In front of a sell-out crowd, the Formula DRIFT drivers turned up the aggression dial for FD Monroe. With only a handful of rounds remaining and a close championship, it was clear that many of the drivers were taking a 'now or never' approach. And under perfect Washington skies, those who attended were given a great demonstration of pro-drifting. For those who weren't able to make it, here's our comprehensive report on the action that unfolded.
The calm before the storm. Just before the Top 16, the entire grandstand – along with the pathway in front – would be crammed full of spectators.
In the pits, Vaughn Gittin Jr popped by the Need for Speed Electro Lounge to chat with Matt Powers. Both drivers would later fall at the hands of Dai Yoshihara.
Tyler McQuarrie was driving like a man possessed, bullying Luke Lonberger's Corvette around the course…
…With only a cigarette paper's width separating the two cars.
Tyler's Falken/ASD team mate, Justin Pawlak, wasn't as fortunate. Leading the championship going into Round 5, JTP was looking for a big haul of points to maintain his position at the top of the ladder…
…But fate had a different plan for him. Here you can see JTP straightening out along the bank, with his Mustang's clutch giving up the ghost.
In his fight against Dean Kearney, Roland Gallacher lost control of his Silvia in the final turn and went head first into the concrete barrier.
Damage to his intercooler meant he wasn't able to take part in the second run, giving Kearney the win.
The Speedhunters team have been impressed by this year's rookies, including South African Otto Graven. In the past three weeks, Otto has dropped a Le Mans V8 into his super, ultra, mega wide-body Z33 and repainted it in his national colours. Although Otto is still coming to grips with the new setup, he put it all on the line against Chris Forsberg's Z34. Coming off the bank, he showed his more established competitor a thing or two…
…Forcing the judges to call for a One More Time to determine a winner.
Despite Graven's valiant effort, Forsberg did enough to progress.
One of our favourite Top 32 battles was between Joon Maeng and Ken Gushi.
Both drivers pushed each other to the absolute limit. Here Ken Gushi rides the wall on the bank…
…With Joon Maeng following suit, with both cars tearing up the track signage.
It was an impressive display of aggressive drift battling, with Joon Maeng's RX-8 progressing through.
Alex Pfeiffer hit the bank's wall a little too hard…
…Losing out to Alex Lee.
Yoshioka also decided to give the wall a good scrubbing…
…Taking out his S13's rear bar. His opponent Ryan Tuerck, who suffered a big crash in the previous round, was given the Top 16 spot.
Rookie hot shot Ryan Kado suffered mechanical issues on both of his runs, so he wasn't able to put up a fight against Rhys Millen.
In the Top 32, Fredric Aasbo was pitted against Ross Petty's V8-powered S15.
Although Fredric spun, the judges had spotted Ross putting three wheels off course on the prior corner. Fredric was given the win.
The loudest cheer from the grandstands was reserved for Walker Wilkerson. Although his opponent, Darren McNamara, had only qualified in 19th, Walker wasn't able to keep D-Mac at bay.
One of the upsets of the weekend came when Cyrus Martinez went up against Conrad Grunewald's Camaro. Martinez, an underdog in terms of power output, pushed his S13 to the absolute limit…
…And did enough to go through to the Top 16.
Robbie Nishida suffered mechanical gremlins during his run against rally driver Aurimas Bakchis, who would later be defeated by Vaughn Gittin Jr.
Matt Powers defeated Charles Ng…
…To make it through to the Top 16.
As we mentioned earlier, by the drivers' parade the entire grandstand was packed to the rafters…
…With the capacity crowd all vying for a vantage point.
Alex Lee, repping the four-door drift fans, wasn't able to progress further than the Top 16.
Vaughn Gittin Jr was putting on an incredible driving display. On each of his runs, he'd deliberately tap his Mustang's rear against the concrete barrier. Nice.
In their Top 16 battle, Martinez's S13 and Mohan's RX-8 came together on the bank.
Martinez's S13 creeped forward, bumping Mohan mid-drift. After a long wait to see if RX-8 could be repaired, the judges called time and gave Mohan the win.
The battle of the Rocket Bunny Silvias.
Team NFS driver Matt Powers came off the bank a little too hot, spinning at the next corner with Dai narrowly avoiding an accident.
Fredric Aasbo's Scion, wearing the Norwegian flag out of respect for the atrocities that have occured in Oslo, dispatched with Dean Kearney's Viper in the Top 16.
Dean, who had banged his wing against the final turn's wall the day prior, did so once again.
Rhys Millen looked hell-bent on taking a step on the podium, with each of his runs inch perfect. D-Mac couldn't hang with the Hyundai, and you can see the Irishman running wide coming off the bank.
"I suck!" is what Darren would later tweet. I think D-Mac's being a little hard on himself, as he is still 4th in the championship and well within striking distance.
There's a strong competitive rivalry between Jr and Dai. Dai is the only person that Jr hasn't beaten in competition, so this was going to be an enthralling battle…
…In spite of a stellar run – including Jr's trademark wall tap – it wasn't enough. Dai shadowed the reigning champ throughout the course and was given the win.
In the Great 8, Ryan Tuerck pushed a little too hard into the final turn, looping around. Forsberg, who was right on his tail, had no where to go…
…Engulfed in a plume of Nitto tyre smoke, the judges gave Forsberg the spot in the Final 4.
Arguably the battle of the event happened when Tyler McQuarrie went up against Fredric Aasbo.
The two drivers were inseparable, stepping it up a notch for each of their runs. The judges were in a dilemma and couldn't determine a winner, so OMT after OMT was called for.
Both drivers were near flawless. The win was eventually given to Aasbo, who threw down a crazy line on the bank, skimming the rear of his Scion against the wall.
The Final 4 drivers were Fredric Aasbo, Dai Yoshihara, Rhys Millen and Chris Forsberg.
Aasbo, determined to seek revenge on Dai for knocking out team-mate Powers, put in great lead and chase runs…
…However it wasn't enough to claim a spot in the final two. With Forsberg defeating Millen in the other Final 4 battle, it would be Yoshihara and Forsberg fighting it out for 1st and 2nd, with Millen and Aasbo going head to head for 3rd and 4th.
Aasbo nudged out Millen for the bottom step on the podium…
…With Dai claiming the event win ahead of Forsberg.
It was all smiles for the top three drivers, but credit should be given to the entire FD field, who put on some of the best drift battles we have ever seen.
To the victor go the spoils. Thank you to everyone in the North West; you guys and girls made it such a great event!
- Charles Kha
Photos by Linhbergh Nguyen, Larry Chen and Charles Kha