As of this past weekend the 2019 Formula Drift season officially came to a close at “The House Of Drift” AKA Irwindale Speedway. Until the final round the championship battle started off dicey but as things continued to shake out, James Deane once again showed that consistency is key. Despite two early defeats in rounds 1 & 2, Deane made the podium from round 3 all the way until the final round last weekend. Those 5 consecutive podium appearances include a win in round 6 at St. Louis.
Deane’s closest competition came from Fredric Aasbo; whom earned a few podiums himself along the way. However, that threat was neutralized when Deane’s teammate Piotr Wiecek pulled off an upset victory over Aasbo in the Top 16. This blew the door half open for James’ championship.
I say half because to cement the title, James needed to advance out of the Top 16 but he was paired up against Forrest Wang. In case you didn’t already know, Forrest Wang is a straight up assassin on the track. Furthermore, Wang has defeated Deane before on that very track. If Deane wanted that championship, he was going to have to earn it.
Wang definitely did not give up easily either. The battle between the two S15 drivers was so close that the judges called for 3 OMT’s before finally awarding the win and the championship to James.
James Deane is only the second driver in Formula Drift history to win three championships with Chris Forsberg being the other. Though, James is the first competitor to ever win three championships in a row.
It should also be noted that James also secured series championships this year in series outside of the USA. Considering all of his accomplishments, a strong argument can be made that James is currently the best competitive driver in the history of the sport. Though I think that is a debate that will go on for a while depending on how the next few years shake out.
Meanwhile, as everyone’s eyes were on James Deane, Ken Gushi and Mike Essa were slaying their competitors.
Essa took out a murder’s row including Justin Pawlak, Vaughn Gittin Jr., and Odi Bakchis to punch his ticket to the final. Meanwhile Ken Gushi had an arguably tougher path to follow as he faced and defeated both James Deane and Piotr Wiecek. Between those to battles, Gushi defeated Ryan Tuerck as well. Gushi may be the only competitor to defeat both Worthouse drivers in the same round.
In the end it was Essa vs Gushi for the win and Gushi came out on top, marking the first time Ken has ever won at Irwindale in his Formula Drift career and his first round win since 2005. It was an emotional experience as he could not hold back his tears at the announcement of his victory.
And with that, another Formula Drift season came to a close. Formula Drift is a lot of things but one thing it wasn’t this year was boring. I also think we can expect a lot of changes coming in 2020 for drivers and likely for the series.
I am almost positive we will see at least one team debut a new 2020 Toyota Supra competition car at SEMA next month but I honestly think there will be more. We already know that Steph Papadakis has been hard at work trying to massage 1,000 horsepower out of the Supra’s new BMW-built B58 engine. Though, the public at large does not know exactly how far along he is in that process.
I also have no idea what other engineering shops out there may already be working on the new engine as well. There is a good chance that competition Supras may “debut” but might not actually see competition until mid way through next season. We’ll just have to wait and see.
For now feel free to check out our Formula Drift Irwindale gallery below. Admittedly our gallery is a little smaller than normal. Due to some changes at Irwindale, there is not really room for a car show, so my gallery is strictly some of the on track action.
Formula Drift Irwindale 2019 gallery: