Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ hosted the Formula DRIFT PRO Championship Round 4: Type S The Gauntlet presented by AutoZone and Round 2 of the Formula DRIFT Link ECU PROSPEC Championship. It was only the second time the series had visited the purpose-built drift arena; the first of its kind in the US.
After the tornado-ravaged round in Orlando, FL, the teams were relieved to qualify under blue skies. And with New Jersey representing the half-way point of both Championships, it was important for drivers to score well if they wanted a chance of claiming their respective title.
After qualifying third at the opening round in Orlando, Tommy Lemaire (Canada) was disappointed by his 17th place finish after experience technical problems with his Mspek TLO Nissan S14.5. However, the car was repaired and ready for action in Englishtown, enabling the Canadian to set a 93-point run and take the top spot. As a further boost, Lemaire would get a bye run through the Top 32 competition heats after Lukas Torno (Brazil) was unable to complete a run in his FC AutoLabs BMW M3.
Second place in FCP Euro Qualifying went to double and defending PROSPEC Champion, Dmitriy Brutskiy. He also had a disappointing opening round, qualifying 11th and finishing 12th. However, in New Jersey Brutskiy delivered a 91-point qualifying run in his DriftHQ / Link ECU / ISC Suspension / Enkei Wheels BMW M3 with Royal Purple. This placed him second thanks to an additional two style points over Alex Jagger (USA), who also received a 91-point score in his Forsberg Racing Nissan 370Z.
In the case of a tie, drivers are separated by their respective scores in first style, then angle and finally line. It was Brutskiy’s superior style score that gave him the lead over Jagger.
The top Rookie qualifier was Robert Thorne (USA) who scored 81 points, placing his ASMotorsport / Kats Coin BMW M3 in 5th place.
As always, all FD PROSPEC teams must use Link ECU engine management as well as GT Radial tires supplied and fitted by TireStacks.com. Teams are also eligible for contingency programs from series sponsors Throdle, FCP Euro and Royal Purple, provided they meet defined criteria.
Continuing its new 2022 schedule, Round 2 of the Link ECU PROSPEC Championship was split across two days, with the Top 32 taking place on Friday evening and the Top 16 heats through to the Final completed on Saturday morning. But unlike the turbulent weather at Round 1, the track was drenched in sunshine, providing consistent runs across both days.
Familiarity with the Englishtown course thanks to regular competition was undoubtedly a factor in Brutskiy’s change of fortunes. He was able to precisely place his BMW, consistently hitting the Outside and Inside Zones. However, his weekend wasn’t without drama.
In his Top 16 heats, Brutskiy spun on his chase run, quickly followed by Evan Bogovich (USA) spinning his Feal Suspension Nissan S14 in the next zone. Initially it appeared Brutskiy had collided with Bogovich, triggering the spins but the drone replay showed the Nissan driver off the power in Outside Zone 2 (OZ2), giving Brutskiy nowhere to go.
Progressing to the Top 8, Cory Talaska (USA) in the Blank Canvas / SLR Speed E36 BMW M3 was simply unable to match Brutskiy’s lines. A pattern that was repeated in the Top 4 against Jagger. It was an intense battle, and Jagger fought hard to reach the heat, but he couldn’t run as deep into each zone as the defending champion.
In the Final, Brutskiy’s opponent was Link ECU PROSPEC Rookie Robert Thorne (USA) who was guaranteed a podium at only his second FD event. The driver of the ASMotorsport / Kats Coin BMW M3 has successfully translated his GT racing experience to drift and is in the process of establishing an impressive reputation.
In the Final, Brutskiy again attacked the course, placing his rear wheels at the extremities of the outside zones. But Thorne wasn’t a passive spectator; he crowded the double Champion through OZ2 and OZ3 to put himself in a strong position for the second run. Unfortunately, in the heat of the moment, Thorne was untidy in OZ1, needing to correct his line, which unsettled him into OZ2 and resulted in heavy contact with the wall at OZ2. Thorne completed his lead run but not without numerous corrections. And as Brutskiy adjusted his line and speed to compensate for Thorne’s wobbles, he’d done enough to take the win.
Having started the day 12th in the Link ECU PROSPEC Championship standings, Brutskiy left New Jersey fourth and with his third title now a more realistic prospect.
“The weekend went as planned!” Brutskiy told us after stepping off the podium. “I was very nervous before each battle and I had a shoulder injury from a dirt bike accident last week that limited my movement. I was just glad to be here – this is one of the best wins I’ve had. I’m looking forward to winning another Championship and it feels like a miracle to be back on the podium.”
Thorne’s second place puts the Rookie top of the Championship table, while Lemaire converted his top qualification position into a third place finish after battling mechanical issues throughout the competition. He jumped from 17th overall to seventh.
Andy Hateley (USA) was the championship points leader after the opening round. However, his Hateley Motorsports BMW E46 suffered engine problems, which meant he was unable to initiate a drift in his Top 16 battle against Lemaire. Hateley finished 14th, dropping him to third in the table.
Once again, the K&N Qualifying session for the FD PRO Championship couldn’t have been closer. Seven drivers scored more than 90 points and 18 were within ten points of the leader, Chelsea DeNofa (USA).
DeNofa scored 94 points in his Pennzoil / BC Racing Ford Mustang RTR Spec 5-FD and was one of three drivers with the same overall score. He claimed the number one position from second place Michael Essa (USA) in the FCP Euro / Liqui Moly / GT Radial BMW M3 by a single style point.
Similarly, Dylan Hughes (USA) scored 94 points in his DHR / Royal Purple / Falken Tire BMW. And while Essa had the same style score as Hughes, Essa got the nod thanks to two extra points for drift angle.
Defending Champion and 2022 FD PRO points leader, Fredric Aasbo (Norway), only scored 88 points in his Rockstar Energy Toyota GR Supra. It placed him in eighth position and gave him a challenging path to the Final, but nobody would be surprised to find him there on Saturday.
The top Rookie was Nick Noback (USA) who reminded everybody of his 2021 PROSPEC form with a spectacular 93-point run in his KoruWorks E46 BMW. It placed him fourth overall and in a very strong position for the competition heats.
Thirty-six drivers attempted to qualify for the Top 32 competition heats, which meant four would be eliminated in the Knockout Qualifying Format (KQF), which sees the bottom eight drivers run a second time. Unfortunately, KQF saw the demise of Josh Reynolds (USA) and Kyle Mohan (USA) with technical issues, while Jhonnattan Castro (Domincan Republic) and Josh Love (USA) failed to score sufficient points to continue.
At the halfway stage in the 2022 Formula DRIFT PRO Championship, the leading drivers knew they had to make an impact at Round 4: Type S The Gauntlet presented by AutoZone. Everybody was happy to escape the tumultuous weather in Orlando but the warm, dry conditions in New Jersey presented their own challenge. The constant radius turns of the figure-8 Englishtown course allows the drivers to position their cars intimately close to one another at very high speeds. It results in spectacular action but mistakes can have savage consequences, as Matt Field (USA) and Ryan Tuerck (USA) would painfully discover.
While the established drivers were trying to mount a championship challenge, several of the newer names snuck in the back door and grabbed the silverware from under their noses. The Final was fought between two drivers who’d never been in a FD PRO Final or even stood on the podium. Interestingly, both use BMW M3 race cars with Chevrolet LS V8 engines; a combination that is becoming increasing popular throughout the FD series.
The well-deserved winner was Travis Reeder (USA) who pushed the Travis Reeder Motorsports / GT Radial BMW M3 to its limits and beyond. Having qualified in 29th and experienced the uncertainty of KQF, he lined up against Rookie Nick Noback (USA) in the Top 32. It was a great pairing, with the judges unable to separate them after two runs, requesting they go One More Time (OMT). Repeating the process didn’t make much difference; neither driver was prepared to yield but Reeder took the decision thanks to a better lead run.
In the Top 16 it was rinse and repeat as the judges again requested OMT in his conflict with Kazuya Taguchi (Japan) in the ISR UpGarage / GT Radial Scion FRS. Both men hit their marks in the lead and shadowed their opponent on the chase but again, Reeder emerged victorious by the narrowest of margins.
In the Top 8, Reeder received a bye run after his scheduled opponent, Tuerck, was unable to start the heat. In the Top 16, the driver of the Rain-X / Nitto Tire Toyota GR Corolla had been slammed into the barriers by a hard-charging Branden Sorensen (USA). The teenager knew he needed to pressurize Tuerck and surged into OZ2. Unfortunately, Sorensen’s momentum into a deceleration area punted the GR Corolla hard enough to damage all four corners. Unable to repair his car in the allotted time, Tuerck was sidelined and Reeder faced top qualifier and drifting demigod, DeNofa in the Top 4.
As expected, DeNofa’s lead run was at hyper-speed. He hit his lines and ran deep through each zone. And while the crowd was mesmerized by the Mustang RTR driver, the replay showed Reeder mimicked every move. As the two drivers lined up for the second run, the pressure was on DeNofa to somehow exceed Reeder’s performance or pressurize him into a mistake. However, DeNofa ran shallow in OZ1 and OZ2 before making a significant correction in OZ3. And Reeder was the shock winner. Or the shocked winner, to be precise, because he didn’t seem to believe the result against a driver he admired so much.
Reeder’s opponent in the Final was Rome Charpentier (USA) who qualified his Garagistic / Federal Tires / imaginegarage E36 BMW in 14th place and appeared equally bemused by his progress.
His weekend started with a Top 32 contest against Dean Kearney (Ireland) in the Hyper NFT / Daily Driven Exotics (DDE) Dodge Viper. Their first run was intense, the Viper colliding with Reeder’s BMW after they crossed the finish line. The damage required a wheel change and suspension check but with the repairs done and his focus undoubtedly distracted, Charpentier fought back and won on a split decision.
He then defeated the on-form Hughes in the Top 16 by another tight decision before eliminating Justin Pawlak (USA) in the Top 8; Pawlak over-rotating his 2022 Falken Tire Ford Mustang in OZ3 while chasing Charpentier.
Charpentier fiercest combatant was Matt Field (USA), who had been shunted into the OZ2 barriers by Mike Power (USA) during their Top 32 heat. The collision did considerable damage to the Drift Cave / Falken Tire C6 Corvette but the team had pieced together a competitive car by the Top 4.
With their first two runs resulting in OMT, Charpentier eventually received the judge’s decision by a tiny margin as both men fought for dominance.
By the Final, Reeder and Charpentier had defeated determined opponents and were guaranteed their first FD PRO podium, but who would occupy the top step?
On the first run, with Charpentier setting a blistering pace, Reeder was on the ragged edge as he grappled for proximity, tapping his rival at Inside Clip 1 and rubbing front tires yards from the finish line. The second contact sent Charpentier spinning across the grass; the incident seemingly locking the engine, requiring a tow to the pits.
With several teams jumping in to diagnose and resolve the malfunction, and a maximum of 10min plus a 5min Competition Time Out available, repair seemed impossible. And then the LS miraculously sparked into life and Charpentier returned to the starting line for his chase run.
It’s worth remembering that with Reeder at fault, Charpentier would have been declared the winner if he’d been unable to repair the car. And that by returning to the line without knowing if the engine would run properly, Charpentier put everything on the line.
Wanting to win decisively, Charpentier harassed Reeder around the entire course but couldn’t find the proximity he’d shown in previous heats. We’ll never know if it was the result of the engine problems but Reeder was awarded the win on a split decision and a new name was added to the Formula DRIFT PRO Championship history book.
After graduating from PROSPEC and developing both his program and driving style for the past four years, a delighted Reeder spoke to us after receiving his carbon fiber trophy. “This was, by far, the longest drift event I’ve ever been in. It feels like I’ve driven more runs than the last three rounds combined. We had a hard Top 32 with One More Time and a hard-fought Top 16 with One More Time. We got to the Top 4 against Chelsea and knew it was going to be hard – I’ve looked up to him for the longest time and wouldn’t be here without him – and to put him back in his trailer gives me ultimate bragging rights for life. He’s the best ever, and RTR even gave us nitrous to put him away because we’d run out!” an emotional Reeder told us.
“Going into the Final we thought we’d lost. I drove a little too hard and ran Rome off the track. It was a difference in speed but I tried to remain calm and focus on a good lead run. I honestly didn’t think I’d get the decision but I can’t say enough about my team and sponsors – they’ve always supported me and I’m so grateful for that.
“It’s four years since we’ve been on the podium in PROSPEC and we’ll try to do it again. I was crying like a little girl out there. To get a PRO trophy is absolutely unbelievable. It’s totally been worth the wait, the stress and the hard work.”
Reeder’s win elevated him one place to seventh in the Championship, while Charpentier catapulted himself to ninth from 16th. Finishing third, DeNofa has risen from seventh to fifth in the 2022 Championship, and fourth place Field has taken the FD PRO Championship points lead by a narrow four-point margin over defending Champion, Aasbo.
Top Rookie was Daniel Stuke (USA) who qualified tenth in the Stuke Racing / MspeK Performance Nissan S14.9 and finished 11th. The result moved him to tenth in the overall standings.
After Round 4, Toyota leads the 2022 Formula DRIFT PRO Auto Cup and Falken heads the Tire Cup.
For the final word, we again turn to Formula DRIFT President, Ryan Sage: “What an incredible outcome tonight with two independent drivers taking the top two places. We also saw Chelsea DeNofa climbing back up the table and Matt Field taking the PRO Championship lead, shaking everything up halfway through the season. Meanwhile, Dmitriy Brutskiy returned to winning ways in PROSPEC as he attempts to claim a record third Championship in a row. We can’t wait to see how these story lines develop at next month’s St Louis round!”
2022 FORMULA DRIFT CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS
ROUND 4 FD PRO TOP 16 DRIVER POINTS
2022 FD PRO TOP 16 CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
2022 AUTO CUP TOP FIVE STANDINGS
2022 TIRE CUP STANDINGS
ROUND 2 FD PROSPEC TOP 16 DRIVER POINTS
FD PROSPEC TOP 16 CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, IL will host the Formula DRIFT PRO Championship Round 5: Crossroads on July 14-16 as well as the Round 3 of the Formula DRIFT Link ECU PROSPEC Championship. Please visit formulad.com for the competition schedule, ticket information, driver profiles, special content, and the event livestream