Mechanical meltdowns, carnage, and a track surface that switched from grippy to grip-less in the blink of an eye – the fifth round of the 2015 Formula Drift Pro championship held in Seattle, Washington, had it all.
But at the end of five tough rounds of battle competition, it was our very own Fredric Aasbø who stood atop the podium at Evergreen Speedway. The win, following on from a third place qualifying performance from ‘The Norwegian Hammer’, catapults Aasbø to the top of the points with just two rounds in the Stateside Pro series left to play out.
Friday’s qualifying session saw Norway’s Kenny Moen take control with an 89 scorecard, followed by Ryan Tuerck in second and Aasbø in third – both scoring 87. It was a promising start for Tuerck who came into the round leading the championship, but it just as quickly turned sour when the Retaks Scion FR-S driver blew a diff in his Airforce Top 32 battle against Geoff Stoneback.
Also sitting pretty in the points coming into Seattle was Aurimas ‘Odi’ Bakchis, but he faced a tough fight ahead of him meeting Vaughn Gittin Jr. in the first round. Ultimately, it was one match-up he couldn’t win and Gittin Jr. moved on.
But the battle of the Top 32 was the one that went down between Mad Mike Whiddett and Forrest Wang. In the first instance, Wang took the advantage on his lead run, but when following Whiddett an extended gap between the two cars through the entire high speed banked section saw the judges score the Gets Nuts Laboratory Nissan Silvia driver a zero for an ‘inactive chase’. All tied up, the evenly-matched pair then battled two more times until Wang spun and Whiddett took the win.
There was more excitement in the Ford Top 16 – especially when Moen met Daigo Saito. More reminiscent of a demolition derby than a drift battle, it was the Japanese driver who eventually moved through – albeit in an R35 GT-R that looked somewhat less ‘together’ than the one pictured above. The glory was short-lived for Saito though; his event ending after going off-track and scoring zero in his Nitto Great 8 match-up with Alec Hohnadell, who himself had moved on after beating Chris Forsberg in the previous round of competition.
If the crowd thought that the Moen versus Saito battle was exciting, the clash between Tyler McQuarrie and Justin ‘JTP’ Pawlak took it to another level. A wall tap led to a bump, followed by some door-to-door rubbing and finally a t-bone. McQuarrie’s Camaro left the track on the back of a truck and JTP moved up to the next round.
The biggest match-up in the Great 8 was that between Aasbø and Gittin Jr. But as the rain started to fall for the first time in the battle competition, it turned out to be a non-event when the clutch let go in Gittin’s Monster Energy Ford Mustang RTR during the first pass. He retired, giving Aasbø a free ride into the GoPro Final 4.
By now the rain had really started to fall, and the high speed drifting seen in the early battles was reduced to slow motion sliding. JTP faced Hohnadell in the first Top 4 match-up – both drivers scoring zeros on the second pass, but Hohnadell moving on – and Aasbø met Pat Goodin in the second – the Norwegian driver using his wet weather driving skills to bag his spot in the GoPro Final.
Despite a valiant effort by Hohnadell in his Get Nuts Lab Silvia S14, Aasbø was again too strong in the tricky conditions, and so sealed the deal in his Papadakis Racing prepared Rockstar Energy Drink/Hankook Tires Scion tC.
Now sitting on 373 points – some 76 points ahead of Tuerck, and Bakchis a further 4 points back on 293 – Fredric is in a good position headed into the penultimate round of the Pro championship happening on August 21-22 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Can he extend his lead even further on the way to the Irwindale final, or will one of the other contenders bounce right back? One thing’s for sure – it’s going to be exciting!
Photos by Larry Chen