In The Moment: Leaving Everything To Chance

You couldn’t have written it.

James Deane is the 2018 Formula Drift champion, but it didn’t happen the way anyone expected it. In fact, what unfolded last night in Irwindale was so far from everyone’s expectations that even being here, living it, and seeing it unfold in front of you, still seemed completely unrealistic.

The odds were stacked in Deane’s favour from the first wheel turn of the Top 32. With each potential victory through the bracket up until the Top 8, James’ odds of retaining the title increased exponentially. If he reached the Top 4, Fredric Aasbø couldn’t win the title. Aasbø needed James to drop out in the Top 16 or Top 8, and then to go on and win the event himself.

It was a tall order for the Norwegian. [I see what you did there - PMcG]

Worthouse Irwindale 2018 Speedhunters by Jordan Butters-9628

All James had to do was keep on doing what he’s been doing all season. He just had to win two more times to put it out of Aasbø’s reach.

Worthouse Irwindale 2018 Speedhunters by Jordan Butters-9841

Then, in his Top 16 battle against Forrest Wang, James suddenly straightened when chasing Forrest into turn one. There was a collective and clearly audible gasp from the crowd as the Irishman fought to bring his Worthouse S15 back into check. With each transition the car was fighting him.

Worthouse Irwindale 2018 Speedhunters by Jordan Butters-9946

An earlier repair interfering with the steering rack was to blame but, regardless, the damage was done. James was out of the competition at the worst possible moment. Forced to hand his fate over to whatever opponents stood against Aasbø.

Worthouse Irwindale 2018 Speedhunters by Jordan Butters-0096

The Worthouse team would pin their hopes on each and every one of Aasbø’s rivals. But one by one they fell. First, James’ teammate Piotr would concede to Odi Bakchis, also in the Top 16, then Aasbø would eliminate his own teammate, Jhonnattan Castro, then Dean Kearney, and then Forrest Wang.

Worthouse Irwindale 2018 Speedhunters by Jordan Butters-0375

In amongst all this tension, Vaughn Gittin Jr and Chelsea DeNofa trading paint and shedding body panels in the Top 4 on the other side of the bracket, was one of the most insane things I’ve seen.

Worthouse Irwindale 2018 Speedhunters by Jordan Butters-0514

Fredric Aasbø and Vaughn Gittin Jr would battle in the Finals. And all James, Piotr and the team could do was watch from the sidelines. This isn’t hyperbole for hyperbole’s sake: it was excruciating.


What followed was six, yes six, of the most intense and hard-fought battles I’ve ever seen in drifting, as Gittin Jr and Aasbø duked it out over three One More Times.

Worthouse Irwindale 2018 Speedhunters by Jordan Butters-0339

Aasbø fought like a champion. He held his nerve from start to finish without falter, with the championship riding on each and every battle.


However, James Deane had found an ally where he hadn’t expected to. In a year in which Europeans would dominate the series, it would be an all-American driver who would write the final chapter.

Worthouse Irwindale 2018 Speedhunters by Jordan Butters-0575
Worthouse Irwindale 2018 Speedhunters by Jordan Butters-0775

Under the Irwindale floodlights it took a good few seconds for the news to register. Twelve months and eight round later, the Formula Drift trophy was returning to Ireland, by just four points, and on James Deane’s birthday.

Worthouse Irwindale 2018 Speedhunters by Jordan Butters-7457

We’ll be wrapping up our coverage of the 2018 Formula Drift season with the events as they unfolded from both the Worthouse and Papadakis camps, but for now I need to collect my thoughts.

We’ve come a long way in the past 24 hours, but the night is still young.

Jordan Butters
Instagram: jordanbutters



Comments are closed.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

So happy Vaughn got a win in the Mustang.

Certainly a dramatic end to the season! Looking forward to next year already!


Totally worth staying up until 6AM for, what an absolutely bonkers event.

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

And also totally worth waking up earlier than usual just to watch it!

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

This is truly an insane event. I forgot when was the last time Irwindale had such a closely-fought championship battle. And two OMTs for the finals? I think that's a first in Formula Drift, yes? Just when I thought Gittin vs DeNofa was already an epic tandem, Aasbo vs Gittin took things up to a whole new level!


It's cliché, but both Deane & Aasbø deserved to be champions after that. That was a heroic effort by the Norwegian.

Fair play to Vaughn as well, he really found his groove for what feels like the first time in forever. Genuinely thrilled for him and Denofa, they were balls to the wall at every opportunity.

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

Yup. Gittin was totally in it! I find it funnier considering earlier he said "this is probably our worst season on paper" and then he came out swinging and took the win. LOL!


Flame suit engage: If I were Gittin, on the last OMT, I would've "accidentally" missed a shift.


He didn’t need to even consider any of that, he was driving like a man possessed.


I know man, but I'm a sentimental sob. If it meant more to a friend I'd rather them have it.


hahahaha lol aabso lost steph has to go


What is with the drift community and Aasbo hate? I've met him multiple times and he is a really nice guy. Consideing I'm only fifteen I really look up to him.

Marius Engen Skinnes

What's up with all the Aasbø hate? You should try talking to him, he is a genuine good guy. And also a bad-ass driver!

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

This ain't soccer, mate.


I read some pretty dumb comments on here, but this is certainly at top of the pile.


Happy for all sides but I just can't get enough of Chelsea Denofa.

The way he drove against Vaughn Gitten is HOW HE DRIVES, I watched every round expecting that sort of driving!!! He's always insanely balls the wall in his runs, riding walls, and crazy in tandems. But all season we only got a taste of it.

Looking forward to watching him next year kicking ass now that he's finally at home and his new chariot.


Chelsea blew me away. The guy just did not give a shit how far through the wall he put that car.


Agreed. How deep into the wall was he on OZ2?


I was there in person as I won a competition through drift mag Ireland,I have been too many drift event's over the year's but Irwindale was the best I was ever at.The tension and excitement in the air had me shaking since top 32. Already planning to go back again.


If this was the only drift event you’d seen you’d have been hooked, guaranteed. It’ll be a while before we top this one.