Over the weekend Formula Drift returned to New Jersey but instead of Wall Speedway, the series visited the first ever purpose-built “Drift Coliseum”. Formally, known as the Englishtown drag strip, the new Drift Coliseum completely transformed the strip into a “figure 8” configuration.
This unique layout allows for large grandstands on both sides of the course which means fans can see all the action no matter where they’re seated. Granted, there are no banks or harsh transitions to mix things up but this course did provide it’s own set of challenges for the drivers.
There were even some challenges that came from outside the track but we’ll get into that later.
Formula Drift Knockout Qualifying
In case you missed it: qualifying has been changed up a bit since last season. First is the new “knockout” format in which the bottom 8 drivers from qualifying will have another shot to improve their position within that group of 8.
Second, is the fact that now PROSPEC and PRO both qualify on Friday and compete on Saturday. This was done to help the PROSPEC drivers get some more exposure to the fans as they work their way up to the PRO ranks.
In PROSPEC it was Dmitriy Brutskiy who qualified on the top spot with Mike Power qualifying second and KoruWorks BMW driver Nick Noback qualifying in third.
If you’re wondering about Noback’s teammate Blake Olsen, his car suffered technical difficulties in the days leading up to New Jersey and was forced to sit out of the round all together. This is a massive set back for Olsen as he was sitting in second place in the driver standings prior to this round.
In the PRO series Chelsea DeNofa and his RTR Ford Mustang grabbed the #1 spot in qualifying followed by Justin Pawlak’s Falken Tire Ford Mustang and Fredric Aasbo’s Rockstar Toyota GR Supra qualifying second and third respectively.
Formula Drift PROSPEC Round 2
While Nick Noback took the clean sweep in PROSPEC Round 1 in Orlando, it was Dimitry Brutskiy who was the dominant force in New Jersey. After qualifying in the top spot, Brutskiy was unstoppable. Dimitry cut a swath through every bracket line up and earned a first place victory after earning a win against Austin Matta in the finals.
Nick Noback did manage to make it to the podium with a third place finish.
Noback’s podium and Brutskiy’s victory leaves the two drivers tied with 180 points each in the PROSPEC driver’s standings. Meanwhile, Blake Olsen has fallen to 13th place; leaving him with a lot of ground to make up.
PRO Class Top 32
Top 32 became an entirely different ball game as the track was suddenly hit with heavy rain. While that rain may have parked cars at other motorsport events, in drifting, rain is just part of the show when it comes.
Furthermore, there are no “rain tires” for drifting. When the skies open up, drivers are left with nothing but their own skill to find the edge of control on a particularly slippery track.
These conditions tend to benefit those who have more experience with wet weather than others. For example Dean “Carnage” Kearney managed to defeat 2020 Champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. and knock him out of Top 32.
Another example was Federico Sceriffo earning a victory over Jhonnattan Castro. Another notable battle was Chelsea DeNofa eliminating 2020 rookie of the year Adam LZ in the Top 32.
PRO Class Top 16
By the time Top 16 came around, the rain let up but the track was still very wet with certain sections being more slippery than others.
Kearney continued his wet weather giant slaying campaign by eliminating 2011 Formula Drift champion Dai Yoshihara from competition.
On the same side of the bracket, Frenimies Matt Field and Odi Bakchis were forced to face off against each other. The implications of this battle are huge since Odi was leading the championship going into this round and his closest competitor was Matt Field. A loss for Odi in this battle could become a significant setback in his Championship hopes.
Unfortunately for Odi, things did not go his way. Matt Field won out against his Falken Tire teammate and officially inherited the championship lead. Any victory earned by Matt from that point for the rest of the round would only serve to widen his lead.
Along with Matt Field and Dean Kearney, Chelsea DeNofa, Ryan Tuerck, Chris Forsberg, Kazuya Taguchi, Fredric Aasbo, and Travis Reeder all advanced out of Top 16 and moved on to the Great 8.
In the Great 8, the rain and wet track surface finally got the better of Dean Kearney in his battle against Matt Field. Dean spun on his first run and collided with Field on the second run. This netted Field a pass to the Final Four.
Ryan Tuerck’s Toyota Corolla got the better of Chelsea DeNofa’s RTR Mustang ending Chelsea’s hope of a repeat victory.
Three-time champ Chris Forsberg took the win over Taguchi-san and stamped his ticket to the final four.
Finally, Fredric Aasbo earned a victory over Travis Reeder to move on.
In the first Final Four battle Matt Field took on Ryan Tuerck and both drivers were doing their best to leave no room for any doubt. The result was that the judges could not decide who had the upper hand, thus a OMT was called.
In the repeat battle Matt Field did just enough to get the judges on his side and made his way to the finals.
On the other side of the bracket Chris Forsberg was in championship form as he defeated Fredric Aasbo to move on to the finals
Unfortunately for Chris Forsberg, he didn’t get the chance to fight for the win. His car had severe technical issues that his team was unable to get fixed in time so he was forced to concede the final battle, handing the win to Matt Field.
Matt Field wins Formula Drift New Jersey
Matt’s victory in New Jersey was his first since 2016 when he piloted his Gears Of War sponsored S14 Nissan Silvia to victory at Irwindale. This win gives Matt a 26 point lead over Odi Bakchis going into the next round in Erie, PA.
Can Matt Field turn this lead into a 2021 Formula Drift Championship? Or will Odi make a comeback? Also, how do you feel about the 2021 Formula Drift season shaping up to be a two-horse race among the same team?
Share your thoughts in the comments below on Twitter at @MotorworldHype.