Yes, I know I just got done saying I was a bit tired of talking about the top teams in Formula Drift. But they’re the top teams for a reason, and last weekend at FD Monroe, Papadakis Racing proved again why they deserve the position they’re in.
The position is currently first, by the way, and it comes only thanks to hard work from everyone on the team. In all forms of motorsport the drivers tend to get all of the glory — and this isn’t to take away from the passion and high level of skill that Fredric Aasbø brings to professional drifting — but to win a championship and to consistently find yourself in the top three it takes a village.
When it comes to Formula D, you’ll be hard pressed to find a village as well-tuned as the Papadakis Racing camp. So, what happened?
It was during lunch on Friday that I first caught wind of trouble for Fredric and his crew. Apparently, fluids were seen spewing from the Corolla and onto the track during practice, but by the time I finished my lunch, Fredric was already back out burning rubber in the donut box to make sure everything was solid.
I was sitting in the Coffman Racing trailer where the mechanics and other media laughed that Stephan Papadakis and the team were able to swap engines in about an hour flat.
The next day, Jarod DeAnda announced that the team did indeed change over to a backup powerplant, but we were actually all incorrect.
The problem was caused by a meager hose, was quickly patched up, and Fredric made it back out on track with what seemed like no consequences. Not so bad, right?
As lunch came to an end, everything appeared to be in order for the Rockstar Energy/Nexen Tire hatchback.
That is, until practice ended and Fredric went out for his first qualifying run. This time we were all sure that a catastrophic failure had occurred — yes, that is oil — and the yellow Corolla was towed off for the second time in the weekend.
Since Fredric didn’t receive a score for his first run, if he wanted to pick up any points at Round 5 the team would need to sort this out for him. And fast, too, as there was only about an hour from the time the car rolled in to when he’d need to head back out for his second – and final – qualifying opportunity.
Shortly after the car made it back to the paddock a small crowd gathered around the trailer, and I expected complete pandemonium amongst the team. They were rushed, sure, but nothing could have been farther from the truth, especially when it came to Stephan himself.
Stephan was as cool and collected as ever, salvaging various parts from the damaged engine — which had already been pulled, with a fresh unit being nestled into place by the time I made it over — and prepping them for installation.
The pressure of what was riding on this job could be felt, but with Stephan at the helm the team came together and operated with surgical coordination. This was far from their first rodeo, but could they really pull this off in under 60 minutes?
Well, if anyone could, it would be them, and the Papadakis-built Corolla was back on track just in time for Fredric’s second run. On his do-or-die pass he seemed a bit conservative and ended up scoring an 88, good for 18th.
This was crucially valuable for the team to secure much-needed championship points, though. Remember, Fredric missed out on the championship last year by just four points after losing in a third OMT battle with Vaughn Gittin Jr. The team ultimately attributed their narrowly-missed championship to missed opportunities over the course of the season, so every single point really does matter.
This is also ignoring the fact that Fredric’s team came in clutch one last time over the weekend. After contact with James Deane at the finish line, the Corolla’s suspension was strewn around the track with a complete coilover assembly bouncing away from the car. During a competition timeout the team got the car back together and Fredric ran sans-front bumper.
While it would have been a great hero story if Fredric came back and won it all, motorsport is a cruel mistress and he ended up being dispatched in the Top 16.
Three serious events presented themselves over the weekend which might have stopped many teams dead in their tracks, but what separates Papadakis Racing is their persistence to compete, in the process picking up all of the points they possibly could have.
Nothing was left on the table and this could be the difference later in the season.
It just goes to show that the unsung heroes of any race weekend are the guys working tirelessly behind the scenes. Because none of this could happen without them.