We know the driving in Formula DRIFT’s Pro2 hot-shoe development series isn’t supposed to be as advanced or polished as what you see in the top-tier Pro championship, but 2016 has had more than its share of cringe-worthy moments. One of the highlights (lowlights?) this season will undoubtedly be Andrew Lewis and Austin Meeks’ comedy of errors in Top 8 at Texas Motor Speedway, when the two Nissan S-chassis pilots scored a grand sum of zero points after three laps around the circuit, a total of six laps between them – that’s the pair going out for their first lap and both getting goose eggs, and then doing it again after they switched positions, again for zero scores. And then again on the first lap of their One-More-Time (OMT) tiebreaker orbit.
The Street Driven Tour invaded Atlanta last month and saw some great drifting from local teams such as Top Garage along with some ride-a-long trains from some top pro drivers. Geoff Stoneback (purple S14), Matt Powers (Infiniti M45), Dirk Stratton (Corvette), and Kelsey Rowlings (pink S14) all tore it up giving fans rides for the day at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Formula Drift Texas Round 7 of 8
Coming into round 7 just 15 points seperated the 3 leaders Chris Forsberg (419), Fredric Aasbo (414), and Vaugh Gittin JR (404). Texas was set up to be a make or break track for many drivers.
Most of the field had see battle on this track last year, including Vaughn Gittin who suffered a huge wreck into the wall at outside zone 3. Vaughn talked to us about what it meant to come back to Texas and run the wall again.
“When it counted I knew that I had to go hard, I knew that I had to get that monkey off my back, and just went as hard as I possible could. Flicked it up on the wall and ended up qualifying first.”
Matt Field storms to first FD career win in the DriftCave S14; Chris Forsberg in NOS Energy 370Z inches closer to third title
It warms our hearts every time Formula DRIFT shuts down the haters. The latest vindication comes from Round 7 at Texas Motor Speedway, the penultimate event of the 2016 season, where the tandem action was so evenly spread, competitors so equally matched, cars so ridiculously close to one another, we wouldn’t blame you if you were watching and literally on the edge of your seat for the entire contest. Ok, so yeah, it’s still a drag race – FD cars are powerful and fast, we get it – but with the judges encouraging chase drivers to take the gloves off and be aggressive, we saw a lot of wheelmen take the urging to heart and put the noses of their cars right up in other guys’ business.
Nitrous Oxide brings up images of hot rods, drag strips, and 200-mile-per-hour runs, but the history of its use is long in the drifting world as well. From the D1 Grand Prix to Formula Drift, nitrous use is well known and used in turbocharger setups to overcome boost lag as well as a nearly instantaneous boost in power for naturally aspirated setups. Chris Forsberg also knows nitrous and it’s more than just the name of the energy drink he’s associated with. His pro-car uses a very unique setup and his consistency shows that it’s rather reliable if tuned right and utilized in the right situation.
Even in the earliest days of professional drifting in Japan, nitrous oxide was used in cars where extra power was needed but a turbocharger wasn’t necessarily the right choice in power adder. In the early days, turbocharger and supercharger technology wasn’t as sophisticated as it is now so boost lag, where the turbocharger wasn’t being driven fast enough to produce boost, was a big concern and superchargers weren’t a great choice because they aren’t exactly an easy bolt on as installing a turbo with a log manifold. Nitrous, on the other hand, is nearly instant as soon as you hit the button to activate it, easy to install since all you are doing is plumbing it and the fuel system, and tuning nitrous for power is as simple installing a jet. Ok, that’s still making it too simple but you get the rough idea on why it’s looked to as the go-to for power adding.
NOS: Not Just for The Fast and the Furious
Nitrous is really good for naturally aspirated setups in a world of turbos and superchargers. Many of you may be familiar with the Droo-P Toyota Corolla AE86 once driven by Toshiki Yoshioka. The car made 300-horsepower with individual throttle bodies in a 1.8-liter displacement but without a turbo. That was thanks to a “twin-shot” “dry” nitrous setup by Nitrous Oxide Systems (NOS), “dry” meaning no additional fuel was injected with the nitrous when activated. The opposite, a “wet” setup, injects fuel and nitrous at the same time. We’ll touch on how nitrous works in a moment but it shows the power you can get out of such a simple setup. Just imagine what kind of power you can get out of something with a bigger displacement, more cylinders, or a second type of power adder and you can see how this could start to make sanctioning bodies weary of it.
The D1GP/JAF Ban
That’s exactly what happened with the D1 Grand Prix and why you don’t see it used anymore. Prior to the prohibition of its use in competition in 2014, the D1GP and its sanctioning body the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) were already considering banning it. Not only was it expensive to use but Japan was looking into regulating nitrous oxide by making it labeled as a scheduled drug. This would have meant that use outside of medical purposes would be prohibited nationwide. What pushed the ban over the edge was an incident at the 2013 Tokyo Drift where Akinori Utsumi and Naoto Suenaga made impact and Suenaga’s car went airborne. That was all it took – the D1GP and JAF banned nitrous from use in their sanctioned events in 2014 and on. However, use in non-JAF events hasn’t been banned and is why you will still see it used when allowed in Japan. It’s still very expensive to purchase bottles and refills of it, though.
How It Works
Now, let’s talk a little about how nitrous works as many times people get confused on what it is and how it adds power. First, nitrous oxide is an oxidizer; it adds oxygen so an engine or motor can burn additional fuel. The gas itself doesn’t burn – much like oxygen doesn’t – but will make a flame burn hotter. I also used engine and motor separately as nitrous oxide is used in motorsports for our engines and in rocketry for rocket motors. When nitrous reaches a temperature of 1,070-degrees Fahrenheit, it will decompose and separate into nitrogen and oxygen atoms. Not an issue for us in motorsports but using it in rockets can be a challenge as they need to have a pre-heated catalyst in a monopropellant rocket (where a single chemical is used as the propellant instead of multiple). As an oxidant, nitrous is equal to hydrogen peroxide and stronger than oxygen gas alone. However, pure hydrogen peroxide is hard to get and expensive when you can get it. Just ask a rocket scientist.
There are two other benefits to using nitrous oxide besides being an oxidant. When nitrous is stored in its bottle it’s a pressurized liquid. When it’s injected into the intake manifold the evaporation and expansion causes a large drop in intake charge temperature. This makes for a denser charge of air thus even more oxygen comes in to help burn fuel. Nitrous is also a selectable boost, if you will, when it comes to power adders. We mentioned “dry” and “wet” systems but you can also selectively add as much nitrous to inject by activating additional solenoids with different jets. Press one button (or even set it to a throttle position) for your first “shot” (stage) of nitrous, hit a second button for another stage of nitrous with a larger jet or just an additional jet of the same size, and you can keep going until you destroy your engine.
Jets are measured in the diameter of the hole through which the nitrous flows out of. If you’re familiar with carburetor tuning, you probably have a decent idea of how jets work. The number is usually a representation of the diameter at one-thousandths (0.010) of an inch (at least from Holley). That’s not always true, though, as “40” jet might be 0.040-inch diameter hole but a 100 jet can be anywhere from 0.100- to 0.128-inch. Or larger. Or smaller, it really is dependent on who makes it. So, always consult your nitrous manufacturer before you install a jet as yours may not be the same as your buddy who uses a different manufacturer.
With the Good, There is the Bad
It’s also easy to get wrong. If you add more oxygen and not a matching amount of fuel you’ll get detonation and destroy your engine. This happens because, again, the fuel will be burning hotter and causes the fuel to burn before it’s supposed to. Your fuel also acts as a cooling charge in the combustion chamber but if you have more air than fuel the burn will get too hot. In most cases you get pre-detonation but the cylinder temperature can get so hot it will literally melt a piston, valve, head, or even the spark plugs. Usually, though, it’s the pre-detonation that kills an engine and can be so strong that it will bend a connection rod or lift the head off the block.
Finally, the nitrous bottle itself can be dangerous as it’s under intense pressure. The optimal range for nitrous bottle pressure is 900- to 1200-PSI. To put that into perspective, it only takes 100-kPa or 14.5-PSI of blast overpressure (the pressure above atmospheric pressure from a blast or sonic boom) to rupture your eardrum. This is why it’s critical to have a nitrous bottle inspected and recertified every five years or after any damage. This is why it’s also important to NEVER use a flame or torch to heat a nitrous bottle as excess heat can cause weak spots. Any weak point from too much heat or dropping the tank will be the failure point and where the bottle will rupture with that 1200-PSI rushing out at once and causing an explosion.
NOS 2: Not Just an Energy Drink for Chris Forsberg
While Chris Forsberg’s sponsor maybe name related to NOS, NOS Energy Drink and the Holley Performance brand are separate but it sure does make for an awesome partnership. That’s why the three worked together on his NOS Energy Nissan 370Z. What also makes his system unique is that it uses a full dry system and, instead of using NOS’ Launcher or any other aftermarket nitrous controller, they utilized the ever impressive power of his Motec ECU to handle the need to add fuel into the system.
What also adds some complexity to his setup is the fact that his VK56 uses an individual throttle body setup. While using eight individual nitrous injectors isn’t new, he is using a single NOS Big Shot solenoid. This means that from the solenoid feed tube it’s split into a “Y” fitting, then feed into two four-way distribution blocks, which then feed the eight nitrous nozzles tapped into the trumpet of the throttle bodies. This system is capable of adding just 100-horsepower to nearly 300-horsepower depending on the jet size used. This also allows them to tune not just for each individual track but the conditions as well with just the change in jet size.
As we mentioned earlier, bottle pressure is critical and consistent pressure is crucial for consistent performance. You won’t see these guys using a torch to pressurize their bottle, but instead they will use a bottle heater. It comes on when bottle pressure is too low and turns off at precisely the right time. Another way to keep pressure constant is by using a purge valve. Not only do you have to purge your nitrous system to ensure it’s bled of air pockets – which leads to rich conditions and inconsistent power, but you also use it to keep your bottle pressure steady.
Mounting a nitrous bottle is also very important and it’s not just for safety, but also to ensure that the siphon tube in the bottle is exposed to liquid nitrous at all times. This is why a bottle is never laid flat on its side in a nitrous setup. However, the room inside the 370Z is rather limited and Forsberg had to mount his upright. It still works because the siphon tube is still positioned in the correct area to be exposed to the liquid in the bottle.
To ensure every bottle is safe, NOS uses a safety disc that’s located to the right of the valve knob and to the left of the outlet. This disc is a onetime use and blows when the bottle reaches an overpressure of 3000-PSI; just before the failure pressure of the bottle itself. Chris had one of these fail on him while sitting on the grid at Texas Motor Speedway in the past, but to ensure the high-pressurized liquid doesn’t enter the cabin a blow down tube is connected to it and exits the cabin. This is why you see two tubes exiting the nitrous bottle in his car.
The disadvantages of a nitrous oxide system range from environmental to the bursting of a high-pressure bottle to destroying an engine but – if caution and care are used in tuning and designing a system in a race car – the advantages far outweigh them. Being able to tune for track and conditions by just changing a nitrous jet, using multiple stages, and even the cheaper purchase point of nitrous in the US you get more advantages than using a turbocharger or supercharger. Changes are done quickly and you have more control on how much (or little) a change you can make in power just by changing out a jet. With a simple press of a button you can instantaneously have 100 to 300 to 1000 or more horsepower when you need it or you can choose not to press the button if you don’t need to. With more advanced nitrous control systems, you can even stage each nitrous shot or your single shot to your throttle position, gear, or any number of conditions. It’s a wonder why more teams in Formula Drift Pro, Pro 2, and even ProAm don’t use it more often.
10. Great Layout and Formula Drift Texas Gets A-
I liked the layout this year and the how the event ran/flowed as a whole. Formula Drift gets tons of criticism from all angles so when they do something really well I want to stop and take the oppurtunity to give them credit. The judging was pretty spot on with the exception of Ryan L. once who picked Aasbo when their was no scenario on earth he won but we cannot all be perfect. Texas has been an event with protests, drama, delays, and bad accidents in years past so it seems like they finally got this layout to work and I am looking forward to it next season.
9. Looking Ahead to a Possible Lackluster Irwindale?
Chris Forsberg finished second at Texas after beating Aasbo in the Great 8 which kind of puts a damper on the Formula Drift Irwindale drama. With a podium or finishing two places about Aasbo at Irwindale Forsberg will lock down his third championship. Considering he has hopped on the podium the last six events in a row it seems like it could happen again. Vaughn is eliminated if Forsberg lands in the Great 8 so really it’s a repeat of last year at Irwindale with a larger points gap.
8. Where Did It All Go Wrong for Chelsea DeNofa?
Chelsea DeNofa made some serious efforts to run this weekend in Texas by loaning a local Pro Am car and giving it hell but you have to wonder where it all went wrong. Just six months ago we watched DeNofa win his first career event and establish himself as a championship player. Two events later he was removed from grid for having glue on his tires and now after seven rounds he finds himself in 15th place and 288 points behind Chris Forsberg. Talk about the highs and lows of a Formula Drift season.
7. Has Kenneth Moen Thrown in the Towel?
Kenneth Moen missed another round of Formula Drift and currently sits 29th in the championship points standings. In a realistic world, if the grid was more complete he would be relegated to Pro 2 for next season with a points score of 136 points through seven rounds. His style is so awesome it will be a shame if he doesn’t return for 2017.
6. Pro 2 was Less Than Ideal
Pro 2 has been hot and cold this year but Texas might of found the series in a new low. One battle had six zeros put together by two drivers before someone could muster up a score. Marc Landerville vs. Jeff Jones was probably the highlight battle of the Pro 2 show. I will be in Southeast Asia for the Pro 2 only round in Phoenix and watching this made me feel like I am not going to miss very much.
5. Alex Heilbrunn and Rookie of the Year Race
Alex Heilbrunn has been hot and cold over this season and Irwindale will have it all to drive for. Faruk Kugay sits just one point ahead of him in the championship race right now so whoever qualifies better and finishes in a higher round will win the Rookie Of The Year. It would be a huge loss for Alex Heilbrunn to miss out on ROTY after landing on the podium in Orlando. This Rookie of the Year race will be a really interesting storyline to watch at Irwindale.
4. Mad Mike Needs to Change Something Up
Mad Mike gave a 20 minute speech on the Livestream about how his motor let go on him in Texas. He just seemed like someone stole his childhood puppy talking to the camera. His string of bad luck with engine problems has been right at the point of him performing well behind the wheel. Hopefully he can leave this bad luck behind him and perform for the 2017 season. If the car could hang in there it seems like he has developed the talent to reign in this MX-5 for a podium finish.
3. Chris Forsberg Just Cannot Win An Event
Why on earth can Chris Forsberg not cross the finish line and win an event? For the championship points race, everyone should be glad that Forsberg can only manage to find the podium these days. He has six podiums in a row since Road Atlanta this year but they are all 2nd/3rd place. Forsberg has more podium finishes in Formula Drift history than any other driver by now a double digit number but he doesn’t even lead the series in wins. This is an interesting problem he needs to figure out and work through before the 2017 season I think. He shockingly has not won an event since Long Beach of 2014. That was 13 events ago.
2. Geoff Stoneback vs. Fredric Aasbo was AMAZING
This might be my battle of the year. Stoneback just looked out of his mind in that 370z this weekend. Just watch the run and don’t listen to me ramble about it. https://www.instagram.com/p/BKMp0pKj-rY/?taken-by=formulad
1. Matt Field Finally Did It
The best drifter from Northern California finally crossed the finish line at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend taking home his first ever event victory! He has looked super comfortable in years past at Texas so it isn’t surprising this was his first event win. Matt needs to look forward into 2017 and focus on his consistency and I think he can move into the top 5 drivers of the new season. Who else thinks Matt Field can get it done?