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Following the Final round at Irwindale Speedway where a number of championship titles were decided, Formula DRIFT relocated to Las Vegas for SEMA 2018 last week. During its annual press conference, Formula DRIFT president Jim Liaw was able to reflect on a very successful season and look forward to 2019.


Acknowledging the success of 2018, Jim congratulated the various series champions:

  • Black Magic PRO Champion – James Deane 
  • Link ECU PRO2 Champion – Travis Reeder 
  • FD Japan Champion – Mike Whiddett 
  • Auto Manufacturer’s Cup – Toyota 
  • Tire Manufacturer’s Cup – Falken Tires

The series organizers also reviewed the growth of the series, which is among the most active forms of motorsport on the planet:

  • 140% increase in Livestream viewership 
  • 12 million Livestream unique views in 185 countries 
  • 36 million content views 
  • 20% social media accounts growth 
  • 228% increase in social media engagement 
  • Series App reached almost 100,000 users
  • 47% increase in App user sessions 
  • Event ticket purchases from more than 50 states and 15 countries 


Looking forward to 2019, Formula DRIFT was able to announce its provisional schedule, which is as follows:

Additionally, Formula DRIFT Japan announced its provisional schedule for 2019:

The other big news from the press conference was the announcement of a brand new 2019 Formula DRIFT Korea Championship. During its inaugural season there will be four rounds taking place at Pocheon Raceway, which is approximately one-hour north of Seoul.

Dates for the four rounds have yet to be finalized but this new series is an indication of the global popularity of Formula DRIFT and its increasing prominence. The series is expecting to see drivers from Japan and the US participate in Korea once the details have been locked down.

Returning to SEMA, Formula DRIFT was extremely well represented throughout the show, including its own booth where fans and potential sponsors were able to collect information. There was also a special FD timeline to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the series

There were a large number of FD cars on display throughout the show, including the newly crowned FD Pro Champion, James Deane. His car was on display and he participated in several autographs sessions along with a large number of other FD PRO and PRO2 drivers.

With many driving demonstrations taking place at SEMA, Formula DRIFT cars and drivers played a major role in entertaining the crowds and giving people the opportunity to sit alongside them as they demonstrated the prowess of particular vehicles and parts. However, the highlight was an official Formula DRIFT demo that took place during SEMA Ignited on Friday evening and allowed show visitors to witness the sound and fury of professional drift machines in action. The results can be found on countless social media posts as new fans discovered the magic of the series.

For now, the Formula DRIFT teams have returned to their workshops to develop existing cars or build new ones. The series organizers are already planning for the opening round of the 2019 season, which returns to its traditional home on the Streets of Long Beach, CA on April 5-6, 2019 for the Pro category. The first combined Pro and Pro 2 round will take place in Orlando, FL on April 25-27. Visit for event details, ticket purchases, driver profiles and Livestream information.

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All media registered for SEMA 2018 are invited to attend the annual Formula DRIFT press conference. It takes place in the SEMA Media Center at 10:30AM on Wednesday, October 31. The Media Center is Room S229, which is located on the upper level between the SEMA Central and South Halls.

During the conference, Formula DRIFT president Jim Liaw will recap the 2018 season, which was one of the most exciting in the series’ 15-year history. He will also introduce the Pro and Pro 2 Champion drivers plus representatives from the Auto and Tire Manufacturers’ Cup winners.

The big news during the conference will be the 2019 schedule announcement and new series partnerships.

The Formula DRIFT press conference will commence at 10:30AM so please try to arrive promptly.

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Hot on the heels of the most thrilling Formula DRIFT Finals in the series’ 15-year history the organizers held their annual Awards ceremony last weekend. It gives them a chance to honor the top drivers, newcomers, fan favorites and the people who play an important part behind the scenes.

The 2018 Awards banquet includes categories for the Formula DRIFT Pro and Pro 2 categories, plus a special series of awards that bring to an end the FDXV celebrations.

Formula DRIFT also wants to thank all the drivers, teams, support staff, media and fans for supporting the series throughout the year but here are some of the outstanding performances:



Silverware was presented to champion James Deane, with Fredric Aasbo in Second and Piotr Wiecek in third


The prize went to Toyota for amassing a significant points lead over nearest challenger, Ford


This was collected by Falken, which also had a healthy points lead


The public vote went to James Deane


The public chose the Ford Mustang RTR driven by Chelsea Denofa


Awarded to James Deane as the driver with the highest average qualifying position


Won by Dirk Stratton who beat Matt Vankirk to the title by two points


Forrest Wang was voted the driver with the best style throughout the 2018 season


Awarded to Chelsea Denofa for being the driver who fully committed to every run in every battle throughout the season


This award recognizes the driver who faced and beat the largest number of different of competitors during the season and was awarded to Piotr Wiecek


Given to Matt Field, who finished 17th in 2017 and rose to 7th in 2018


Recognizing the biggest jump from the driver’s qualifying position to finishing result, it was won by Matt Coffman at FD Seattle where he qualified 22nd and finished 8th


This award went to Fredric Aasbo who qualified first and won the FD St Louis event


Michael Essa was voted the driver who best represented the sport of Drifting during 2018 with his tenacity, professionalism, and positivity. He also takes time to mentor and help up-and-coming drivers


Daijiro Yoshihara was recognized as somebody in the Series who gave back to the community and/or to a cause in a significant and impactful way in 2018. In this case, Dai has made continuous efforts to raise funds for the Japanese Red Cross since the earthquake and tsunami in Sendai, Japan


Chris Forsberg was recognized for being the first driver to surpass 200 wins in head-to-head FD battles. He’s also the most successful driver in the series with three championship titles in 2009, 2014 and 2016. He also has the most podiums to date and is the only driver to have competed in every round of Formula DRIFT from day one


Voted for by FD hardcard holders, Amy Bakchis won this accolade for assisting husband Odi at each round in addition to co-managing the team and their business, Feal Suspension. She does all this while being a mother and is expecting their second child next spring


Stan Williams from Justin Pawlak Racing has been in the series for many years and was awarded the prize by his fellow hardcard holders


This went to Garrett Nikolich from Forrest Wang’s Get Nuts Lab. He was instrumental in enabling Forrest and the team to make a strong comeback in the series after a one-year absence


The ever-popular Stephan Papadakis from Papadakis Racing is the most successful team manager and car builder in FD history, working with both Tanner Foust and now Fredric Aasbo. His team debuted a completely new Toyota Corolla in 2018, finishing second in the championship by only four points, which is the closest margin in FD history. It also made a significant contribution to Toyota’s first place in the Auto Manufacturer’s Cup



The trophies were presented to champion Travis Reeder, with Dylan Hughes in Second and Sebastien Gauthier in third


The public voted for Dylan Hughes


The public chose the Nissan 350Z driven by Alec Robbins


There was actually a three-way tie for this awards so the judges defaulted to most recent round at FD Irwindale and the winner was Brandon Schmidt


Sebastien Gauthier finished third overall in Pro 2 and became the top rookie driver


This went to Crick Filippi, who finished 21st in 2017 and rose to 6th in 2018


Recognizing the biggest jump from the driver’s qualifying position to finishing result, it was awarded to Travis Reeder at FD St Louis where he qualified 14th and won the event


To celebrate its 15th year, Formula DRIFT recognized the people who had been with the series since the beginning

Kenshiro Gushi – Driver

Daijiro Yoshihara – Driver

Vaughn Gittin Jr – Driver

Chris Forsberg – Driver

Andy Yen – Driver and Judge

Bryan Olfert – FD employee and currently Sponsorship Manager

Andy Luk – FD employee and currently Operations Director

Jarod DeAnda – FD announcer

Falken Tires – Series sponsor

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Top 10 Things from Formula Drift IRW

Written by Joey Redmond of Wrecked Magazine



10. Aasbo Must Hate the Final Battle at Irwindale Speedway

It was crazy to live through this past final battle versus Vaughn Gittin Jr. and seeing Fredric Aasbo fall just short of a championship. It was almost a carbon copy of the 2014 Formula Drift championship where Fredric Aasbo lost to Chris Forsberg by 11.5 points.

Back then Fredric Aasbo managed to beat Chris Forsberg in the Final Four and faced one last battle in the final against Daigo Saito. If he won, he was champion and if he lost he was going home second. He lost t Daigo Saito in one insane battle and fell just short of the championship. I have to commend him for getting so close twice as that is quite a feat in itself. Even crazier, if he had won both battles he would be the first and only three-time Formula Drift champion this past weekend.



9. Dirk Stratton Wins Rookie of the Year in a Corvette

The Rookie of the Year race was a solid one this season. Matt Vankirk and Dirk Stratton went back and forth performing better than some veterans of the sport this season. It all came down to Irwindale when Dirk Stratton drove the wheels off his Corvette to beat Jeff Jones and secure his Rookie of the Year status by just a marginal two points!



8. Forrest Wang Proves He is King of the S-Chassis

The one battle everyone would of paid good money to see this season was a S15 showdown between James Deane and Forrest Wang. They are two guys with similar builds and incredibly different styles. James Deane is faster and drifts with less flair and sacrifices way more for proximity. Forrest is a little slower with more wheel speed and style and loves to ride walls with his bumper. The showdown resulted in James Deane messing up on the entry at Irwindale giving Forrest Wang a pretty easy win! Until next time, the S-Chassis king crown is sitting firmly on Forrest Wang’s head.



7. Travis Reeder Fails to Qualify and Still Wins Pro 2

Travis Reeder gave Dylan Hughes every chance to steal the Pro 2 championship from him but managed to hang on and earn top honors. Some car setup struggle resulted in him not qualifying for the event at all, but Dylan Hughes couldn’t capitalize on Reeder’s mistake after losing in the Top 16. This was an anti-climatic finish to the best Pro 2 season in history before Irwindale.



6. Will the Ferrari Project Continue?

The arrival of Federico Sceriffo and his Ferrari 599 GTB was more exciting than I ever expected. His season started off with a fire in Long Beach but his team got the car back together for Orlando and we saw the progression of the Ferrari over the season. His attitude is awesome and we really hope the Ferrari drift project continues into the 2019 season.



5. Europeans Dominate the American Drift World and Sweep Podium

This event might mark a sad milestone or marker for the current level of American drifting. The highest-ranking American this season was Chris Forsberg who finished in 4th place at an alarming 196 points behind James Deane. Europeans have come across the Atlantic and dominated the world of drifting. This 1-2-3 finish might really lock in Europe as the new pinnacle of drift talent. Can any American even win it back in 2019?



4. Justin Pawlak was the Secret Championship Contender You Didn’t Think About

Yea, wait what….? Justin Pawlak finished this season in 5th place. Bet you didn’t even notice or realize he powered his Mustang all the way into a top five spot. Justin had a really level and smooth season with his best finish being a third place result in New Jersey and a fourth place finish in Seattle. Consistent performances were a big key point for Pawlak over the season and with a little improvement he can chase for the championship in 2019. The closest he has come was back in 2011 when he finished second behind Dai Yoshihara just 5.75 points behind him and I think 2019 might be his big comeback.



3. The 99 Score Qualifying Run Got Us So Close

James Deane gets so close to the sun once again and this with a 99 qualifying run. Tanner Foust still currently holds the only 100-point run back at Sonoma Raceway a long time ago. The qualifying scores were really high this weekend but the tandem tended to back that up. Tandem was door to door from Top 32 to the finals, which is unlike the Irwindale level of competition in seasons past. With the 99 score, this means Tanner Foust is the only driver to achieve a 100 point score in the first 15 seasons, which is a pretty crazy record.



2. Vaughn Redeems his Season

Vaughn Gittin Jr. has had a really rough season and he was open about that in his Formula Drift video “FDXV – 15 years of Drifting w/Vaughn Gittin Jr.” I’m sure many people were close to putting him down in the history books as a retired drifter next to Sam Hubinette and Rhys Millen soon, but then he comes out driving out of his mind and destroyed everyone in his path to take home his 9th career victory. That exciting win that stole a championship from Fredric Aasbo also puts him in second all time for wins with 10 behind Fredric Aasbo as well.



1. Back to Back by 4 Points

James Deane has been on one wild season that almost slipped away after a huge loss against Forrest Wang. James Deane secured himself in history as the second driver to go back to back championship wise and we imagine he is looking to be the first three-peat in the 2019 season. However, James Deane’s trajectory isn’t looking promising when you look at the numbers. In 2017, he won 4 events and scored 651 points. This season he won 2 events and scored only 595 points. He will need to reverse that trend to defend his Championship status and three-peat Formula Drift.

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Strong finish for Fredric Aasbo in Formula Drift Championship

IRWINDALE, California (October 16, 2018) – Fredric Aasbo capped off a successful season in the all-new Rockstar Energy Drink / Nexen Tire Toyota Corolla Hatchback with a runner-up result this weekend at the Formula Drift finale at Irwindale Speedway.

With a record of six podiums, including two wins, Aasbo was the top-performing Toyota driver in the series this season, helping to lock in the 2018 Auto Cup for manufacturers.

“I’m proud of the whole team,” said Aasbo. “We’ve gone out of our comfort zone this year and to finish this well in a brand new build tells you just how good a car the Rockstar Energy Drink / Nexen Tire Toyota Corolla Hatchback is.”

The thundering crowd at the House of Drift was treated to some of the best drifting in series history over the weekend, with the final match between Aasbo and Vaughn Gittin Jr. so close the judges called for two One More Time re-runs. The champions put on an escalating demonstration of commitment and precision until a wall tap in the sixth and final head-to-head run forced a course correction from Aasbo. The driver finished second and ended the season just four points shy of the title.

“Of course we wanted that win but you have to hand it to all the drivers this weekend. The level of skill we saw was next level,” said team owner Stephan Papadakis. “The fans were the real winners here at Irwindale.”

The season saw Aasbo win the season opener in the debut event for the brand new Rockstar Energy Drink / Nexen Tire Toyota Corolla Hatchback and score a perfect event in St. Louis, claiming the top qualifying result and running the ladder all the way to the top step of the podium at a brand new track for the series. He claimed second in Atlanta and Irwindale and took third at the championship stops in Texas and Orlando. Aasbo is the most winning driver in Formula Drift history, with 12 career victories.

“To be battling for the title all the way to the final match of the final event of the season exceeded our expectations,” said Papadakis. “Working with Rockstar, Nexen, Toyota, and all of our partners gives us the equipment and support we need to be successful, Fredric’s driving record is the best in the series, and I’m proud of the whole team for their hard work this season. I’m excited for where we can take this next year.”

Key crew on the 2018 Papadakis Racing team included car chief Shawn Hillier, technicians Mario Salguero and Aldo Villagran, and logistics lead Matt Lease.

At the season-ending awards banquet Sunday night, Aasbo accepted the second-place cup in the driver’s championship. Toyota Motorsports Marketing Planner Darren Rogado accepted the manufacturer’s plaque on behalf of Toyota, while Tire partner Nexen was second in the Tire Cup. Papadakis earned the Team Manager of the Year award.

In 2018, the series continued to offer live and on-demand online coverage on the Formula Drift Livestream, averaging 1.5 million views per event. Formula Drift continues to enjoy a conventional broadcast audience through CBS Sports Network for 20 half-hour television programs. The fast-paced action featuring bracketed head-to-head match-ups anchored the coverage.

Following a successful Facebook Live event for Battle of The Shops on Monday, the team is now preparing for a trip to Las Vegas with Toyota for the annual SEMA trade show in Las Vegas.

Drifting is a high-skill, high-powered motorsport with an emphasis on car control. In the Formula Drift series, drivers compete in knockout heats on a closed course, sliding sideways in trials judged on speed and style. With origins in Japan, it is one of the fastest growing forms of motorsport in the world. An average of 2 million fans from around the world watched the popular live stream coverage from each round of the 2018 season. Broadcast coverage on the CBS Sports Network headlines packaged content that includes social channels Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch.

Fredric Aasbo battles under the lights at Irwindale Speedway (Photo: Larry Chen / Toyota Racing)

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As Formula DRIFT returned to Los Angeles for the season finale, drivers, teams, fans and the series organizers were delighted to be back at Irwindale Speedway – the House of Drift. With only the Auto Cup decided at the previous round when Toyota amassed enough points to claim the title, there’s was everything to play. By Saturday evening we would all know the names of the 2018 Formula DRIFT Black Magic Pro Champion as well as the 2018 Formula DRIFT Link ECU Pro 2 Champion, Rookie of the Year and the Tire Cup winner.

In what has been one of the closest season’s in Formula DRIFT history, it was as if Hollywood had scripted the most exciting event possible for the fans. There was drama in qualifying, unexpected lightning storms and title chasers watching from the sidelines as the action unfolded. This was, without doubt, the most exciting Formula DRIFT weekend ever witnessed in the series’ 15-year history.

With so much on the line, qualifying for the final round of the 2018 Formula DRIFT Black Magic Pro Championship was guaranteed to be intense. The 2017 FD championJames Deane (Ireland) had a 40-point lead and his Worthouse / Falken Tire Nissan Silvia S15 had been virtually bulletproof all season. However, second place Fredric Aasbo (Norway), the 2016 FD champion driving the Rockstar Energy Drink / Nexen Tire Toyota Corolla, wasn’t going down without a fight.

Qualifying started relatively slowly until 2013 FD champion Michael Essa (USA) took to the track in his Essa Autosport / Achilles Radial BMW M3. He committed early to the course and stayed on the power throughout, earning 93 points from the judges and cheers from the knowledgeable crowd.

Essa would soon be eclipsed by Ryan Tuerck (USA) in the Ryan Tuerck Racing / Gumout / Black Magic / Nexen Tire Toyota 86 who scored 96 points with what appeared to be a perfect run. At least, that’s what everybody thought until Piotr Wiecek (Poland) in the second Worthouse / Falken Tire Nissan Silvia S15 put in a text book run and scored 98 points. With the tension escalating, Aasbo pulled up to the start line. He had a clean run but didn’t attack the course with the same vigor. He was awarded 94 points and would soon regret his conservative approach when Deane put up another 98-point run to drop the Norwegian to fourth.

In the second qualifying runs, rookie Federico Sceriffo (Italy) in the FFF Drifting Department Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano Drift Spec “Fiorella” would stray offline and collide with the wall as he attempted to transition onto the banking. The impact was hard enough to damage the rear suspension and break a wheel. Fortunately, his first run was good enough to ensure he qualified 24th.

The top 15 drivers would all score 90 points or above as the 2018 championship continued to be one of the closest ever. Essa improved his score to 95, matched by Chris Forsberg (USA) in the NOS Energy Drink Nissan 370Z on Nexen Tires. Aasbo also improved to 96 points but 2011 FD ChampionDaijiro Yoshihara (Japan) in the Turn 14 Distribution / Falken Tire Subaru BRZ put in a phenomenal drive to score 97 points. It put Dai in third position behind Wiecek, who would concede to Deane after the Irishman set the stadium ablaze with an almost perfect 99-point score on the final run of the day. And with that he put the series organizers on notice to start engraving his name on the championship trophy.

Seeming to increase Deane’s advantage was the number of drivers who failed to qualify. With Ryan Litterall (USA), Kyle Mohan (USA) and rookie Kevin Lawrence (USA) being excluded, the top five qualifiers got bye rounds in the Top 32 heats. This made Aasbo’s hill even steeper to climb as it ensured Deane would get into the Sweet 16 at the very least, receiving additional points even if he failed to continue – a scenario few could imagine.

The rain that impacted the Pro 2 championship runoff the night before greeted the Pro teams and spectators on Saturday morning. The forecast suggested it would move away before the main event but the schedule was reshuffled to help the track officials dry the racing surface before competition began.

The Top 32 would be the appetizer for the entrée to follow and saw some early retirements. Matt Field (USA) in the Wish / Borla / Falken Tire Chevrolet Corvette, for example, took a five-minute Technical Timeout before his first run against Forrest Wang (USA) in the Vapetasia / Achilles Radial / NRG Innovations Nissan S15. Field would take the start but retire early as a result of mechanical gremlins, handing the victory to Wang.

The 2009, 2014 and 2016 FD Champion, Chris Forsberg (USA) in the NOS Energy Drink Nissan 370Z on Nexen Tires, would also experience technical difficulty. Engine problems had prompted the team to drill out the nitrous nozzles, injecting a greater but unknown quantity of nitrous oxide into his engine. He would publicly admit his mission to retain the original “Z” engine was over and he’d investigate a new powerplant for 2019. In the meantime, he pushed the car hard on the first run against Matt Coffman (USA) in the Coffman Racing / Thunderbolt Racing Fuel / Achilles Radial Nissan 240SX S13. The lack of power presented itself in the transitions and Forsberg took a Technical Timeout before the second run, in which he’d spin at the final clipping point to give Coffman the win.

Michael Essa set a blistering pace on his first run against fellow BMW driver Faruk Kugay (USA) in the Wreckless Racing E92 BMW. Kugay struggled to get close to Essa on the first run so left the start line on the second run with extra gusto. Unfortunately, he hit the wall at the top of the first banking, causing Essa to lift and follow Kugay into the wall, hitting the front corner and then the rear. Even with Essa on a flatbed, he was given the win because Kugay was adjudged to have created an “unchaseable lead.” In other words, his collision meant his run was incomplete and Essa’s reaction after the fact was inconsequential. However, it remained to be seen whether Essa’s BMW could be fixed in time for the Sweet 16 runoffs.

With all the attention focused on who would become the 2018 Formula DRIFT Black Magic Pro Champion, six drivers were in their own battle for Rookie of the Year. The fight had come down to Matt Vankirk (USA) in the Driftmatic Nissan 240SX and Dirk Stratton (USA) driving the Lingenfelter Performance / Achilles Radial / Stratton Chevrolet Corvette C6.

In the Top 32, Vankirk would line up first against 2010 FD Champion Vaughn Gittin Jr in the Monster Energy / Nitto Tire Ford Mustang RTR. Despite a valiant effort, Vankirk couldn’t match Gittin Jr’s experience and would go no further.

Stratton faced Jeff Jones (USA) in the Doc / Falken Tire Nissan 370Z. It was Stratton’s first time on the Irwindale Speedway track and he drove hard to give the judges a difficult decision. However, it went to Stratton who claimed Rookie of the Year by two points over Vankirk.

Following the Top 32, Formula DRIFT traditionally takes a short break, allowing teams to address any damage incurred. The action recommences with US Air Force inductees being sworn in. The national anthem is played, and at Irwindale this was a recording of Kelsey Quayle’s beautiful rendition in honor of the Falken Tire team member who tragically lost her life a few days earlier. It was followed by a spectacular fireworks display before the cars returned to the track.

With the Rookie title settled, the Pro championship could be decided in the Sweet 16 heats. Aasbo had a mathematical chance of clinching the 2018 title if he came in first place and Deane was knocked out of the Top 16 – something that hadn’t happened to Deane since FD Orlando 2017, which was ironically the year he won his first Formula DRIFT championship.

Deane had been on fire in qualifying and expectations were high for him to win his Sweet 16 round and subsequently the title by beating Forrest Wang (USA) in the Vapetasia / Achilles Radial / NRG Innovations Nissan S15. However, Wang was reading from a different script. Both drivers were on maximum attack, with Wang getting great proximity to the champion-elect on the first run. On the second run, Deane struggled to initiate his drift into the first banking and lost ground to Wang. A collective gasp could be heard over the screaming engines below as the unthinkable unfolded.

It didn’t take long for the judges to award Wang the win and eliminate Deane. It would emerge he had a power steering issue, which explains the outcome and the huge upset. The result made the 2018 Formula DRIFT Black Magic Pro Championship Aasbo’s to lose.

The tension was turned to 11 as Aasbo pulled up to the start line against Jhonnattan Castro (Dominican Republic) in the GPP Toyota Racing / Falken Tire Toyota 86. Both drivers gave it everything in a round that was almost too close to call. However, the judges gave the win to Aasbo by virtue of a single mistake by Castro. This was typical of the 2018 season – there were no easy rounds, every driver stepped up their game, producing incredible competition.

This was exemplified by the Sweet 16 matchup between third-placed Wiecek in Deane’s Worthouse sister car. Wiecek was coming off a win at the previous round in Texas and faced Aurimas “Odi” Bakchis (Lithuania) in the Falken Tires / Maxxoil / Drifz Wheels Nissan S14. He had qualified 15th but wasn’t about to be intimidated. Instead, he pushed Wiecek hard, with both drivers contacting the walls in their effort to dominate. It seemed too close to call but the crowd was expecting Wiecek to reach the final against Aasbo. However, the judge’s decision went to Odi after they reviewed the live drone footage and found the Pole had dropped back slightly on his chase run.

By this point people were fainting in the grandstands and grown men were crying but the action continued. Gittin Jr would narrowly beat Coffman despite being slow to initiate on his chase run, but the speed of his first meant he got the decision.

Yoshihara would have a dramatic round against Stratton, with the 2018 Rookie of the Year pushing hard and brushing the wall on the first run. This would knock him into Dai, damaging the BRZ. After a short break to check the car, Stratton would again hit the wall on his second run, allowing Yoshihara’s unflustered driving style to win the round.

In the Great 8, Wang beat Kenshiro Gushi (Japan) after his GPP Toyota Racing / Falken Tire Toyota 86 was forced to retire from the second run with mechanical issues. Aasbo would defeat Dean Kearney (Ireland) in the Oracle Lighting / Achilles Tire Dodge Viper after two runs where the Norwegian failed to put a tire wrong.

The intensity jumped up another notch when Gittin Jr faced Odi. The pair was incredibly close through the first banking, so close that Gittin Jr’s rear bumper was knocked off by Odi’s front bumper as they maneuvered for the first transition point. With bodywork flying, the Mustang’s bumper went under Odi’s front wheels, causing him to spin. Gittin Jr stumbled but was able to gather it up and continue. The pair went back at it on the second run but the Ford driver had done enough to win.

Earlier in the evening, Vaughn had announced, “This has been the worst season in my Formula DRIFT career,” but he was driving hard and intended to reverse his fortunes. Meanwhile Deane told the crowd, “It’s incredibly difficult to watch this from the sidelines but Fredric is driving so well. I think he deserves to be Champion if he can withstand all this pressure,” which is typical of the constantly understated Irishman.

In the final Great 8 heat, Yoshihara would be drawn against Chelsea Denofa (USA) in the BC Racing / Nitto Tire / Ford Performance Mustang RTR. This would be a hard scrap, with the judges calling for OMT as both drivers maintained excellent proximity. Unfortunately, Dai’s car continued to be battered by his opponents and on the fourth run he was unable to keep pace with Denofa, relinquishing the win.

Stepping up to the Final Four, Wang would meet Aasbo as the crowd was whipped into a frenzy. Wang drove hard but Aasbo was in control, making no mistakes and reaching the Final. It seemed impossible to believe at the start of the day, but who would he face?

His opponent would be in a Ford Mustang RTR, but would it be driven by 2010 FD Champion Vaughn Gittin Jr or teammate Chelsea Denofa? With identical machinery and neither driver wanting to take prisoners, the deafening V8 bellow was only broken by gasps as Denofa hit Gittin Jr’s rear bumper in the first transition. Both drivers were able to continue but it meant Chelsea would have to be faultless on the second run. Unable to squeeze out an advantage, the decision went to Gittin Jr and the Final was decided.

With his car under assault, Gittin Jr returned to the pits for hasty repairs to his Monster Energy / Nitto Tire Ford Mustang RTR. The alternator was robbed from his teammate and rear bodywork was replaced. With the minutes ticking past, Aasbo had time to collect himself and head to the start line in his Rockstar Energy Drink / Nexen Tire Toyota Corolla.

When the lights blinked, the two champions didn’t disappoint. Aasbo’s smooth driving was perfectly matched by Gittin Jr’s aggression, leaving nothing between them. The judges called for “One More Time” to the delight of the capacity crowd who were on their feet. They ran two more times but still couldn’t be separated. The judges again needed them to run “One More Time” before they could reach a decision.

The fifth run was a repeat of the previous four, with both drivers fully committed and inseparable. By the sixth they were getting tired, adrenaline was running low and the cars were hot. Both brushed the wall on the second banking and had to correct. Gittin Jr was judged to have recovered better and took the call. The worst year of his career turned over a new leaf, he was the Formula DRIFT Irwindale winner.

And James Deane, who watched 30 rounds from the pit wall, was the 2018 Formula DRIFT Black Magic Pro Champion. It was an incredible result that represented a miniscule four-point lead over Fredric Aasbo in one of the closest finishes in series history. He becomes only the second FD driver to win consecutive titles since Tanner Foust in 2007 and 2008.

“This has been the most ridiculous night of my life. It was so intense,” said a stunned Deane. “I had 100 percent faith in Fredric to go all the way. I have so much respect for what he did because this track is so hard to drive without any pressure, and he almost made it. I also have so much respect for Vaughn. He drove so well and was amazing to watch. I put years on my life by watching tonight but it was so entertaining. All the FD drivers have really upped their level and I can’t even imagine what next season will be like because the level is getting ridiculous.”

Following Deane’s trophy celebrations, FD Irwindale winner, Gittin Jr, addressed the crowd, “I’ve been doing this for 15 years because all the teams continue to push and make it a constant challenge. The fans are amazing and bring such great energy every time we’re on the track. I’m so grateful to all of them and the teams. I’m also extremely grateful to our team because there’s something humbling about our fall but we’ve made a lot of changes and continued to fight. This win represents how we keep fighting. I’m extremely proud of Chelsea who has added a lot to the team. And Fredric – we had some epic battles tonight. And congratulations to James and his entire team – I’m looking forward to battling with you next year.”

Fredric Aasbo looked back at a whirlwind season: “It’s been an incredible night. We’ve fought really hard all year. I’ve been through the entire spectrum in Formula DRIFT from being a nobody to a rookie, a contender, champion and now a veteran of the sports. But we went back to the drawing board last year and built a new car because we realized we needed to be better. I practiced on the frozen lakes at home and Steph [Papadakis] built an incredible car. Thanks to all our sponsors, and the team who made me go back out there and take on this badass (Deane), and to all the fans.”

In addition to the 2018 Formula DRIFT Black Magic Pro Championship and Rookie of the Year, the evening also decided the 2018 Formula DRIFT Tire Cup, which was won by Falken Tire. They join Toyota, which took the 2018 Formula DRIFT Auto Cup at the previous round.

As the dust settled on the evening’s intense competition, we caught up with Formula DRIFT president, Jim Liaw to get his final thoughts for the season. “Tonight was bananas. You just couldn’t write this degree of drama and excitement into an event. The competitors were so intense and it came down to the final run of the final round in our 15th season. There was such great driving all weekend in both classes and it’s left everybody involved in the sport and all the fans looking forward to Long Beach 2019 when it all starts again!”

There was only one story everybody was talking about after the final qualifying session of the 2018 Formula DRIFT Link ECU Pro 2 Championship: Points leader Travis Reeder (USA) failed to qualify in his Achilles Radial Nissan 240SX!

With a 40-point lead over second place Dylan Hughes (USA) in the Advance Auto Parts / Nexen Tire Nissan 240SX, Reeder had been favoriting to take the title coming off two consecutive wins at the previous rounds in St Louis and Texas. However, Reeder’s qualifying performance was deemed suboptimal by the series judges, who scored him 71 and 65 points for his first and second qualifying runs, respectively.

With 26 drivers competing at the Irwindale round of the 2018 Formula DRIFT Link ECU Pro 2 Championship but only 16 eligible for the heats, Reeder would finish in a lowly 22nd position and take himself out of contention.

“We struggled with car set up,” a disappointed Reeder explained. “I like to have lots of grip but the car was too tight for the banked track. With nine laps of practice we couldn’t take the grip out fast enough and I didn’t want to make a huge change and risk wrecking the car. I tried to drive through the problem and get the seat time but I’m bummed because this was the first time I’d ever failed to qualify for a drift event.”

He was almost followed into ignominy by Hughes, who qualified 15th, squeaking into the Top 16 but giving himself the best chance of winning the 2018 Pro 2 title.

Star of Irwindale qualification was Garrett Denton (USA) in the Koruworks / Nexen Tire Nissan S14. He finished on top by virtue of 94 points from the judges for his first run. He was followed by Crick Filippi (USA) driving the Fitzgerald Glider Kits / Nexen Tire USA Nissan S13 who scored 88 points. This was a sizable gap from Denton, giving him a psychological advantage, if nothing else.

Third place went to Brody Goble (Canada) in the Frankenstein Speed Custom / Achilles Radial Nissan S14.75. He was followed by Sebastien Gauthier (Canada) in the Magicolor Carrossier / SSG Motorsport Nissan S14 in fourth, with Brandon Schmidt (USA) rounding out the top five qualifiers in his MastMotorsports / Achilles Radial Nissan S13

The Final round of the 2018 Formula DRIFT Link ECU Pro 2 Championship got off to an exciting start. With Travis Reeder watching from the grandstands, he would soon know if he’d be 2018 Pro 2 Champion or whether Dylan Hughes would take the crown.

Hughes simply needed to beat Crick Filippi in the Top 16 heats and it was all over for Reeder. But if Hughes failed to get through, Reeder would win. And in an astonishing twist to the story, Reeder had cannibalized his racecar to ensure Hughes could compete after a collision in practice left Hughes with a disabled Nissan.

The tension was palpable as the Top 16 heats got underway and it wasn’t long before Hughes and Filippi reached the start line. After their two runs, with both drivers pushing hard, the judges awarded the win to Filippi.

With Hughes out, Travis Reeder was the 2018 Formula DRIFT Link ECU Pro 2 Champion and it was a question of where would everybody else finish the year. Top qualifier Garrett Denton faced Trenton Beechum (USA) in his Roush Performance / Nexen Tire Ford Mustang in the Top 16. Making a single mistake on his second run, Denton was eliminated and Beechum progressed. In the Top 8 he would meet Troy Manners (USA) in the Neo Motorsport Nissan S14.5. Manners had beaten Ola Jaeger (Norway) in the Team Japan Auto / Nexen Tire Toyota Supra but would fall to Beechum after he failed to initiate on his second run.

His opponent in the Final 4 was Sebastien Gauthier (Canada) in the Magicolor Carrossier / SSG Motorsport Nissan S14. Gauthier had initially faced Adam Knapik (Poland) in the Knapik Racing / Achilles Radial Nissan S14. Knapik struggled to put together a good run – straightening on the first and failing to initiate on the second. Gauthier then faced Schmidt and the weather in the Top 8.

Despite daytime temperatures in the 80s, atropical storm had blown in from the Pacific Ocean and would play a major part in the proceedings. Formula DRIFT doesn’t stop for rain and after a short pause to clear the grandstands when lightning threatened spectator safety, the heats resumed on a very slippery track as the water sat on a thick layer of rubber.

On their first run, Schmidt ran off course, giving the advantage to Gauthier. This played to his favor when both drivers ran off course on the second run, struggling to find grip in the rain. Gauthier would then beat Beechum on an increasingly wet track to take his place in the Final.

His opponent would be fellow Canadian Riley Sexsmith driving the NV Auto / Achilles Radial 2JZ Subaru BRZ. Sexsmith took a protracted route to the Final, first meeting Jonathan Hurst (USA) in the Dynosty Infiniti G37 in the Top 16. On their second run, Hurst experienced car problems, colliding with Sexsmith who subsequently brushed the wall but did enough to move on to the Top 8 where he met Brody Goble (Canada) in the Frankenstein Speed Custom / Achilles Radial Nissan S14.75. On a wet track, Goble had a torrid time. His first run was ruled incomplete and spin on the second put an end to his challenge.

Moving onto the Final 4, Sexsmith’s opponent, Filippi, required a five-minute technical timeout. Unable to make an effective repair, he retired and guaranteed himself third place by virtue of being the highest remaining qualifier.

In the Final, Sexsmith and Gauthier got off to a difficult start. Both Canadian drivers were judged incomplete on the first runs and the judges called for “One More Time.” On the fourth run, Sexsmith had a lurid slide on the treacherous surface and hit the wall. This put him out of the contention and handed the Irwindale win to Sebastien Gauthier in the Magicolor Carrossier / SSG Motorsport Nissan S14.

With the final places determined, Travis Reeder was the 2018 Formula DRIFT Link ECU Pro 2 Champion. He was a mere 18 points ahead of second place Dylan Hughes, with Irwindale winner Sebastien Gauthier jumping up to third. Ola Jaeger and Riley Sexsmith would round out the top five positions.

We caught up with Gauthier as he stepped off the podium: “I feel good, happy and excited to be number one,” the French-Canadian told us through a translator. “At the beginning of the season we were struggling. We went through four engines and two gearboxes but things slowly improved as the season progressed. With the rain today, there was a lot to overcome but we’re used to the weather in Canada and we’re happy to finish the season in third place after so many obstacles,” he said.

We also spoke to the 2018 Formula DRIFT Link ECU Pro 2 Champion, Travis Reeder: “This reminded me of last year in Texas where I went into the round about 40 points ahead, got knocked out of the Top 16 and Kevin Lawrence came from behind to win the championship by two points. So, it feels good to have the cards fall in my favor this year,” Reeder said. “It’s great to win the championship but it’s a little bittersweet because my good friend Dylan Hughes could have also taken the title. He wrecked in practice so we put my car on jack stands and tore it apart to help him continue. The last thing I wanted was for him to lose and I was bummed when he was eliminated, but then I realized I’d won!” he laughed. “I’m ecstatic because we’ve had a great season with a great crew and it’s great to have my best friend finish second in the championship. This is the spirit of drifting and that’s why I love it.”


The schedule for the 2019 Formula DRIFT Black Magic Pro Championship and the Formula DRIFT Link ECU Pro 2 Championship are still being finalized. The series organizers will announce the new schedule at SEMA 2018 and post it to – the place to find event details, ticket info, driver profiles and Livestream information


Top 16 Pro Category finishing places from FD Irwindale

To view all the Pro Category finishers, click here:


Final Top Five Pro Category Championship standings after eight rounds

To view the 2018 Pro Championship standings, click here:


Top 16 Pro 2 category finishing places from FD Irwindale

To view all the Pro 2 Category finishers, click here:


Final Top Five Pro 2 Category Championship standings after four rounds

To view the 2018 Pro 2 Championship standings, click here:


Final Top Five Auto Cup standings after eight rounds

To view the 2018 Auto Cup standings, click here:


Final Tire Cup standings after eight rounds

To view the 2018 Tire Cup standings, click here:

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Fredric Aasbo aims for victory at the House of Drift


IRWINDALE, California (October 10, 2018) – Fredric Aasbo is ready for a full-throttle battle at the House of Drift this weekend as the Formula Drift Championship returns home to Irwindale Speedway for its thrilling season finale.

“Irwindale is my favourite event of the year when it comes to the atmosphere at the track. It’s a hallowed place,” said Aasbo. “Ever since I was a kid growing up watching Formula Drift from my home in Norway, this has been the event where dreams come true.”

The driver enters the final round challenging for the title in the Rockstar Energy Drink / Nexen Tire Toyota Corolla Hatchback. He sits 49 points behind defending champion James Deane. Aasbo has seen success at Irwindale Speedway, winning a perfect event there in 2015 to clinch the championship title that season. He heads into the final round prepared to put it all on the line once again.

“The track has a strange flow to it and really gives me goose bumps,” said Aasbo. “The banking is high and steep and has a lot of grip, but the transition and infield is very slippery. Driving clean becomes a real challenge.”

In the advance-or-be-eliminated world of Formula Drift, Aasbo is gunning for another perfect event with his sights set on top qualifier and the overall victory. If he succeeds, and Deane is eliminated in the Great 8, Aasbo can claim the title for a second time.

“We’re setting out to win the event and will let the championship points fall where they may,” said team owner Stephan Papadakis. “We’ve already had a stellar year, with two wins this season in a brand new car and being in contention for the championship. Our success comes from working with great partners like Rockstar Energy Drink, Toyota and Nexen Tires.”

Papadakis Racing built the all-new Rockstar Energy Drink / Nexen Tire Toyota Corolla Hatchback in just four months over the off-season, winning the season opener in Long Beach, California. The Irwindale track is just a 45-minute drive from Papadakis Racing headquarters, giving the team a home-field advantage.

Aasbo was the top scorer for Toyota this year in the Auto Cup, with the marque locking in the manufacturer’s championship at their home round last month in Texas.

Drifting is a high-skill, high-powered motorsport with an emphasis on car control. In the Formula Drift series, drivers compete in knockout heats on a closed course, sliding sideways in trials judged on speed and style. With origins in Japan, it is one of the fastest growing forms of motorsport in the world. An average of 2 million fans from around the world watched the popular live stream coverage from each round of the 2018 season. Broadcast coverage on the CBS Sports Network headlines packaged content that includes social channels Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch.

It was a win for Fredric Aasbo at the first round of competition this season in Long Beach. The series returns to California for its exciting finale Friday and Saturday at Irwindale Speedway.

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Chris Forsberg is first Formula DRIFT driver inducted Into Los Angeles Sportswalk Of Fame


Photo By Chuck Bennett


In a ceremony that took place on Monday, October 8, 2018 in front of the Battleship Iowa in the Port of Los Angeles, Chris Forsberg was singled out for his outstanding success in the Formula DRIFT series over the past 15 years.


The LA Sportswalk of Fame began in 1978 to honor the men and women who reach the top of their sports. For 2018, Chris Forsberg was among 11 athletes selected for the award. He stood alongside NASCAR, IndyCar and off-road legend, Robby Gordon, as well as 11-time Baja champion, Johnny Campbell. Other notable inductees included football Hall of Fame star Lynn Swann and baseball champion, Mike Scioscia.

Chris earned his place by virtue of being the most successful Formula DRIFT driver, with three championship titles earned in 2009, 2014 and 2016. He’s currently the second most successful in terms of round wins, with nine to his name, and has 36 podium places, which is more than any FD driver. Being the only driver to have competed in every round of the series, and one of four to have been in the series since day one, Chris has an amazing record and isn’t about to call it a day – he currently sits fourth in the 2018 FD Pro standings going into the Final Round this weekend. He boasts a round win in Orlando among his impressive 2018 points tally.

Photo By Chuck Bennett


As a true champion, Chris arrived at the ceremony in proper DRIFT style, sliding his NOS Energy Drink Nissan 370Z on Nexen Tires in figure-8s around the dock. He then thanked Chris Agajanian and family for the nomination and briefly recapped his career, acknowledging the support of his wife and the importance of taking kids off the street, helping them to learn car control in a safe environment. He thanked the Agajanian family for recognizing the sport and proudly accepted his award.

The Los Angeles Sportswalk Of Fame began in San Pedro, CA as a celebration of local athletes. Originally known as the San Pedro Sportswalk to the Waterfront, the name was changed in 2017 to reflect the growth of the project and its move to the Port of Los Angeles. Each inductee is honored with a bronze plaque and these can be found installed on the sidewalks of downtown San Pedro, centered around 6th Street and Mesa Street. For more information visit

2018 LA Sportswalk inductees included Robby Gordon, Mike Scioscia, Frank Manumaleuna, Lynn Swann, Tony Dobra, Johnny Campbell, Joe Bird, Chris Forsberg, Don Horn and Ralph DeQuebec. Los Angeles Councilman Joe Buscaino and Los Angeles Supervisor Janice Hahn took part in the ceremony. Photo: Chuck Bennett



The Final round of the 2018 Formula DRIFT Black Magic Pro Championship and the Formula DRIFT Link ECU Pro 2 Championship takes place in Irwindale, CA on October 12-13. Visit for event details, ticket purchases, driver profiles and Livestream information.

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