Formula Drift Explodes Into Long Beach

After what’s felt like an age, the professional drift season in North America has officially kicked off with round one of Formula Drift in Long Beach. I’ve come to miss the smell of tire smoke and picking bits and pieces of drift car out of my hair, but I sure got my fill of it during qualifying day.

Just to stir it up a bit, the judges implemented new knockout-style rules this year for qualifying to force the drivers to go maximum attack on their very first qualifying run.

After all drivers have completed their first qualifying run, the scores are tallied up and the top 16 drivers get to park their cars and relax. With 32 spots in total, this leaves 16 spots for the rest of the field. The remaining cars get another run, with their best score of the two deciding who gets to advance.

The 60 drivers present at Long Beach meant that after the top 16 had secured their places, 44 drivers remained to contend for a spot. Drivers like Matt Field and Justin Pawlak pushed a little too hard right out of the gate, and needed to battle it out in the second qualifying session for one of the 16 remaining places.

At least corner worker Bil Baldwin got a new bow tie to wear whilst carrying out his flagging duties.

I’m really digging the new emphasis on qualifying, as it makes it just that bit more dramatic. It also provides a great show for the fans.

Justin Pawlak had a little more damage than Matt Field, but luckily the team was still able to fix the car in time – mechanically at least – for the second run.

Justin ended up qualifying in 23rd place and he will battle someone that he has driven against before, a long time ago…

… Forest Wang. Both of these guys used to battle it out over eight years ago at the local Top Drift events run by Just Drift and they both earned their Formula Drift License around the same time.

I don’t think there has ever been a more packed grid. There is just no sign of slowing down with this series.

The current champion, Daigo Saito, has been having some troubles with his car leading up to the event. They just dynoed it a few nights earlier and the team seemed to have some problems with power delivery.

It seems they sorted it out for qualifying though as he will be going up against the people’s champ, Danny George, who drives the little Miata ‘that could’.

Partnering up with Speedhunters this year is none other than Vaughn Gittin Jr. If you happen to be at Formula Drift Long Beach, make sure you stop by at his booth to get some cool swag.

Vaughn’s last two years at Long Beach have been pretty cursed. In 2011 he didn’t make the top 32 in qualifying, and in 2012 he knocked himself out of the top 32.

Hopefully he will be able to get that monkey off his back and by the look of it, things seem promising so far.

Our very own Fredric Aasbo also debuted a refreshed car with a bang. He stuffed it into the tire barriers during media day, but it was pretty minor as the team fixed everything for the very next day.

Fredric is so nice to his fans. He can never turn down someone asking for an autograph, even when the medium is a little different to normal.

He will be competing with his fellow teammate Ken Gushi. Make sure you check out the recent feature we did on the Greddy Scion FR-S.

There were quite a few rookies this year. And what better way to welcome these guys than letting them roam free on one of the hardest courses on the Formula Drift circuit.

Many of the favorites did not get into the main show, including Nate Hamilton. His car was plagued with mechanical problems pretty much throughout the day.

2013 seems to be the year of new cars though. Teams are really stepping it up to bring different cars to the grid, like Mike Essa, who just finished this BMW E46 drift car a few days before the event. He ended up qualifying in a whopping third place right off the bat.

Just check out this Lexus GS that Alex Lee built. I just love the way four door cars look when they are converted into a drift car.

I could not think of a better car to replace his Toyota Cressida.

Unfortunately, Alex did not make it into the big show either; he seemed to have some sort of braking issue.

Chelsea Denofa also had a new ride for this season. He built this car last year in case he needed a backup.

Also with a new car and a new motor this year is the people’s champ, Danny George. He’s in love with the top-down lifestyle and I never really understood it until he took me for a ride in one.

Danny managed to fund his season this year by running a sponsorship campaign that enlisted the help of hundreds of people all over the world.

It also seems like this is the year for drivers who have taken a break from Formula Drift to return. For example Dean Kearney from Ireland took a break for a few years, but he is back with a super mean-looking SRT Viper.

Another guy making a comeback special is Carl Rydquist. The last time he drove in Formula Drift competition was 2009. He can pretty much make anything on four wheels go fast, but we’ll see what he has under his sleeve once he enters the top 32.

The sharpest-looking guy on the grid, Matt Powers, got a new driver’s suit for 2013. The bow is detachable and can be left at home when he thinks it’s going to get into trouble.

I’m loving the new livery on his car. It also seems that he’s fixed many of the suspension problems that he had last year.

He’s definitely one to keep an eye on this year as he has more power than he has ever run with: about 700hp to the wheels in his LS-powered S14.

It’s been a great start to the year for Daijiro Yoshihara as he qualified in first place with an amazing run where he was just inches away from the walls of the street course. That said, it won’t be straight forward for him to get into the top 16, as he is paired-up with former teammate Tyler McQuarrie.

Tyler had been looking really strong, but due to a power steering pump failure he had to skip morning practice. He barely made it into the top 32 in last place.

This has already been a great start to the tenth season of Formula Drift. Stay tuned for more coverage from Long Beach. In the meantime, feel free to download some desktops. Enjoy!

Larry Chen

larry@dev.speedhunters.com
Instagram: larry_chen_foto


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56 comments
totophi
totophi

Great car shots as always. But hmmm, wait a minute... isn't there supposed to be a rear shot of some race queens in white? :-)  In wallpaper size would be nice...

Nutty professor
Nutty professor

Nice for assbo to sign dumba$$ Adams fat stomach but crack head Adam is idiot... This guy basically on any fd pro's nuts.

datsunsss
datsunsss

Some nice remote camera work there Larry! :)

JesseJ
JesseJ

The first pic is awesome!!!  the car line up this year is so much better than previous years - more JDM less american muscle.

 

weasel
weasel

An x-wing pilot and a man in a tuxedo walk into a bar...

 

Who's next to turn the racing suit into a fashion statement?

RodrigoVivo
RodrigoVivo

nice pics, the fact that the first pic is photobombed by Pac Man its awesome!!!!

tbtstt
tbtstt

Obviously its no laughing matter for the driver, but the presence of Pac Man in the first photo means I can't help but laugh when I look at it. Fantastic capture!

Millsy
Millsy

Bill Baldwin! Yeah right, nice try. Clearly Santa is a big drift fan and moonlights at events outside of the Christmas period. I always knew he was a dude.

M4NIMAL
M4NIMAL

In 1st picture is there Pacman,omg

richATTK
richATTK

Very happy for Essa and Denofa, who suffered from a severely worn clutch in the final rounds, He might have made podium if not! I was happy to see the judging aspect seemed to mature a little, it seemed consistent throughout the whole event. I was watching from LiveStream, some things I wish they would implement: A speed gun on turn 1 to see the entry speeds, the whole "heartbeat-on-the-fly-judging" should be clarified; they show the driver's on left and right but the judge's scoring lines went up and down? It should be tweaked to make it easier to understand; I liked it though, it really showed how the judges were thinking exactly when the action was happening and they stuck to it based on the scores shown. A few little things here and there, like driver's photos, and hearing everything anyone was saying behind JRodd's announcing. Good job though, I had fun watching it and am anticipating Road Atlanta. 

Corey K
Corey K

Danny George - I don't know this guy, but he's got balls to be running a Miata. I want that suit Matt Powers has!!

JDMized
JDMized

Another reason why I don't watch/follow FD!!! It's rigged! The judges let people slide (no pun intended) however they please. Taka Aono is a classic example. The dude has TON of seating time and more skill than anyone combined, but because he chose not to run a V8 or a newer platform, he never makes the cut! I have yet to understand what exactly FD is trying to promote. Being a business (they are in the business to make $$$) you would think they are pushing the exposure of a particular car/driver.....but if people keep swapping engines because stock engines are not good enough, what's good for car companies.

zamm333
zamm333

Watching Aasbo and Daigo battle it out was crazy. They were so closely matched but I think they did right sending Aasbo through, and Essa was HUCKING that e46 around. Totally awesome.

Dirty Monkey
Dirty Monkey

The battle between Ken gushi and Vaughn Gittin jr was complete BS. Vaughn Ran over the clipping cone and still got move to the next round. Really, From what I remember, if you hit or run over the cone. It counts as a Zero in the scoring, So Ken Gushi, should have got moved on to the next round. 

RYouNotEntertained
RYouNotEntertained

Ryan Tuerck, Denofa and Essa were absolutely amazing at this event!

 

Powers is having the best livery so far and was looking strong against Dai.

 

It is refreshing to see that not all guys run V8s.  V8s are great engines but some of these driftcars sound like hippos that burp. Dont get me wrong though. Ferrari, BMW and Mercedes produce  proper V8s that are absotely fantastic.

 

Cool coverage Larry and it is essential to see more of that.

 

 

Jochem
Jochem

I'm not really sure why, but I love Mike Essa's E46. It just looks right! Good to see that there are more cars this year.

 

And Mr. Powers, your suit is awesome!

SuzyWallace
SuzyWallace moderator

Love that pic of Bil with the bowtie!

DailyDriver
DailyDriver

I am tripping out or do some of these photos look like video game screen shots?

HunterB
HunterB

Waited years to go to this.... and I went today.. so awesome... way better in person then just looking at pictures!

Happy to be Japanese
Happy to be Japanese

YEA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1st person in the Speedhunters history to get a six pack signing !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

AceAndrew2
AceAndrew2

Liking the variety of cars this year, makes it interesting for those of us who haven't really been followers in the past.  Looking forward to seeing Hately's car at Road Atlanta.

BrightestNite
BrightestNite

Anyone else have the Pac-Man death sound going when they saw the first photo?

Glubags
Glubags

Do you guys not see the lipstick and eyelashes?  That's clearly Ms. Pac-Man.

Charles Montgomery III
Charles Montgomery III

I love that shot of Matt Field's S14 shattering the rear end into the wall. Explosive. Saving that as a desktop.

bigmac69
bigmac69

alex lee wallpaper please

Jordan_Burgess
Jordan_Burgess

Just said this on Twitter, but when I watched Matt Field's crash I had a feeling I would be seeing some awesome shots of it on Speedhunters. I am not disappointed. Great photo's as ever Larry :)

 

The car's this year are sick, especially Michael Essa's! LOVE the GTR style body kit. So nice. My favourite livery however has to be Matt Powers' car, and his race suit is brilliant. Like a sir! It's a shame he isn't he one of your drivers anymore. You could have done some really cool merchandise now that the Speedhunters store is up and running. Stickers, t-shirts, all kinds of cool stuff! 

Happy to be Japanese
Happy to be Japanese

 @Nutty professor Ok Karlo ...still seem to be a little buttsore you got the boot from Drift Social five years ago.. I seee your no longer a mod on Club4ag ..I wonder if the rest of the forum realized youre a thief and finally got rid of you. You are 34 and you live with your mommy. Also hard to be on someones nuts when you are asked to do something but obliviously you know about being on someones nuts, just to create a name to comment about me..Love the fact I still get under your skin after so many years. Adam P..call me bro :P

Ryan Sage
Ryan Sage

 @JDMized It's rigged? Do you really, I mean, REALLY believe that?

SuzyWallace
SuzyWallace moderator

 @zamm333 Rod and myself actually high fived when Fredric won. That's an event that will likely never happen again (the high fiving that is, not Fredric winning!). :D

JBann
JBann

 @Dirty Monkey You have to do TWO things to get what will be considered a "0" run in Tandem.

ApexHunter
ApexHunter

 @Dirty Monkey That's what I saw when I was there. Its what happened to Kyle Mohan and a couple of other drivers if I recall. Hit the cone. Zero. Bam. 

 

Larry Chen
Larry Chen moderator

 @AceAndrew2 Yeah, It's not really over run by V8 powered drift cars anymore.

Larry Chen
Larry Chen moderator

 @Jordan_Burgess Haha, Yeah I love that shot. We are still friendly with Matt so he will pop in and out of the coverage from this year.

M4NIMAL
M4NIMAL

 @richATTK Search on utube:Who's Danny George ,and u will see a little video of him drifting...:...:...

messieur candy
messieur candy

 @Ryan Sage  

 

yes I do. and a lot of us do we just don't say it like this guy this in public.

JDMized
JDMized

@MikeYee Taka's opinion doesn't really matter! What matters it's the judges opinion! They are the one to cut people out.

Dirty Monkey
Dirty Monkey

 @ApexHunter  I guess Since Vaughn is your typical Douche looking guy, and brings in a lot of money. So they got to make him happy. ( its probably in his contract with formula Duh). That's why D1GP is awesome.

richATTK
richATTK

*sigh,                                    ...........this is obviously over your head.

M4NIMAL
M4NIMAL

 @richATTK Okay,but search  Who's Danny George on utube,pls,tnx

richATTK
richATTK

@M4NIMAL, yeah it was a joke.

Ryan Sage
Ryan Sage

 @messieur candy Would you care to demonstrate that? Or at least provide some kind of evidence rather than just blanket assertions. I'm wondering how we pick winners and losers and how we make guys hit walls and crash or run over clipping point cones? How does all the natural occurrences of a sport factor it into being rigged? For example, did we tell Vaughn Gittin Jr. to run over the cone in the last battle against Dai so a Falken team could win? Oh wait, that would mean we would have had to tell Nitto it was not their turn to win even though they are the same level sponsor as Falken. Agh, so hard to figure out this rigging stuff. 

 

No offense, but come on bro! You have to be smarter than that. Use a little critical thinking and REALLY think these things through. Think how any of that would even be possible in the real world. Don't be the tinfoil hate guy.


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