This past weekend marked the second multi-round weekend of the 2020 Formula Drift season. This time it all went down in the pacific northwest at Evergreen Speedway in Seattle for round 2 of the Pro 2 series and rounds 3 & 4 for Pro 1.
This triple-header was a lot different than St. Louis. One of the biggest differences is that this time there were no fans in the grandstands due to Seattle’s current safety regulations to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
This marked the first time in Formula Drift’s history in which official competition was held without fans in attendance. It was definitely a little weird but the show must go on!
The second major difference was the weather. While drivers, media, and fans a like were baking in the Missouri sun in the first weekend, Seattle brought rain and lots of it. There were even a few moments when it looked like the weekend’s first event may be delayed due to the inclement weather.
Fortunately, drifters like the rain so things went ahead as scheduled.
Friday Pro 2
Besides one another, the up and coming drivers of the Pro 2 series also had a very slick, wet track to contend with on Friday. Not only did the soaked asphalt mean less smoke, it also meant way less room for error.
Doing sideways battle while trying to keep your car on a track with little to no adhesion is definitely a high-wire act that requires steel nerves and absolute precision. More than a few Pro 2 drivers fell prey to the slippery surface of Evergreen Speedway during Top 32 and Top 16.
In the end it was Dmitriy Brutskiy who took the Pro 2 win. Local Pro-Am Champion Chase Schmidt took 2nd place and Austin Matta took third.
Saturday Pro 1 Round 3
Saturday was the kick off of the Pro 1 double header. This round was particularly important for the championship battle as St. Louis left several ties and very close proximities between the top points drivers.
The unpredictable wet weather added yet another variable to the mix as it was far from consistent. Just when it looked like things were starting to dry up the skies would open again and sprinkle more water on track.
Some drivers welcomed the rain while others were hoping against it. Either way it certainly complicated things for more than a few competitors. I’ll go over some of the standout moments throughout the round.
Top 32 started off with a heartbreaking moment for Jeff Jones. He actually drew a bye run for the first match but he actually damaged his car in a warm up before Top 32 began. His team along with several other teams raced to help him fix his 370Z before it was time for him to line up. He even used his competition time out but sadly it wasn’t enough time and Jones had to bow out.
The next Top 32 shocker came when YouTuber Adam LZ had to face veteran Ken Gushi. Gushi carried too much momentum coming off the bank during his chase run and got all 4 tires off course causing an incomplete. This handed a huge upset win to Adam LZ and gave him his first trip to the Top 16.
Chris Forsberg met some misfortune as well when he was hit by an somewhat over zealous Tyler Nelson during their Top 32 battle. Forsberg won that match up but his car suffered damage that would haunt him later on.
The rain opened up just before the last battle of the Top 32 which is Odi Bakchis vs Dean Kearney. With Odi leading in the points, the battle had major championship implications. Both drivers fell victim to the wet track and went off course. However Odi was not allowed to work on his car as he already used his competition time out due to an incident he had during a warm up.
Kearney on the other hand was able to use his time out but unfortunately, he was unable to get the car fixed in the allotted 5 minutes. Odi breathed a sigh of relief as he had a free pass to Top 16.
After the break, Adam LZ faced his first ever Top 16 battle against former champion Mike Essa. Adam put up a good fight. In fact one judge even voted for a OMT, unfortunately for Adam the other two judges ruled in favor of Essa.
Papadakis Racing Teammates Fredric Aasbo and Ryan Tuerck were forced to face each other in the Top 16 and as you can imagine that battle was very close and forced all three judges to vote for a OMT.
In their second battle Aasbo got even more aggressive. In fact he drove so hard he actually broke a wheel without breaking drift and still managed to pull out the win.
Matt Field and Chris Forsberg had a dramatic Top 16 battle as well. There was a collision in the first run which the judges ruled Forsberg to be at fault for. Normally this would have meant an easy win for Matt Field but unfortunately Field made a similar mistake causing Forsberg to go off course. The judges ruled that Field was at fault for that incident.
With both drivers making major mistakes the Judges had no choice but to call for a OMT. During that second battle Forsberg started having issues with his 370Z and shut down his lead run and immediately called for a competition time out. His team worked frantically to figure out what the problem was but couldn’t find the issue so Forsberg went back out for his chase run.
Forsberg struggled with angle and proximity so judges awarded the win to Field. It is unclear if Forsberg’s car trouble had anything to do with his collision in the Top 32 but I wouldn’t rule it out.
There was also a bit of controversy in the Top 16 when Dai Yoshihara battled St Louis winner Chelsea DeNofa. During Chelsea’s lead run it appeared that Dai lost control and went off course and even suffered some contact.
Though, after the judges reviewed the replay they ruled that Chelsea slowed down outside of the designated deceleration zone and even suggested that DeNofa may have purposely tried to “check” Yoshihara.
Yoshihara would go on to defeat Justin “JTP” Pawlak in the Great 8 and earn a spot in the final four.
Because of that Yoshihara was given the advantage for the next run and he converted it to a win. I have a feeling that battle will be a hot topic among fans.
After barely getting out of Top 32, points leader Odi Bakchis had to face Vaughn Gittin Jr in the Top 16. Both Gittin and his car were fresh as he had a bye run in the Top 32. A hyped up Gittin was too much for Odi, especially considering that his car was not at 100% so Vaughn moved on.
From there Gittin defeated Kazuya Taguchi in the great 8 and Dai Yoshihara in the final four thus earning himself a spot in the final battle.
On the other side of the bracket Fredric Aasbo took down Matt Field in the great 8 and won his final four battle against Mike Essa, earning the right to face off against Vaughn.
During the final battle Vaughn found an extra gear and took it to Fredric Aasbo hard. Vaughn was looking like a man possessed and it paid off as he earned the round 3 win.
Vaughn obviously ecstatic with his win but he was also visibly emotional. With tears in his eyes he expressed Laurette Nicoll that he missed his family back home as he’s been living in the Formula Drift bubble this season.
It was a touching moment to cap off a well earned triumph.
Sunday Pro 2 Round 4
The weather was much kinder to the Formula Drift field on Sunday. The sun was bright it would be clear and rain-free for the entire event.
However, the lack of a wet track didn’t stop two major shockers happening right off the jump.
Points leader Fredric Aasbo had to bow out of the Top 32 when his Papadakis Racing crew discovered a crack in his GR Supra’s intake manifold. The team called all hands on to try and fix it but they were unable to get it done in time forcing Aasbo to forfeit.
“It’s the first time we’ve been unable to fix a car within a 5 minute time out” said Aasbo to Laurette Nicoll just after learning he would have to bow out of competition. He felt worse for his team than he did for himself and vowed to come back stronger in the next round.
If that weren’t crazy enough. Ken Gushi suffered the same fate just after Aasbo. Gushi pilots the only other GR Supra in the field though his issues were different than Aasbo’s. Gushi said that during practice he thought his car may have been misfiring. They brought it in to check the data and things seemed fine at first but when he went back out for his warm up lap it sounded worse.
Rather than tempt fate Gushi made the tough but wise choice to bow out to try and get to the bottom of the problem. Hopefully he can get it sorted out before the next event in Texas.
Not too long after, the action came to a halt when Jhonnattan Castro made a hard contact with Dai Yoshihara early on the back during their Top 32 battle. Castro’s car has to be towed off the track after a long clean up while the judges deliberated and eventually came to the conclusion that Castro was at fault.
Dai got the win but had to make much needed repairs to his car before the Top 16.
Adam LZ found himself in the Top 16 for the second day in a row after getting a bye run in Top 32. He faced off against Jeff Jones who defeated Dan Burkett for the right to battle against Adam. The more experienced Jones got the better of LZ and moved on to the Great 8, making up for his terrible luck from the previous day.
There was a intense battle between Matt Field and Justin Pawlak that looked like it was nearly going to end up as a OMT. That is until Field got a little too eager in his chase run and made contact with JTP handing him the win.
There was a scary moment in the Top 16 during a battle with Chris Forsberg, Dai Yoshihara was unable to initiate drift and hit the wall hard. Luckily he was ok and out of the car shortly after. Though his car was damaged beyond repair within the 5 minute limit so Forsberg moved on.
From there, Forsberg had to face his Drift Alliance brother Vaughn Gittin Jr. in the Great 8. The battle was close enough for the judges to call for a OMT. Eventually Vaughn Gittin pulled out a win and earned a ticket to the Final Four where he would be facing his own teammate Chelsea DeNofa.
Meanwhile Justin Pawlak was having a stand out day. After defeating Jeff Jones in the Great 8, he went on to face Ryan Tuerck in the final four. Tuerck, gave it all he had but JTP managed to pull out another win to earn his way into the final battle.
Going back to Gittin vs DeNofa, during the first run with DeNofa leading, he hit the wall before initiation and Gittin did the same right after. DeNofa’s back left wheel linkage broke so he had to call a competition time-out to fix it. His crew couldn’t get the damaged fixed in time so he was forced to forfeit; Moving Vaughn to the final against JTP.
Before that, third place had to be decided. Ryan Tuerck was going to face off against Chelsea DeNofa and there were history making implications at stake. If DeNofa defeated Tuerck then it would mean a full Ford Mustang sweep of the podium; which would be a first in Formula Drift history.
After taking a little bit longer than usual, Chelsea’s crew swapped out the entire rear end of his RTR Mustang and got him to the line. During the first run with Chelsea leading, his front left tire de-beaded which is an instant fail according to the rules. The rules also don’t allow tire changes in between runs so Chelsea had no choice but to bow out. From there Ryan just needed to make a solo run to solidify his third place spot, spoiling the all-mustang podium.
Then it was time for the final…
JTP went way off line in his lead run but Gittin was too close to back off without risking losing drift so he went for the pass but JTP shut the door and the two cars collided.
The judges took their time to deliberate on this situation. The rules state that if the chase driver can make a clean pass it is an automatic win. However passes are only allowed on inside clipping zones and this happened in an outside zone. Also, while Vaughn was ahead of JTP, he was not completely passed him before JTP switched back and made contact with Vaughn.
After studying the footage repeatedly, the judges ruled Vaughn at fault. They concluded that instead of trying to pass JTP he could have just held back and let JTP’s off-line mistake unfold. JTP’s crew worked to fix rear suspension damage he suffered from the hit.
During Gittin’s chase run JTP was way too conservative and made mistakes on his line again in the same part of the course. The combined mistakes resulted in a OMT.
During the first run there was slight contact again but neither driver was allowed to work on their car as both had already used their competition time-out.
During the second run JTP started off again following too far behind but then quickly closed the distance and rode Gittin’s door. Though at the end of the run, he tapped Gittin’s door and lost angle.
That mistake would be his undoing and judges awarded Vaughn Gittin Jr the overall win; getting back-to-back victories in a single weekend.
Gittin’s double-victory weekend sky rocketed him to second place in the overall standings; and less than 10 points behind Ryan Tuerck who continues to lead due to his consistency throughout these four rounds. Fredric Aasbo falls to third place but look for him to make a comeback at the next event in Texas.
The Texas date actually got pushed back which is likely a blessing in disguise for the drivers. It was starting to become apparent that a lot of competition cars were starting to literally crack under the pressure of these triple header weekends.
Hopefully the time off will see everyone come back fresh in Texas!
[Photos: Larry Chen via Formula Drift]