Formula Drift is officially four rounds in to the 2021 season and despite the chaos of the first few rounds, the Championship picture is starting to come into focus.
For the fourth round, Formula Drift visited yet another brand new venue at Lake Erie Speedway; An oval track with a course layout that is similar to Irwindale Speedway but reversed. So, while this was a new venue for all the drivers, we would speculate that the learning curve was not as steep as the “drift stadium” in New Jersey.
Who came out on top? And what does the Formula Drift 2021 championship race look like? Let’s break it down.
Qualifying got interesting real fast due to the fact that the skies opened up and poured rain down on the course, making things exponentially more difficult for the drivers. Furthermore, several drivers faced technical issues with their cars which prohibited them from putting their best drift forward.
As a result, it was none other than Adam LZ who earned the #1 qualifier spot in his Nissan S15 Silvia. He managed to find just the right line on the wet track and convinced the judges to put him on top.
As surprising as it was to see Adam LZ thrown down the #1 run, it was equally surprising to see veteran driver and 2011 champion Dai Yoshihara qualifying in the bottom of the pack in 29th place. It appears that a combination of car issues and the weather played a factor. It was officially his worst qualifying result in the history of his time in Formula Drift. Hopefully Dai can turn things around by Round 5.
Three-time champ Chris Forsberg also found himself in the bottom, qualifying in 27th place. Forsberg also suffered issues which ruined his first qualifying run but managed to qualify ahead of Yoshihara with his second run.
The bad luck continued for Dai in Top 32 as he has to face off against Matt Field who has been on a hot streak. That streak continued as Field eliminated Yoshihara handedly.
Chris Forsberg suffered a similar fate, being eliminated by Odi Bakchis. Adam LZ, Mike Essa, and Fredric Aasbo all got free passes to Top 16 as the three of them had bye runs in Top 32.
Ken Gushi, who also had an uncharacteristic qualifying result of 28th, was eliminated Dylan Hughes.
Travis Reeder managed to defeat crowd favorite Jeff Jones and Dan Burkett punched his Top 16 ticket by eliminating Alec Robbins.
The first battle of Top 16 was Adam LZ against Chelsea DeNofa and at first it was looking like Adam may just spoil Chelsea’s championship hopes as his lead run was solid. However, when it was time for Adam to give chase, he got a little too aggressive and made contact with DeNofa’s car and then the wall. Adam managed to save the car and finish the run but the mistake was too much for the judges to overlook and Chelsea took the win.
Matt Field faced off against Ryan Tuerck. On paper this would be an intense battle. However, Ryan Tuerck made things a bit easy for Field by spinning during his chase run. This gave Field room to play things more conservatively on Ryan’s lead run and he nabbed the win and trip to the Great 8.
On the other side of the bracket Fredric Aasbo eliminated Rome Charpentier, Yves Meyer ended Dan Burkett’s day.
Meanwhile, 2020 champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. eliminated Mike Essa and Odi Bakchis took down Taylor Hull.
With the Great 8 set, the first battle to kick it off was Chelsea DeNofa going up against Kazuya Taguchi. Though Taguchi just didn’t have enough for DeNofa’s 1,200 horsepower Ford Mustang RTR and was eliminated.
Matt Field faced off against Dylan Hughes but Hughes just couldn’t maintain angle in his BMW while chasing Fields Chevy Corvette so Field took the win.
On the other side, Aasbo faced off against Yves Meyer. The battle was close and our eyes had it called as a OMT but the Judges gave the edge to Aasbo and he moved on to the final four.
Finally, Vaughn Gittin Jr. got past Odi Bakchis and secured the last spot in the final four.
The first final four battle made for one of the most intense of the night. Chelsea DeNofa had to face off against Matt Field and both drivers were exceptionally hungry for the win due to the championship implications.
However, Field’s car had a steering rack issue that occurred in practice before the event. That issue started to come back to haunt him so Field wisely called a competition time out to get things as sorted as possible before facing off against Chelsea.
DeNofa poured it on with a very close and very aggressive follow on Field’s car which meant that Field definitely needed to return the gesture if he wanted any shot at the win.
Unfortunately for Field he appeared to get lost in Chelsea’s smoke and straightened out. That mistake cost him a trip to the finals and a chance at back-to-back victories.
The last battle of the final four ended up having larger implications than intended. Fredric Aasbo lined up against Vaughn Gittin Jr. for the right to face Chelsea DeNofa in the final.
Aasbo had an incredible lead run in his A90 Toyota Supra and got the jump on Vaughn but eventually Gttin’s Mustang RTR caught up and the two finished door-to-door.
Gittin returned the favor and started to build an early gap on Aasbo during his lead run. Though eventually Aasbo caught up and put on enough pressure to force an error from Gittin, earning Aasbo the win.
However, the battle resulted in significant suspension damage to Aasbo’s car. His crew determined that there would be no way to make repairs in time so he was forced to concede to Chelsea DeNofa, giving him the Round 4 overall win.
Formula Drift Championship standings
Matt Field’s third place finish allowed him to maintain his lead in the championship points, but with Chelsea’s Round 4 victory, Field does not have much breathing room. Chelsea can’t relax either as Aasbo is only five points behind him.
Odi Bakchis is 39 points back from his teammate Matt Field but considering that there is still three rounds left that is plenty of time for Bakchis to make something happen if any of the drivers above him get too comfortable.
If Field wants to hold on to his championship hopes he will need to have a very dominant performance in Round 5 and hope that his rivals don’t do the same.
Can Matt Field hold on? Or will DeNofa, Aasbo, or Bakchis claw their way to the top? Let us know what you think in the comments below or tweet to us at @MotorworldHype.