The last time I tuned in to Formula Drift, Odi Bakchis pulled out all the stops in Long Beach to take the top spot of the podium in the 2019 championship season opener.
I don’t mean to be a negative Nancy but, unlike years past, I haven’t followed FD this year. With the same judges, the questionable calls, mostly the same layouts year after year, and the championship feeling a bit stagnant overall, I just don’t find myself drawn to it in the same way I once was.
Again, I’m not trying to be cynical and I think Formula D gets a lot of things right, but I don’t think it does anyone any good to pretend it’s a perfect series.
Still, without a doubt, this is the top-level championship for drifting in the United States, and last weekend I made it a goal to get back in touch with Formula D at the Throwdown – the fifth round of eight – held at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Washington, just outside of Seattle.
During my time away it’s been a busy few months for all of the teams, and it was refreshing to see the standings have been shaken up at least a little bit compared to the last couple of years.
Coming into the weekend, we had Fredric Aasbø on top at 295 points with his 2AR-powered Corolla. I wouldn’t exactly call it an unreliable package as the four cylinder is producing north of 1,000hp after a healthy shot of nitrous oxide, but the car was plagued with some drivetrain issues over the weekend.
More on that in a later post, because Stephan Papadakis and the rest of Aasbø’s support team deserve some recognition for their heroic efforts at FD Monroe.
Just three points behind in the standings was Odi Bakchis who, after receiving ‘Rookie of the Year’ in 2011, has been a top-five driver four times. After winning the first two events of 2019 outright, Odi fell off his dominant pace a bit, but being within a few points of the top spot halfway through the season is certainly a good place to be.
Piotr Więcek found himself in third with 206 championship points, with James Deane, Chris Forsberg, Ryan Tuerck and Vaughn Gittin Jr. filling up the next few spots headed into Round 5.
As is always the case with any FD round, there was no way to know who would take home first place and the 100 points that come with it. Still, I would have safely bet this month’s paycheck that it would be one of seven guys.
Because statistically speaking, there has only been one round out of 20 since 2017 where one of these seven drivers didn’t win (Kristaps Blušs in 2018, who has since jumped ship for the Russian Drift Series).
As much as any of one of these elite drivers deserve the top spot after the years of hard work they’ve put in, I really wish that other veterans of the series – and some of the drivers fresh out of Pro2 – had more of a chance to make a dent in the sport. There are at least a few guys on the cusp of greatness in FD, and whether it’s luck, bias, budget, or something else, they just never quite get that podium or find the consistency they need to stay on it.
Again, I’m not trying to be pessimistic as every motorsport series has its ups and downs in terms of dominant teams, drama, excitement, fan interest, and so on. These lapses in major shake-ups are part of the game, and with the level these top guys are driving at it’s going to be hard to upset the balance.
Still, I’ve always enjoyed rooting for a bit of an underdog, so rather than beating a dead horse and reporting again and again on who won the event — especially since it’s always the same handful of guys — last weekend I embedded myself with the Coffman Racing team.
With a pair of fourth-place finishes, Matt Coffman is one of those very capable drivers who has yet to pull off a podium in Formula Drift. Matt’s sitting around mid-pack so far this season, so he seemed the perfect guy to follow around for the weekend.
Although there wasn’t too much chaos for driver and crew, my next post will cover their weekend and the ups and downs of competition from Matt’s perspective.
And it definitely doesn’t hurt that his car is one of the best-looking in the lineup this year, too.
Additional Photos by Sara Ryan