It is finally official. The 2019 Formula Drift season kicked off over the weekend in our back yard of downtown Long Beach. Everything that happened in the series last year was officially wiped clean and everyone was starting from zero.
Some off-season questions would finally be answered and we would get a glimpse of things to come. One thing that really caught me by surprise is that most mainstay competitors did not move on to new chassis this year. The only regular competitor in a different chassis from 2018 this year seemed to be Kyle Mohan who decided to leave the MX-5 behind and return to the RX-8. However, he didn’t just dust off his previous RX-8, he and his crew built a completely new car from scratch.
Other than that many of the usual Top 16 drivers made upgrades and iterations to their 2018 chassis. For example Chris Forsberg switched from a VQ motor to a VR motor normally found in the GT-R. Vaughn Gittin Jr and his teammate Chelsea DeNofa also changed their engine set ups adding a 300 horsepower shot of NOS allowing their RTR Spec D 5.0 Ford Mustangs to make 1,200 horsepower each.
I genuinely thought we would see at least one of the new A90 Toyota Supra’s on the grid from either Ken Gushi or Fredric Aasbo but it looks like that won’t happen until 2020.
One new car of note was the Napoleon Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. While a drift Camaro isn’t new to Formula Drift, this one was special as it was 100% electric! As far as I know it is the first electric drift car ever built and was all set to make its debut on the streets of Long Beach. That is until the City Of Long Beach literally threw the ban-hammer down and prohibited the car from running due to the Long Beach Fire Department being unequipped to fight an electric fire. That was a huge bummer. Hopefully we’ll see the car run at round 2 in Orlando, FL.
Getting into the battles, Odi Bakchis stayed consistent all weekend long despite the fact that he was working with a new spotter. His usual spotter is his wife Ana. However she just gave birth to their second child so she obviously had to back out of spotting duties for this season.
Odi started things off by taking down Federico Sceriffo and his drift Ferrari AKA “Fiorella”. If that name sounds familiar that’s because that Ferrari notoriously caught on fire last year in Long Beach.
Next Odi faced off against former FD champ Michael Essa but managed to get the win decidedly. Odi’s first hiccup didn’t come until the Great 8 where he faced off against fellow Falken Tire driver Justin Pawlak.
Their first battle was too close to call so the judges called for a OMT (One More Time). It was in the second battle that Bakchis earned a ticket to the final four. Once there, Odi took down another former champ, Chris Forsberg.
In the meantime Forrest Wang was on an absolute thrash-fest as the Hawaiian driver took out Vaughn Gittin and Piotr Wiecek on his way to the final four.
Wang then got a ticket to the final as his opponent, Fredric Aasbo suffered mechanical issues from a previous battle which forced him to bow out.
The stage was set for a final face off between Odi and Forrest Wang. If I’m being honest, the crowd was mostly in Forrest’s corner as he has make it known that Long Beach is one of his favorite tracks. Unfortunately Forrest made a mistake in his chase run that he couldn’t recover from. With that Odi earned his fourth win of his career.
With James Deane bowing out in the Great 8, it looks like it may not be another one-sided dominant season for the young two-time champ. Round 2 should be interesting!
For now check out our full track gallery from Saturday below and stay tuned for pics from the AutoCon car show!
Formula Drift Long Beach 2019 Track Gallery: