And now for one last look at Formula Drift Atlanta, this time with photos from the Top 16 through the finals.
The Top 32 was full of surprises and close battles, and the remainder of the compeition would bring more of the same as night fell over Road Atlanta.
As the sun began to set and and the temperatures dropped to more comfortable levels, the crowd packed the hillsides around the track as driver introductions got underway. J-Rod announced that this was the FD's biggest crowd in Atlanta since the series began in 2004.
The first fight of the Top 16 was an all Scion one – Tanner Foust v. Ken Gushi. The cars look similar, but it was interesting to compare Tanner's V8 car to Ken's 3SGTE as they made their way around the course.
During their second run, Tanner made a very "un-Tanner" move and misjudged the first corner, which caused him to spin. Just like that, the top qualifier and a favorite to win the event was eliminated.
Next up was Vaughn Gittin Jr. vs Ryan Tuerck. As you read during my Falken report, JR's Mustang straightened out as he exited the horseshoe and his fellow Drift Alliance member was able to advance to the Great Eight.
In the following match Ryuji Miki swung his FD into the dirt outside of the horseshoe, nearly slowing him to a stop and giving the win to his opponent Tyler McQuarrie.
Next up was another one of the day's great runs – Chris Forsberg v Sam Hubinette. This match of intense rivals would need a total of three runs (two OMT's) before a winner could be decided.
Look at how close the two of them are as they exit the horseshoe. Since I shot this picture at a relatively high shutter speed, you can even see the excitement of the fans if you look in the background. This battle would be decided when Sam came in too shallow at the first corner, tapping Chris and causing him to spin. Forsberg would move on to the Great Eight.
Next up was a battle of two well-matched cars and drivers as Pat Mordaunt faced Joon Maeng. Pat earned the victory, but as you'll see in a moment, the call would later be reversed after a technical issue.
The next match was a quick one as Justin Pawlak easily defeated Tony Brakohiapa.
Darren McNamara went against his Falken teammate Ross Petty next. It was an easy win for Darren after Ross spun into the sand during their first run.
Robbie Nishida has been having a great season so far, and his streak continued when he defeated Rhys Millen during the final match of the Top 16.
Moments later, the Top Eight kicked off with Ken Gushi facing Ryan Tuerck. Ken had been having a great day, but it would end here at the hands of Hampshaa and his Solstice.
Chris Forsberg then advanced to the semi-final after defeating fellow 350Z driver Tyler McQuarrie.
For the next run Pat Mordaunt was to run against Justin Pawlak. After a bit of a wait, it was announced that Pat had been DQ'd over a tire issue and that his Top 16 opponent Joon Maeng would take over his spot in the Great Eight. Although everyone was surprised by this development, Joon made it clear that he deserved to be there by advancing to the Final Four after an edge-of-your-seat OMT battle with Pawlak.
Closing out the Great EIght were Darren McNamara and Robbie Nishida (who's car is hidden somewhere in there behind the smoke). Surprisingly, Robbie spun his Z during their first run and DMac would move on to the Final Four.
The Final Four started with Drift Alliance blood brothers Ryan Tuerck and Chris Forsberg battling each other to advance to the final. Forsberg would win, but Tuerck still had a chance for a podium finish.
The other match of the Final Four was Darren McNamara vs. Joon Maeng. Unfortunately for Joon, his S13 lost a cylinder and he was forced to run against DMac's V8 Saturn on just three cylinders. Needless to say, Darren was able to take advantage of this and move on to face Forsberg in the final.
Before the final, Ryan Tuerck and Joon Maeng would run each other for the final spot on the podium. Joon's team was able to get his car running on four cylinders again, and he would fight an epic battle against Tuerck. After TWO OMT's, the judges finally awarded third place to Tuerck, but Joon had a spectacular run to say the very least.
Once the long battle for third place had finished, McNamara and Forsberg began the final match of the night. Not surprisingly, this one also took a "One More Time" to settle. Neither driver seemed to take an outright advantage, but it would be Chris Forsberg who was declared the winner in this close match.
With tiresmoke hanging in the nighttime air, Chris Forsberg celebrates with his DA teammate Ryan Tuerck. An exciting evening of Formula D competition was in the books.
Was it the best FD event ever?
I'll let you be the judge of that.