Rotating judges and announcers plus new technology will give each round a different feel, while a revised qualifying format and new competition days are among the changes for 2023
As the Formula DRIFT team planned for the 20th Anniversary year, everybody involved wanted to mark the milestone in a special way. We listed a few of the changes last year and some have already started to take shape. For example, the first episodes of Outerzone: The Official Formula DRIFT Podcast are now available at youtube.com/formuladrift or formuladrift.podbean.com. Early episodes include interviews with FD President Ryan Sage, Judge and Commentator Ryan Lanteigne, three-time FD PRO Champion Fredric Aasbo, and Championship contender Matt Field. The Outerzone was introduced to give fans a better insight into the sport and a deeper dive into some of the big storylines.
The 2023 event schedule is relatively unchanged, apart from the opening round of the PROSPEC Championship. It now takes place at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, giving the teams a high-speed challenge to kick-start their season. This has also allowed FD to remove the vehicle count cap, which was introduced in 2022 when smaller tracks were in use.
Behind the scenes, Formula DRIFT has been busy signing new multi-year contracts with many of the tracks to help ensure stability for the series moving forward. It helps with continuity and allows the teams to plan travel budgets into the future. Seven of the eight venues are now under multi-year agreements.
In addition to signing contracts, FD also requested a number of changes from the track owners, including new layouts where possible, new pavement and drainage at St Louis, as well as permanent zone markings to assist with driver precision and judging. These changes will help to provide more consistent conditions for the teams as they travel the country.
As previously revealed, Formula DRIFT will also be increasing the prize money available to the successful teams. Essentially, all the driver registration fees will be invested back into the drivers, resulting in almost $300,000 available to PRO and PROSPEC Championship contenders. The increase is a reflection of the value the series places on the competitors and is significantly more than most motorsports series offer on a relative basis.
After reviewing the 2022 season, Formula DRIFT also elected to return to the previous Championship schedule. This means PROSPEC teams will qualify on Thursday and competition will take place on Friday. The PRO Championship is unchanged and will continue to qualify on Friday and compete on Saturday. The change was made in response to the very long days that resulted from having both series qualify and compete together on the same days.
NEW TIRE PARTNERS
With the departure of Falken Tire, Formula DRIFT worked hard to find a replacement and actually come up with two. For the 2023 season, FD PRO drivers will be able to work with the following brands:
- GT Radial
- Kenda Tire
- Nexen Tire
- Nitto Tire
- Vitour Tires
Nitto has won the Formula DRIFT PRO Tire Cup numerous times, while GT Radial was runner-up last year and will continue to be the spec tire for the PROSPEC teams. Nexen was also able to record a win at the Utah round last year, so teams certainly have competitive options.
A brand-new, intuitive Qualifying format will debut this year, mixing the old and new. A deductive system without sector scores but with judges quantifying mistakes is a nod to the old-school but with a new school twist. That, along with reverting to reverse-order qualifying is bound to keep driver and spectator tension high.
One major addition poised to be a game-changer in terms of the competition heats is the debut of the brand-new Formula DRIFT “Decel Light.” It measures g-force during both acceleration and deceleration, helping the judges see what is going on inside the car. The light is now brighter and is fitted to both A-pillars on each car. Furthermore, live telemetry will debut this year and will be featured not only on the free-to-view livestream broadcasts but is planned to be implemented on a new phone app called FD Unlocked. It is hoped that fans will be able to see live telemetry from each competition car with in-car camera views available on-demand in one slick application.
The Formula DRIFT drones have been a huge success since their livestream introduction several years ago. For 2023, two drones will be active on every run to ensure the fans and judges have the best view of a driver’s line and any indiscretions. It should help to attribute points or blame for a collision more accurately. It’s also hoped that the new technology will help to contain the FD competition livestream to approximately three-hour broadcasts, which is the equivalent of an NFL or MLB game. However, pro football rarely has a car in the barriers or oil on the field, so there will always be an element of the unknown with FD events.
For the 2023 season, Formula DRIFT is introducing a rotating panel of judges. Regulars Ryan Lanteigne, Brian Eggert and Chris Uhl will be joined ex-driver and FD Japan judge, Robbie Nishida. Three of them will judge each round while the fourth becomes a driver’s steward. They will trade places each round to keep everything fresh.
Fans will also have rotating announcers during the weekend alongside regular Jarod DeAnda. The second seat will be filled by either Ryan Sage, Ryan Lanteigne or Robbie Nishida. Additionally, Matt Soppa will announce all PROSPEC sessions to bring his unique perspective.
HALL OF FAME
Plans for the previously announced Formula DRIFT Hall of Fame are well underway. The City of Long Beach has generously donated a plot near its Convention Center for the series monument, which will bear the names of Hall of Fame inductees as they’re announced. The process will begin at the opening round in Long Beach where the first two inductees will be introduced to the fans.
Each Hall of Famer will receive a commemorative ring designed by Jostens, the company that produces MLB World Series and NFL Super Bowl rings. Each ring is valued at $10,000 encrusted with diamonds and valuable gemstones. The rings play an important role in cementing Formula DRIFT as a genuine force in the global motorsports community. It also allows the series to recognize individuals who have been instrumental in catapulting the sport to its current position of strength.
“Everybody at Formula DRIFT has been looking forward to our 20th Anniversary with a mixed feeling of excitement and disbelief,” said Ryan Sage, Formula DRIFT President. “We’ve come so far in what feels like a very short time but we’ve outlasted many of our competitors and risen to become one of the preeminent motorsports series in the world. To celebrate our success, we wanted to make significant changes that would be recognized by the fans and teams, such as helping to streamline the judging process in both qualifying and competition. We’re also giving back even more to the sport, increasing the prize purse for competitors and recognizing the impact people have had through the Formula DRIFT Hall of Fame.
“We’re also excited to have a number of drivers rejoin the series, such as three-time Champion James Deane and fan favorite Forrest Wang adding to the tremendous talent pool we already have. And while it’s been sad to see a number of top drivers leave, we’re confident our 20th Anniversary season will be the best yet. We’re looking forward to seeing the teams and fans at the opening rounds in Long Beach and Atlanta.”