The first round of the 2017 Formula Drift season is officially in the books and the person sitting at the top of the leaderboard right now is not exactly who most of us would have expected. With 4 former champions and one reigning three-time champion in the running, I don’t think many would have suspected that Irishman James Deane who hasn’t run in Formula Drift since 2010 would end up on top of the podium.
However, despite his absence from Formula Drift, Deane has been absolutely killing it overseas, winning no less than 10 championships between two different drifting series before coming back across the pond to give Formula Drift another shot. Also, just like in 2010, Deane was behind the wheel of a Nissan S15 with Falken Tire backing but with title sponsorship from Worthouse, a roofing company.
After making it out of Top 32 with a bye-run, Deane took down former Formula Drift champ Mike Essa in his Top 16 battle. James then faced reigning three-time-champion Chris Forsberg in the Top 8 and managed to best him as well. Personally, I had Forsberg as my pick to win the event due to the fact that at the last minute he had to change to his 2016 car after having problems with his new twin-turbo V6 engine in his new car. I figured Forsberg had the edge against those still getting used to their new cars. However, it appeared that James was quite comfortable in his 2JZ-powered S15.
In the final four, James defeated Ryan Tuerck to earn a spot in the finals against Peruvian driver Alex Heilbrunn, a privateer driver who worked his way up from the Pro 2 division. After a hard fought final battle Deane took the victory with Alex Heilbrunn nabbing second place and Ryan Tuerck taking third.
The young Irishman is now leading the championship chase going into Round 2 taking place in Florida later this month. Will Deane have another good weekend? Or will he have a much harder fight on his hands now that the other drivers know what to expect from him? I personally can’t wait to find out!
To see some of the on track action from the weekend, check out our gallery below of about 100 pictures! Also stay tuned because we will have another gallery going up from the car show, vendor row, and more!
Formula Drift Long Beach 2017 on track gallery: