Formula Drift put it’s second PRO round and first PROSPEC round of 2021 in the books over the weekend. The series returned to Orlando Speed World which provided a very unforgiving track with a sharp bank and harsh transitions.
The track was friend to no one, so it was up to the drivers to tame it. Which Formula Drift driver was able to tame it?
Formula Drift Knockout Qualifying
For the PROSPEC (formally PRO2) grid Orlando was a trial by fire. Half the PROSPEC field are rookies and for many of them, Orlando Speed World is the first banked track they ever faced. Drifting on a banked track brings many nuances that won’t come easy to those who don’t have the experience of veteran drivers.
Nick Noback and Blake Olsen managed to figure things out as they qualified first and second respectively. The two drivers also happen to be teammates; both driving BMWs for KoruWorks. So, perhaps the 1-2 qualifying positions was a result of sharing data?
Tommy Lemaire of Canada qualified third in PROSPEC with his V8 powered Nissan S14. The PROSPEC grid had 35 drivers competing for the 32 available spots. In the end, four drivers were eliminated and didn’t make Top 32.
For the PRO drivers things naturally went much more smoothly. Chelsea DeNofa put together an excellent qualifying run and grabbed the number one spot. Justin “JTP” Pawlak qualified second place which is a massive improvement from his round 1 qualifying performance in which he fell to the bottom 8.
Fredric Aasbo qualified third in his Rockstar Energy Toyota GR Supra.
Formula Drift PROSPEC Round 1
While this was the second round for the PRO series drivers, Orlando was the first round for the PROSPEC class. As we mentioned before, it was a battle of attrition for the crop of rookies as the banked oval of Orlando Speed World was not an environment they were used to.
Though, just as in qualifying, Nick Noback and his teammate Blake Olsen had things figured out and finished in first and second place respectively. Dmitriy Brutskiy finished in third place.
Honestly speaking, there weren’t very many “shockers” in Top 32 this time. Jeff Jones proved that he is no longer a dark horse by defeating Ken Gushi to earn his way into the Top 16.
Fan favorite Adam LZ in his LZMFG Nissan S15 lost to Kazuya Taguchi in the Top 32. Though it could be argued that Adam defeated himself as he got a bit too aggressive during his chase run hit Taguchi which caused LZ to spin.
Adam was understandably upset with himself but he is still “new” to this level of drifting competition. As good as he is for his age, he still has some room to grow.
Another young ace driver who met some misfortune was Rome Charpentier and his Federal Tires BMW. Rome failed to make it out of the Top 32 when he was defeated by Simen Olsen.
Just like Top 32, Top 16 didn’t play host to many upsets. Though there were a few notable battles. Dean “Karnage” Kearney managed to fend off the dangerous Ryan Tuerck.
On the same side of the bracket, Fredric Aasbo got sweet revenge against Jeff Jones who defeated Aasbo in the Top 16 at round 1 in Atlanta.
The Great 8 was full of tough battles, as one might expect. Justin “JTP” Pawlak defeated Kyle Mohan and “Rad” Dan Burkett to get to the Great 8 where he faced off against Dean Kearney. As we mentioned before Kearney was fresh off a win over Ryan Tuerck to earn his way into the Great 8.
JTP came out on top though and moved on to the final four. JTP will go on to have a massive impact on the event as a whole but more on that later.
On the same side of the bracket Fredric Aasbo defeated Kazuya Taguchi to earn his way into the final four, slated to line up against JTP.
Meanwhile Chelsea DeNofa defeated his teammate and team owner Vaughn Gittin Jr. in a battle of the Ford Mustangs. “Frenimies” Matt Field and Odi Bakchis faced off next and once again Odi got the better of Field and moved on to the Final Four.
This is where things got very interesting. First, let’s talk about the battle between Odi Bakchis and Chelsea DeNofa. There was nothing out of the ordinary there but both drivers drove hard. It was nothing but extremely close proximity in both runs. Though in the end Odi didn’t have an answer for DeNofa’s trademark aggressive style and the judges sided with Chelsea.
Now, it’s time to talk about the battle between JTP and Fredric Aasbo because this is where things went off the rails. Any long time Formula Drift fans know that when it comes to JTP, he gives no F-ehh, let’s just say he goes “all in”.
So, when JTP lined up against former champ Fredric Aasbo, he knew that he had to go big. The two drivers battled so hard that the judges unanimously called a OMT (one more time).
JTP was ready for another battle, but his car wasn’t. During his lead run, JTP’s engine completely gave out, causing way more smoke than normal to billow from the Ford Mustang.
However, JTP kept drifting. In fact he finished the whole run with a blown engine. Oil smoke mixed with tire smoke and even Aasbo figured out something was wrong and backed off mid-run.
By the time JTP returned to the starting line his engine bay was literally on fire. It took several firemen and a few by standers armed with fire extinguishers to put out the flames in the engine bay and underneath the car.
Making matters worse was the fact that since JTP didn’t stop, he laid oil down over the entire course.
The final battle had to be delayed while crews cleaned up the oil and fire retardant. We imagine that the track marshals weren’t too happy.
Eventually the final battle was allowed to continue. The starting line was moved forward to avoid all the fire retardant chemicals that saturated the previous starting area.
Formula Drift Final Battle
In the end it came down to Chelsea DeNofa in his Nitto Tire RTR Ford Mustang against Fredric Aasbo in his Rockstar Energy Toyota GR Supra. One driver is known for his overwhelming aggressive style and the other is analytical and works like a surgeon. The driving philosophies between these two drivers couldn’t be more contrasted.
On this day, Chelsea was just too much for Aasbo to handle. Fredric couldn’t quite keep his angle in check while chasing DeNofa. When it was Fredric’s turn to lead, Chelsea was all over his door while pouring on angle.
It was a clear victory for DeNofa by all accounts. Though considering Aasbo’s performance in round 1, he was likely very happy with a podium finish. Justin Pawlak and his toasted Mustang nabbed third place.
Odi Bakchis finished fourth which keeps him in the points lead for the 2021 Championship but his teammate and “frienemy” Matt Field is not too far behind.
If Odi can stay consistent, 2021 may just be his year. We’ll find out for sure at Round 3 in New Jersey next month. Stay tuned!