent went to change from a left-hand drift to a right-hand drift, he just barely missed the tail end of his competitor.
Just barely – until he tapped the rear end of Field’s Corvette just enough to stop that car’s rotation and thus send Field into the wall in a cartwheeling series of bangs and bashes. No one was hurt except Field’s car, which could not hope to be repaired in the time allotted by the rules.
Aasbo was found by the judges to be at fault and Field was declared the winner. But there was no way Field could have repaired his car in the time he had. So Tuerck, over on the other side of the brackets, won.
“It was me being totally greedy,” Aasbo said, still in his car and looking particularly dejected. “I don’t want to be that guy. It sucks. I ruined the day for him. So I apologize Matt and the whole team.”
“He just didn’t give me room to transition,” said Field. “I think he was worried about our speed and our performance through the weekend. We’re all pushing it hard. It is a bit of a bummer. Thanks Frederic.”
Tuerck, meanwhile got another win at the same track where he got his first win way back in 2009. He thanked his crew, thanked his sponsors, and started getting ready for the next round at Road Atlanta May 6-7.
“He’s sponsored by Rainex, but there’s no rain in the forecast, just the tears of the other drivers, that’s what’s streaming off of his vehicle courtesy of Rain X,” said event announcer Matt D’Andra.
Indeed it was. Formula Drift is now entering its 19thyear, having survived Covid by gearing down to double-events across the country, some with a few fans allowed in the stands, some with no fans at all. It came back strong at Long Beach with a sold-out show and what looked like more than the usual 10,000 or so fans in the bleachers.
The series doesn’t have a title sponsor (attention sponsors, this is a cheap way to reach the coveted 18-24-year-old demographic before some beermaker gets them!) but seems healthy enough. It reaches some of the most socially connected fans in motorsports for pennies on the dollar compared to just about any other sport. Hopes are high as 2022 looks to be back to normal for all motorsports.
So now, as Sherman said, on to Atlanta!