Formula Drift 2018 Just Got Interesting…

With the exception of James Deane and the Worthouse Drift Team, no one wants to see a repeat of his dominance this season.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy last season, far from it, but a repeat performance wouldn’t have the same impact in 2018. From a fan’s perspective, you want uncertainty going into each event, or at the very least hard-fought victories.

With Fredric Aasbø’s victory in Long Beach, it did feel like 2018 picked up where 2017 left off. Since Long Beach of last year, only one driver (Odi Bakchis) has stood on the top step of the podium instead of Aasbø or one of the Worthouse drivers. Every event in this timeframe has been won by a European driver. Something had to give for the Florida round, and it did.

Of all the events on the Formula Drift circuit, round two of the championship at Orlando Speed World is my least favourite. It’s an uninspiring venue that doesn’t seem quite fit the narrative of a rising professional motorsport series. Its faults, however, are its character. The abrupt transition from the bank to the infield, the bumpy infield itself, and the coarse surface which decimates tyres all play a role in adding an air of uncertainty to each event held here. Not to mention the warnings in the paddock to keep your eyes open for snakes and alligators.

As with any course that features an outside concrete wall, there was no shortage of victims over the weekend. Most notably was Chelsea Denofa, who despite being able to complete a qualifying run after a heavy impact in practice, was forced to retire from the event with terminal mechanical issues. Kristaps Blušs was another that had a disagreement with the wall, but during his first qualifying run. He did make it out for his second run and subsequently qualified only to be eliminated by Ryan Tuerck in the Top 16.

It was from the Top 16 point of the competition that this event really started to shine. Across both sides of the brackets were matchups that were anything but decided in advance. Perhaps the one that we were most excited about beforehand was the battle we’ve all been waiting for between Deane and Forrest Wang. In many ways, it was a bit of an anti-climax: Deane laid down a pinpoint-perfect lead with Wang struggling to keep up. With roles reversed, Wang hit the wall hard before shutting down on the infield and handing the victory to the Irishman. I’m not sure if Wang had car trouble, but he definitely didn’t look his best in Florida.

I’m sure Dean Kearney will be happy to takeaway a Top 16 exit to Justin Pawlak, especially after missing the first round in Long Beach. His new ‘002’ Viper looks a whole different beast on-track when compared to his old car, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him put in another strong performance in Atlanta in less two weeks’ time. Another battle of note in the Top 16 was between the Falken ‘Frenemies’ Matt Field and Bakchis. It was a battle that required a OMT to decide, but featured some no bullshit and good ol’ flat-out driving. More of this kind of thing, please.

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If I had have chosen the most difficult route to the final in Orlando, it would no doubt have been Chris Forsberg’s. On my travels last season, I never really felt that I saw Forsberg at his best, and his new car was a constant sick-note since its introduction. They’ve obviously remedied it because from the Top 16 onwards, he looked to be the one to beat. Having got past his Drift Alliance brother Vaughn Gittin Jr. at the Top 32, Forsberg would then sweep aside Jhonnattan Castro at the Top 16, Piotr Więcek at the Top 8, and Aasbø at the Top 4 before meeting James Deane in the final.

It was this final that would see two drivers who had adopted contrasting tactics throughout the day to make it this far. Deane, who lead first during all of his battles, would put out a storming lead run time and time again, laying waste to his chaser. When chasing, he would perfectly mirror his opponent on the bank and through the infield, but often let them run away through Outer Zone 2 as his tyres finally gave up.

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Forsberg’s tactics were different in that his focus was on tyre conservation, which became apparent particularly from the Top 8 onwards. From this point of the competition onwards, he would always chase first using slightly less angle to maintain proximity and continuously reel in his opponent before sitting on their door through OZ2 and across the finish line. With fresher tyres, he would again start fast but almost timidly on the bank before vanishing away from his opponent across the infield and around OZ2 utilising the grip advantage.

I’ve never seen an event where tyre conservation tactics were so apparent. Even from the outside, you could nearly pinpoint where each driver’s tyres had finally given up, which was nearly always on the infield on the second run. Both Deane and Forsberg had adapted to this issue in their own way, but we would never get to see who’s tactic was the best. Chasing Forsberg into the first Outer Zone, Deane’s power steering pump failed and he speared into the wall, gifting Forsberg the victory.

Going by the emotion in Forsberg’s voice in the post-event interview, it was clear how much this victory meant to him. Despite being one of the most successful drivers in Formula Drift’s history, it’s endearing that it does still mean so much to him. His victory also adds a new dimension to the championship race for 2018. While it’s still early days, we’re fast approaching round three at Road Atlanta which often sees the true contenders start to pull away from the rest of the pack.

The question now is, who will battle it out for the title this year? Aasbø, Deane, Forsberg, Więcek? Wang? Tuerck?

Bring on Road Atlanta..

Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos
paddy@speedhunters.com

Photographed by Larry Chen
Instagram: larry_chen_foto
larry@speedhunters.com

The following gallery is best viewed, as always, on desktop…

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16 comments

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1

My wet FD dream would be to see Deane, Wiecek, Aasbo, Wang, and Forsberg (or any group of 5-10 drivers) head into Irwindale with a solid fighting chance at the championship. Then watch, battle by battle, as each driver falls off. I think it was 2011 when 7 drivers had a chance at the title, heading into Irwindale, and it became the most amazing FD event ever. 2012 FDIRW was also exciting.

2
Lucas Emerson

Fantastic shooting as always, Larry.

3

So much strategy to not go fast. Incredible!

4

going from FD to F1.
I was also amazed by the idea of tyre management even though it was hinted in the OMT rules that tyres will be a serious point to consider.

5
Graeme DailyDose

@larry was watching live and saw you run up and down like a mad man with your hat flapping away haha even saw the pics you took and wondered how they would turn out obviously amazing. was exciting to watch the day unfold the way it did.

6

Time to change the wallpaper and set the image 11/90 as my new background image.

7

Fantastic coverage!
Those are some amazing shots, saw you out there in the live feed working hard.

8

Why not switch to a tire with a harder compound for the more abrasive tracks? It seems like it would be a better strategy for tires to react consistently through out the entire run rather than have them drop away mid run.

Author9
Paddy McGrath

The tyres that they run aren't hugely soft in the first place, but you would be giving up a traction advantage to your opponent for 75% of a battle (in Orlando's case) by running a harder tyre.

10

Because the car would be too slow in the lead and chase position.

11

They could just add more downforce to compensate for that /sarcasm.

"We need tires that are super sticky because its a drag race to the first corner."
"But the tires are dropping off in the middle of a run. I know, let's make them harder."
"No, then I can't win the drag race to the first corner."
"You're right. Let's come up with some arbitrary rule to complicate the sport and add cost."
"Wait a minute...we go sideways and we're not timed."

Funny stuff.

Author12
Paddy McGrath

The start chicane has done away with the first corner drag race and has been in place for years.

13

That's actually one instance where the solution is incredibly simple. It will be interesting to see if that mantra carries over when the FIA creates its world drifting league (or w/e). Something tells me the answer is no.

Hopefully Formula D stays around but if I had to guess I'd say the top guys go to the FIA series and FD becomes an amateur feeder series to turn pro. Spells a big pay out for people involved right now, but sad to think about kids in the future getting into it at a pro level.

Author14
Paddy McGrath

I don't think FD will have to worry about the FIA series for a while yet. It's worth noting that they've also been heavily involved with the FIA since day one.

15

Ahh, interesting.

16

Can anyone explain how drifting works? Very new to all of this.

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