The Greatest Drift Event Ever?

If the massive number of comments I’ve been hearing over the past week are anything to go by, last weekend’s 4th round of 2014 Formula Drift Championship was one of the greatest drift events to ever take place.

That being said, Wall Township Speedway has always been one of my favorite drift tracks.


I personally love the tiny oval a few hours outside of New York City, and for one simple reason. The light is almost always perfect.


Maybe it’s the positioning of the track. Or maybe it’s the time of day the FD grid gets to practice and qualify.


Without a doubt, the clouds have something to do with it – both on and off the track. But what about the fans? Why did they take a fancy to this particular round?


One major reason has to be the 33-degree bank. It might not seem like a lot, but when you’re walking on the bank it’s difficult to stand up straight.


You see? Because of the extreme angle that the cars sit at on the straightaway it doesn’t even allow for the drag-style starts that are now typical of most Formula Drift events.


And it doesn’t matter if you have double the horsepower of everyone else, because it’s physically impossible to accelerate as fast as possible – you will just slide down the track.


What the bank does do though, is set the stage for some of the closest door-to-door tandem runs you’ll witness over the entire FD season.


Then there’s the metal guard rail. If you hit it, you better pray to the drift gods, because as own Fredric Aasbø says, ‘It will open up your car like a tin can’.


Another reason the fans love Formula Drift at Wall Speedway is the fact that there is no bad seat in the house. The venue is so small that every seat is a good one to watch the action from.


Of course, that’s all before you factor in the excitement of the competition. Underdogs like Fredric’s fellow Speedhunters driver, Charles Ng, really shined in New Jersey, and he finished a career-best 4th place. I’ve been following the Hong Kong native from round-to-round this year, so we’ll touch on this accomplishment and other highlights from Charles’ comeback season a bit later on.


I think the last and most important reason why drift fans all over the world liked FD Jersey was because of this guy taking the win for the very first time.


Given his talent, everyone in the paddock knew that it was only a matter of time before Fredric got there. It wasn’t easy though, and to make the last jump to the top step of the podium he had to battle current championship points leader Chris Forsberg in the final.


Fredric has worked very hard to be where he is today, and I congratulate him for a job well done. The win has pushed him up to 2nd spot in the run for the championship.


Now it’s up to him and his very dedicated Papadakis Racing team to push hard for his first Formula Drift Championship title.


The fun thing about New Jersey – or the North East in general – is the unpredictable weather.


Some of my favorite drifting photos from over the years were taken in wet practice sessions at Wall Township Speedway.


A brief thunderstorm made for some spectacular wet driving conditions; forcing the drivers to drift on their tippy toes.


Most of the top-ranked teams sat-out rain practice. I’m assuming they didn’t want to take any risks considering the forecast for Saturday’s main event was dry as a bone.


In a way it was nice, because with less numbers out there it gave the rest of the field some much-needed seat time.


Taking full advantage of that was Nate Hamilton, who is currently in 2nd place in the Formula Drift Pro2 Championship. There are three rounds left, which should make for some interesting competitions. I really enjoying watching the series within a series, because it allows for privateers to take a stab at glory.


Eventually the rain stopped, and the sun came out. However the track was still very wet and slippery.


But after some hard work from the track staff the circuit eventually dried out again.


It really is one of those magical places that I look forward to shooting. No matter what the conditions, the images that I produce from this event are easily some of my favorites from the year.

Past Champions

The entire grid has really stepped up their game this year, so current champion Michael Essa really has his work cut out for him.


In terms of winning back-to-back championships, the odds are heavily stacked against him, but who knows – maybe he has an ace up his sleeve.


Daijiro Yoshihara is back on the grid, if barely. The team swapped in a new motor just a few days before competition and I was very impressed at how Dai performed. But as always with a new car, there are still many bugs to iron out.


Currently, there are no former champions on the grid with two titles under their belt. However, Chris Forsberg is out to change that this year.


Chris has made it to the podium every single round this year, and with three rounds left he has a sixty point buffer over Fredric.


If he continues to drive the way he has been the last four rounds then there is no doubt in my mind that he will become the 2014 FD Champion.


With two back-to-back wins, Forsberg’s Drift Alliance brother and Speedhunters driver, Vaughn Gittin Jr., has really brought his game this season.


As he only lives a few hours away, Wall Speedway is considered Vaughn’s home track. So the general consensus was that he would put up a good fight in order to achieve the elusive hat-trick.


But things just didn’t seem to go his way in New Jersey and he qualified uncharacteristically-low in 14th position.


Then he ended up knocking himself out of the Top 16 when he rubbed the wall after initiation – the contact puncturing his tires.


Vaughn wasn’t the only one who was having troubles with tires, though.


It seems like it’s becoming more and more of an issue as drivers run very little air in their tires. Maybe it’s time to allow bead locks? Either way, the guard rails of Wall Speedway do not forgive.


Rookie driver Tyler Wolfson experienced this firsthand with his incident during qualifying. It was probably one of the worst wrecks I have seen in Formula Drift since Irwindale last year.


Thankfully, Tyler was able to walk away without so much as a scratch. His RX-7, on the other hand, didn’t come off so lightly and will need to undergo some significant repair.


The impact was so hard that some of the Mazda’s front body parts and bash bar embedded themselves inside the guard rail. The only way to get them out and then straighten the rail was to use the Jaws of Life.


Incidents like the one Tyler suffered, or this minor engine fire that Joon Maeng had, are just part of the game. If it was easy everyone would do it, right?

New Jersey

I’ve been covering the New Jersey round of the FD Championship since 2009 and I have never seen it as packed as it was last weekend.


So big in fact that Formula Drift had to rent out a separate parking lot to shuttle fans back and forth because the main lot was filled to capacity.


Fredric posed a great question when he recently asked you Speedhunters out there if you thought drifting was considered racing. In my opinion it is racing – but the main difference between traditional racing and drifting is the show.


It’s all about the fans and the interactions that they get with the drivers. It’s about the whole experience, which is why so many FD faithful will make a weekend out of it.


So was it a great event? Yes, of course it was! When was the last time you saw a turbo four-cylinder on top of the podium? Although, I have a feeling that this year’s championship race will be a close one.

Who knows, maybe the final at Irwindale Speedway in October will dethrone my favorite event of all time – the Irwindale final back in 2011, when a five-way battle for the championship went down to the absolute wire. What do you guys think?

Larry Chen
Instagram: larry_chen_foto

Cutting Room Floor


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giant sweeping corners and massive horsepower,  not my idea of the best drift event ever.  the amount of skill it takes to do this stuff is minimal compared to running a tighter corse with less power.


Luv it luv it


I'm a douche as I very rarely hold photography to be art.  But dang it Larry, your pictures are art.


Any chance for a full pic of the fj40 with the plow ?


Nice. Would be cool to see more articles about tracks. Would love to see one on the oldest track in FD; Evergreen Speedway. I tried to find out the angle of the (5/8) big bank there but it doesn't seem to be published information.


@jeremy LOL WUTT

Why is that picture flipped? Or is that a reflection? Mirror of a reflection off of a mirror?


"Fredric posed a great question when he recently asked you Speedhunters out there if you thought drifting was considered racing. In my opinion it is racing – but the main difference between traditional racing and drifting is the show."

A contest of "speed", as in running, riding, driving, or sailing




i'm a little sad there are no shots of dai and ryan's battle. i was looking forward to those shots :(


Not to add to the argument, but is Drifting Racing? No. Is it a Motorsport? Yes.

Beautiful photos Mr. Chen.  Wall and Road Atlanta constantly fight for the best round in my mind!


Nice shots Mr Chen. Yes it is a great drift event, but not the greatest. I'm sure some of us still get a little confused when the judges makes a call in every run, but it is what it is.


@jeremy but, the photos you took are quite amazing none the less.


Haha I almost wish that whenever someone hits the wall and leaves body work, the track workers would just leave it stuck in the wall. It would certainly add to the intimidation factor!


My first time at a FD event last week and I understand why they call it the Gauntlet. The sun was unforgiving which left sunburns on my face and nose. The wall shredded up cars into pieces. It was packed with people even though the track is not a big place. The Gauntlet is truly place of punishment but makes a champion.


Allowing bead locks would be really interesting and probably lead to some very cool looking wheel designs from the aftermarket!


Jaws Of Life? What the schweets that thingy was? Racing? if it involves passing by somebody's machine to the finish, then it's racing. Sure, that phrase'll fit. But maybe it rhythms more with 'competition' or 'x-games'? A little yesteryear words, still works for me. If it ain't broken, don't fix it maybe?


Great coverage! More pics of cars drifting in the wet please! :P


Great coverage Larry! Your Photo's are top! Is Aasbo doing a post himself about the win? Been too long for Aasbo to be on 1st.


LouisYio Looks like a mirror or stainless panel inside a race trailer.


AustinAngle Car Feature!


Ive been following FD for the better part of 8 years, my first event i attended was at Englishtown, now famed for Club Loose events. While it was cool taking in all the sights, sounds, and smells, i felt dissatisfied after i left wanting more of what i saw all day. Then the event was moved to Wall Speedway, and from that day on ive made an effort to go see everyone throw down at one crazy little track in NJ.
This last event was by far the best experience ive had with Formula D, ever. The tickets sold out, the pits were packed, the drivers were on fire (literally) and the weather couldnt have been better. I saw some of the best driving from these guys and as much as i love the big guys like Vaughn, Daigo and Dai, i was really happy to see Fredric win. His runs with Charles Ng were fantastic! Some of the best ive seen in years! I am a huge fan of the little 4cyl guys taking on the big V8 turbo monsters in their own game, and at Wall horsepower means nothing.
This is a track for drivers, and it gives the small guys a chance to get to the podium with driving skill, not horsepower, as Aasbo showed everyone.


Why in presentation mode can I only use arrow keys for the first two slides? Its really annoying me, there have been so many glitches since the new site and they're taking a very long time to be fixed. I used to read everything on Speedhunters but lack of usability is infuriating and narrowing my reading, please help!


KristianGoodall I am guessing you are using Chrome? Try another browser?


Bansheeboy11 I could not have said it better myself. Great event indeed.


daveylad Thanks for the kind words. Yes, expect a post soon.


jdmRob Trust me, I was dancing when it started to rain, but then it went away quickly.


@Crypt92 haha, good one.


bradjh A few of the pieces were left in there. Sometimes it's just hard to get all of it out.


marsh5 Thanks for the kind words as always.


@slim I got so many great shots, I can't post them all. Maybe later this year I will do a cutting room floor post.


KeithCharvonia LouisYio Keith is right.


AceAndrew2 Thank you so much for your kind words and thanks for supporting Speedhunters.


AceAndrew2 Thank you so much for your kind words and thanks for supporting Speedhunters.



Will you be at Formula D Seattle?



Will you be at Formula D Seattle?


Larry Chen KristianGoodall Yeah that worked, thanks but why doesn't it work with Chrome? To be fair since my exams finished the other really annoying bug where a massive white banner appeared above every page has been fixed and that was on both my browsers, so I guess progress is progress like a project car haha!


Page 3, Picture 6. Any reason in particular this one's back-to-front?


Larry Chen you definitely did get some great shots, larry. you always do! i'll keep my fingers crossed for a possible later post haha.


MilesHayler I shot it through a mirror :D


Larry Chen MilesHayler All makes sense now!


gr8 pictures and story Larry. the 1st picture taken from way above such an awesome shot, it make a Drift Fan want to cry! agree with you 110% this event was AMAZING! i thought my excitement had already reached a peak, but after New Jersey my excitement has gone to new levels. the drivers push to the limits in every battle! so exciting! i love this FormulaD series ...the excitement never stops --Kitty


Superb coverage as always Larry, so awesome to have the perspective of a true fan. I heard several drivers talking about how much they hate Wall, but I, on the other hand, love it. I was at the very first D1GP demo at Irwindale in 2003 and have been following FD since. While I can definitely appreciate the perpetually-escalating horsepower wars, the brutal power and torque definitely take away from the nimble skill of the 'dance', and Wall is a track that rewards true touge style driving rather than just the skinny pedal.
I am definitely not the snobby purist who believes FD should revert to SR20s and Hachis, but like Bansheeboy11 said, I really dig when the few remaining 4-cylinder cars actually have a fair chance. I love boost, but there really is no replacement for the low-rpm, off-boost torque of the V8s. Again, as you so astutely pointed out, the extreme bank and tight confines of Wall negate that displacement advantage. Aasbo really killed it, and I was stoked to see Dave Briggs drive strongly as well with that monster SR24VET.

Lastly, the community vibe of Wall is super rad. My girl had never even heard of FD before we went last year, and she planned months out for this year. It's easily one of the better events and venues for intense immersion in the culture and lifestyle of drifting. How cool was it to see Juha Rintanen in the pits all the way from Finland after sending his car across the Atlantic and almost losing it in the process? This is my 'local' FD track and event, but I would recommend it to anyone who wants to see the 'good' side of FD.