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Original article on Drift Enthusiast Magazine

Paying homage to three-time Formula DRIFT champion, Fredric Aasbo.

Three Cheers For The Unstoppable Norwegian!

If you’ve never experienced the authentic charm that shines through Fredric Aasbo’s [@fredricaasbo] boyish grin and youthful enthusiasm, we think it’s the perfect time for you to have an inside look at the driver of the Papadakis Racing iconic black and gold MkV Toyota Supra
Fondly referred to by drifting fans as ‘The Norwegian Hammer,’ Aasbo’s throttle-down driving style is not only unique, but it’s now earned the pro driver his third Formula DRIFT championship title. An honor only three drivers have upheld in the circuit’s soon-to-be 20-year tenure in the United States.
Those of us who’ve followed Aasbo throughout his career will attest to the determination and moxie that advances this 13-year FD veteran to the finish line [almost] every time. Last year’s Title Fight was no exception, with Aasbo defending his former championship in unprecedented conditions. In the end, he aptly reinforced his reputation as the ‘winningest’ (yes, it’s a word!) driver in Formula D’s U.S. circuit.
If you missed this event (or just want to relive all the heart-stopping action), it’s worth tuning into FD’s 2022 U.S. season finale’ online. You’re promised one of the wildest and intense nail-biting competitions that The House of Drift has ever hosted.
But, first, let’s get behind the scenes with FD’s own Suprahero!

Photo courtesy of Papadakis Racing.

Competitive Driving Is In Aasbo’s Blood.

Frederic Aasbo was born and raised in Ski, Norway where he started driving at the age of 12, when his father – a talented grassroots rallycross driver, himself – put the younger Aasbo behind the wheel of a go kart. In an interview with Rymax Lubricants, Aasbo characterized his father as a “fantastic driver”, and credited his karting days for sparking his personal passion for driving.
Aasbo said his greatest admiration was for the kart drivers with, “the most control in the wet,” along with those sporting, “the most style and flair.”
As fate would have it, a few years later, Aasbo would discover drifting and the legendary Japanese drifter Katsurhiro Ueo while browsing the Internet one evening.
“I was in awe with how he [Ueo] was whipping the car around sideways,” Aasbo told Rymax, adding that he “fell in love with the sport instantly!”
Fast forward, and Aasbo not only turned his passion for driving into a prolific drifting and stunt driving career, but his ‘flat-out’ driving style has now attracted a similar form of fan admiration, and it’s also earned him a cascade of wins.

Photo courtesy of Brad Sillars.

A Drifting Sensation In The Making.

Aasbo, who turned 37 last August, has competed in United States pro-drifting events since he was 22, when he competed in the 2008 Global Drifting Invitational. Prior to this event, Aasbo enjoyed several successful years of competitive drifting in Scandinavia, where he was awarded the 2007 and 2008 Nordic Drifting Championship titles.
In 2010, the Norwegian Hammer joined the Formula DRIFT U.S. circuit as a privateer, commanding a MkIV Toyota Supra. Not surprisingly, Aasbo’s individualized driving style and sheer determination, earned him the FD ‘Rookie of the Year’ title, along with the respect of peers and fans alike.
After FD star Tanner Foust [@tannerfoust] announced his plan to semi-retire from the circuit in 2010, Aasbo joined Papadakis Racing to drive the famed 1000hp 2019 canary yellow ‘Need for Speed’ Toyota Corolla. This began a multi-year trajectory of wins for Aasbo, resulting in three hard-fought season championship titles in 2015, 2021, and 2022, respectively.

Photo courtesy of Papadakis Racing.

Reflections From A Drifting Champion.

We asked Aasbo for a few Q&A reflections and here’s what he shared:

Aside from winning, why do you compete?

My biggest motivation comes from my curiosity; I like learning new things, practicing, understanding, and eventually seeing if it helps our competitive edge. Steph and I are both big setup nerds, and we love ‘the process’. I think that’s why we’ve done well so far.
I don’t consider myself the best driver, but I do think I have a good feel for ‘race craft’ (aka that ‘X-factor’ that helps win).

Photo courtesy of Papadakis Racing.

Why do you love drifting Toyotas?

I started drifting Toyotas (Supra MkIVs, specifically) before I got sponsored by Toyota. Back then, it was mostly about a belief in the Supra’s suspension design, which I still think is one of the best bases for a drift car. I also had a Toyota Hiace van back then, which was basically indestructible.
Then, as Toyota started making more and more sporty cars, it all became a match made in heaven. The FR-S/GT86/GR86 is a great chassis, the Corolla/tC/iM platform turned out to be a solid chassis, the GR Supra has now proven itself, and so forth.
And, sponsored or not, I’m a genuine fan of offroad vehicles. I love my FJ Cruiser (and I beat on it so hard), the 4Runners and Tacomas are also awesome, and so forth.
My only dream car that’s not a Toyota is an E30 M3 Sport Evolution.

Does the MkV handle much differently from your MkIV?

The way they are set up, they handle quite similarly, despite a very different front suspension design. The reason they feel similar has mostly to do with the steering feel we build into these cars, in addition to a similar wheelbase and weight distribution.

Photo courtesy of Papadakis Racing.

What factors led you to two consecutive FD championships?

I look at it this way:
There are five ‘pillars’ that all need to be top notch to win – the car, the tires you’re on, the team (as a whole: techs, spotter, motivation, understanding, etc.), the driver (mentally, physically, motivation, etc.), and an X-factor (a bit of luck, ability to read the judges, etc).
We just happened to have – not the perfect, but the strongest – combination out of all the teams two years in a row.
It’s that simple and that hard 🙂

Photo courtesy of Papadakis Racing.

Why was the 2021 championship a key win for your team?

We had been grinding so hard for five years, and not getting it done. We got close many times, with four second place finishes, but we couldn’t get a championship after our first win in 2015.
In 2021, I went all in, and I put a lot of effort into preparation and practice with lots of great help from friends.
So, those tears of joy (or bawling my eyes out, which is what actually happened) when we clinched the championship at Irwindale in 2021, were due to the indescribable feeling of all the hard work and effort paying off. It was a big win for everyone that played a role.

Did you face any unexpected challenges during the 2022 season?

Every event comes with unexpected challenges. But, that ‘race craft’ I’m talking about is the ability to deal with the unknown, and it’s a skill we learn in this sport.
In that respect, the patchy conditions of the Top 16 at Irwindale was a very defining moment in time that eventually decided the fate of the championship. I was inches away from wrecking and taking myself out, but somehow, we didn’t and survived the round. I think it was a combination of pure luck, and our combined experience. We decided to run very safely, and just try to get through the track, instead of being on the preferred line.

Photo courtesy of Papadakis Racing.

What personal and/or vehicle performance aspects will you be working to improve for the 2023 season and beyond?

My goal is to get in better overall physical shape and see how that can affect my driving. I’d also like to get into more reaction training – to turn some more stones in that aspect – and see if it can help. Other than that, it’s very important to me to take a solid break from drift cars, so I can come back hungry.
As for the FD program, we’re chipping away, but it’s mostly refining at this point. We’re trying to make the car handle crashes better, and our partner Wisefab has done a great job there. We would have preferred a little more engine horsepower at Irwindale, so we may look into that department too.

What changes would you like to see for the sport in the next 5-10 years?

I’d love to see more car manufacturer opportunities for all of the teams. Imagine if we could all be in new, promotionally relevant cars, and teams like Michael Essa’s {@michaelessa] and Jeff Jones’ [@jeffjonesracing] could operate factory-backed programs!
This sport is so cool to watch, and I think there’s a lot of opportunity left on the table.

Photo courtesy of Camillast.com