On Saturday some of the best amateur drifters in North America gathered at Irwindale Speedway for the Formula Drift Pro Am Nationals. With prize money, free parts, and the chance for an FD Pro license on the line, the competition would be fierce, yet the atmosphere was still that of care-free grassroots event. In total there were 24 drivers who had advanced through the ranks of regional feeder series, or at the FD Pro Am events held across the country in 2009. Although the stands were far from full, there were still plenty of spectators and supporters that came to enjoy the action on a beautiful fall afternoon in SoCal.
Compared to the madness of a Formula Drift Pro event, Pro Am has a much more relaxed atmosphere. No blasting music, no models – just the cars and their drivers. As fun as the pro events are to shoot, you just can't beat the vibe of grassroots drifting.
The walls at Irwindale are dangerous even for the pro drivers, so with the pro-am drivers taking the course the chances for carnage were high. You have to hand it to these guys for going balls out on one of the toughest tracks around – especially since they were all driving their own cars. There were no pro pit crews to help them, or stacks of spare parts kept for backup.
San Diego's Tommy Roberts would again fall victim to Irwindale's walls, yet he was still able to secure his FD pro license at the event. We'll be looking forward to seeing Tommy join his friend Matt Powers in the pro ranks next season.
Being a pro-am event, the Nissan S-chassis was by far the most popular vehicle on Saturday. There were also plenty of other cars though, such as Jeff Abott's turbocharged NB Mazda Miata.
Keith Wong and his 20-valve-powered AE86 had the moves only a hachiroku with an expert pilot could have. On top of that, the car also looked and sounded incredible.
The Lone Star State had a large posse on hand, including Russel Walker in his purple S13.
Another Texas driver, Chelsea DeNofa in his turbocharged E36 BMW M3. Chelsea would end up on the podium, taking third place overall.
Joining Chelsea was San Diego's Dave Blunt in his "Dity Thirty" BMW. This car has so much personality, whether its standing still in the pits…
…or ripping it up and breaking aero parts on the track.
Another victim of the walls of Irwindale – Kyle Mohan's old FC , driven by Johnny Kanavas.
The RB-powered S13 of Washington's Nikolay Konstantinov also had it's rear fascia rearranged after a meeting with the wall on the inner bank. Luckily his expensive 180SX Type X tail lights appear to have been spared the damage.
Brad Hettinger's S13 convertible was looking good all day, but a transmission failure forced to him to bow out during the tandem competition.
This beautiful V8-powered S13 belongs to Stewart Leask, another Texas representative.
And rounding out the group of Texas drivers, Ameen Rizvi in his 2JZ Toyota Cressida. Without a doubt this one of the coolest cars at the event. Even with engine hiccups Ameen was able to advance deep into the tandem competition, finishing in fourth place overall.
After morning practice it was clear that Mike Pollard would be one of the guys to beat. On his good runs, he was displaying professional-like speed and angle through the entire course. Just look at that the steering angle on his S13!
At the end of the day it would come down to Mike Pollard versus British Columbia's Ian Fournier in his four-door R32 Skyline.
Ian Fournier would end up taking the victory after Pollard tapped the wall in the final, putting BC and the entire Pacific Northwest drift scene on the top. Fournier, like many of the other drivers is now good to go for competition in the Formula D pro championship. Hopefully he and the other newly licensed drivers will be able to make some waves next year in the "big leagues".
Stay tuned from more from the Irwindale Pro Am!