How strong are the Irish drivers? Not only was their 11-year unbeaten streak on home soil continued, but the top two drivers aren’t even old enough to earn their drivers license here in the US! 15-year-old Tomas Kiely defeated 15-year-old Jack Shanahan in the all-Irish final, with fellow countryman Dean Kearney taking third place over his Achilles Tire teammate Daigo Saito. For those wondering, Ryan Tuerck was taken out in top 32, and Robbie Nishida was unable to qualify after his initial car was totaled in practice and he jumped into a borrowed ProAm car just moments before qualifying started.
1st – Tomas Kiely
2nd – Jack Shanahan
3rd – Dean Kearney
4th – Daigo Saito
As if the success in Mondello wasn’t enough for Irish drifting, two Irish drivers took the top two positions at the Drift Allstars race in Sweden. James Deane continued his success over the past several months by taking out his fellow countryman and friend Nigel Colfer in the final. Swede Alexander Granlund took the final podium position.
Here are the Round 2 Results:
1. James Deane – Falken Motorsports
2. Nigel Colfer – Tri-ace Tyre
3. Alexander Granlund – No Coast Racing
Most of the buzz we hear surrounding Formula Drift and professional drifting in general is about power, and how much more of it drift cars nowadays have compared to tug boats, or the Space Shuttle. But what we have neglected to discuss is how steering angle has evolved in drifting over the years.
While drifting in general is a relatively new motorsport, in the past few years the engineering and crazy machines that teams are building these days have evolved in leaps and bounds – some say for the worse. At Round 4 of the Formula Drift Pro Championship at Wall Speedway in New Jersey, I chatted with a few drivers, as well as Stephan Papadakis, on the subject of steering angle, then paired the comments with some of my favorite photos from the event and my archives.
Fredric Aasbø: “Steering angle in drifting – that’s the number one thing that tipped the scale for me to risk everything to compete in Formula Drift in the first place. Because when I started drifting in Europe back in 2006, I thought to myself, the number one thing you need in drifting is steering angle.”
“You can’t really defy the physics of a steering wheel pointed in a direction. Granted, you can go in backwards with 40 degrees of angle if you have a lot of grip and it’ll pull you back, but to go around a turn with high angle, you have to have ‘x’ amount of steering angle.”
“I followed Formula Drift closely through my rookie years of drifting back in Europe, and one thing I noticed was that with all the professionalism, all the crazy builds, and all the power and money involved, a lot of guys still didn’t have a lot of steering angle.”
“It was like speed was always the number one priority and for some reason it hadn’t clicked yet. While in Europe, the first thing we spent time on with the Toyota Supra that I was sponsored with in 2007, was to develop a lot of steering angle. That car just so happened to be an excellent platform for generating tons of steering angle with very mild modifications.”
“So I saw that and I thought, ‘Well, we can’t match these guys on power because we don’t have any money, but maybe we can come in with a ton of steering angle and be able to drive the course with more angle and get noticed from doing that.’ And that’s what we did.”
“That’s how I got my big break at Long Beach in 2010. We didn’t win the event, but I would say in all modesty, we were the moral winners of the event.”
LC: So the truth comes out after all these years.
FA: “Haha, well, I can say it now because everyone has crazy angle.”
Chris Forsberg: “The funny part of the evolution of steering angle is that there is an end point, whereas with power you can kind of keep going infinitely. I’m pretty sure we’ve hit maximum steering angle already. There are too many cars that have too much angle and it might look good for like one or two seconds of a specific part of the track, but as soon as it alters the momentum of the car, then it’s too much.”
“That’s what a lot of people are doing now – they have so much that they just crank it on and the car just comes to a stop. Just because it didn’t spin doesn’t mean that you don’t have a mistake.”
LC: There was a while in competition where it wasn’t to that limit and sweet spot. What do you think did it? What was the thing that pushed you guys to change to have more angle? When did you realize?
CF: “People were making 50 or 60 degrees back in 2005 and 2006, but they were still drifting with 300 to 400 horsepower until almost 2010. So I think the angle did kind of take off first as people realized they needed more angle to be better at drifting, before they realized they needed more power to be better at drifting.”
“So angle is kind of the first chaser in the early years of FD – people cranking up the angle. Everyone slowed down at around 60 degrees for years, then all of a sudden came this point to push the wheels out and do whatever you had to do to make more angle.”
“Like I said, I think that’s where it gets to the point where it takes away from the fluidity of the run and it doesn’t look good. I’m not saying every time, but most of the time.”
LC: But it’s better to have more angle than less?
CF: “It’s better to have the angle and not spin, but not when people abuse that and the judges don’t call them out on it. They’re starting to now though.”
“Before they’d just go ‘Whoooaaaah’ – like a big wow factor, but now it’s like ‘Oh no, he stalled, so he gets points deducted.’ Because as a chase car, you can’t chase just because of a spin. If he slides to a stop and powers back out of it and the chase driver is left hanging, it causes a traffic jam, so it’s a mistake by the lead driver.”
Ken Gushi: “I was never a firm believer in steering angle at first. I thought it was there to make the sure the car had a good setup and balance, and less steering angle meant more speed. Or so at least I thought until Daigo came into the scene and just blew everyone away with his insane steering angle, coming in backwards like Kawabata. I’m sure everyone has seen thatvideo. That’s when I realized, ‘Holy crap, maybe steering angle is important’. I also realized that all the guys with steering angle were doing so good and going into the corner so much faster and taking off on me. I really wanted that.”
“So we tried to duplicate that with our own RD, but I just was never able to find the right feel until we installed the Wisefab kit. It just blew my mind away.”
“It was the exact feeling I was looking for. It’s not just about steering angle either, it’s the culmination of steering angle and driveability. I believe there are only three things you need in drifting: big power, good grip, and steering angle.”
LC: So what are some of the things you are doing differently this year in terms of car setup?
KG: “In terms of car setup we’re seeing the limits of everything, so right now we’re focusing on reliability and power. You can increase horsepower all you want, but then you start to take away from reliability. And if you have too much horsepower, you lose tire life.”
“We saw in Orlando that all these guys with lots of power were only completing one lap and the tires were done. We had to make some sacrifices in Orlando by focusing on the important parts of the track, while sacrificing smoke.”
“It’s going to be hard to see an increase in horsepower while maintaining tire life and reliability. As far as the short term future of the driving styles, I want to say we’re going to see closer tandems. Not close as in just one part of the course, but like a magnet from start to finish.”
LC: I really like that, tandem like magnets. So do you attribute your recent success to development with the Wisefab kit?
KG: “For sure, I tell everyone that steering angle was a god send and I’m not afraid to say it. And big thanks to my team for committing to the Wisefab change. It’s crazy – it’s turned our life upside down.”
Tyler McQuarrie: “I think the evolution of steering angle has changed so much from back in the day because there’s a huge emphasis put on it nowadays. You’re seeing guys running 70 degrees of steering angle and I think, just like horsepower, having something in your back pocket that you can use is a huge benefit.”
“Having the steering angle, you’re not always using it. You don’t always want to use it because it’s slower, but having the ability to have that there to catch and make up for a mistake, I think is worth having.”
“It’s the same thing with power. You don’t need 1200 horsepower, but when you go to tracks like Irwindale and Seattle, your car gets a little tight and you’re chasing somebody, the fact that you can just jump on it and use that extra little horsepower to prevent the car from tightening up is great.”
LC: So was there ever a point while you were driving where you said to yourself that you needed more steering angle?
TMQ: “Absolutely. When I was driving the Falken Z the car had very little steering angle, and I’d be in a situation when I would be sitting there in a lock stop, with not a lot of angle, thinking, ‘I shouldn’t be spinning right now – I should have another 10 degrees of steering angle to get me out of this moment I’m having.”
“So I’ve definitely had times where I wanted more. Even with the Camaro, we have a lot of steering angle which makes it a lot easier to drive, but there are still times when I want a little bit more. As a driver, I think you’re always going to be in a situation where you want something that’s going to help you get out of a mistake.”
LC: So what about the fact that there is a limit to that? There’s not much more you can have, physically. What happens when you hit that?
TMQ: “I think that’s where it’s at now – 70 degrees of steering angle. You don’t need any more. Even with these backwards entries, to get out of that, you don’t need more. 70 degrees is a lot – that’s like a forklift’s steering angle.”
Charles Ng: “I’m more used to driving with close to stock angle because it actually keeps the momentum of the car. I don’t have a lot of experience with crazy angle, so it’s more natural for me to drive traditionally with spacers and a modified rack, increasing the angle just a little bit.”
“Driving a car with 60 or 70 degrees of angle requires a different type of driving technique, so personally, I’m more used to the old style. I do get why there is an evolution because of how the judges want us to ride the walls and with a consistent angle high on the bank.”
LC: Does that mean you’re actually running less angle on your car, versus a lot of these other guys.
CN: “Compared to the Wisefab guys, yeah, for sure. I wouldn’t say much less.”
Kyle Mohan: “It’s pretty impressive. Only a couple years ago, having a modified knuckle and rack – things that teams were doing in-house – was really the standard for Formula Drift. Having high 50 or low 60 degrees of angle was perfectly acceptable, and it put you at the top of the field. I remember it was only two years ago Wisefab came out and all of a sudden there were a couple guys out here getting 70 degrees. It changed drifting overnight.”
“It was the combination of Daigo Saito bringing the horsepower and Wisefab bringing the angle. In 2015, if you come out and aren’t capable of matching the steering angles andhorsepower for tire smoke, you probably won’t even qualify.”
“For us at KMR and Mazdatrix, nobody made aggressive steering components for the RX-8, and it’s a double A-arm suspension, which is kind of unique. We did what we could and studied what other companies had done and then basically got on the bench and broke out the welders and the grinders and started making our own knuckles, uprights, and upper and lower control arms. At this point we have what we consider to be a very competitive – over 70 degrees of steering angle – and very driveable setup.”
“That seems to be the direction drifting has gone over the past year. What we always say is, ‘If you think you’ve got the next greatest thing, someone else is already working on the next, nextthing’. So there is no stopping evolution for us, although we’ve been able to generate angle like the other competitors in a car that when we started nothing was available for it. We’re really happy, but we look at it as we’re only on par with other competitors, generating upwards of 70-plus degrees. So we need to be back at the shop as soon as this round is over and we’re going to focus on rear suspension geometry and steering angle and try to increase both.”
Stephan Pakadakis: “From what I’ve seen on the judging over the years, things have changed. Back when Samuel Hubinette, Rhys Millen and Tanner Foust were drifting, you didn’t have to have a whole bunch of angle.”
“You just had to be close to the lead car and if you were quick enough to the point where the chase car couldn’t catch you, then you’d probably end up with the win. So those three guys had tons of wins using that type of technique and driving like that.”
“Over the last couple of years there’s been a change and the judges have gone more towards excitement and style. Having a big angle is key and that’s where Fredric really shines with his style and angle.”
“But when he was going up against Tanner and these guys back in 2010, he would keep getting beat at rounds because he couldn’t keep up with them. He was driving with too much angle.”
“So I think Fredric is one of the few guys that came into drifting with a lot of steering angle and a really aggressive style. It didn’t necessarily translate into results, but now it is. I think we’re getting a little bit more savvy now to the point where we have the angle and the speed. The drivers who don’t have angle but speed are looked down on by the judges.”
LC: One of the things Fredric mentioned was that back in 2010 when he first started running with the FD guys he had more angle, and to his eyes it was more of an advantage, and that’s why he won the battles that he did.
SP: “Some of the guys had it. I think Vaughn Gittin Jr. and some of the Toyota Corolla guys had a huge amount of angle.”
“They wouldn’t always drive with that, but it would always help with a margin of error for safety. If they had too much angle they could always turn the wheel more and save the car from spinning.”
“I think if you look at the cars that have won championships over the years, those are not the heavy-angle cars, I mean, Daijiro Yoshihara with his S13 never had a huge amount of angle and neither did any of Tanner’s cars. The Dodge Viper certainly didn’t and neither did Chris Forsberg up until recently.”
LC: Quite a few of the drivers I talked to mentioned Daigo Saito coming in with a ton of angle and changing the game. Not only did he change the horsepower game like we’ve been talking about for a long time, but he came in and changed the angle game too.
SP: “He would come out and have big angle and go fast, for sure. I think that was the difference – he’s the one that threw the curve ball first out here. Everyone was like ‘woah, woah, woah – what’s going on?’ It took a season to basically figure it out while he smoked everybody, and we started to play catch up.”
“The way I look at it – what leads to the best results as far as tandem eliminations and round wins?”
“Some of the drifters look at what is the coolest thing where they want drifting to be. I can appreciate that, but I don’t know – I like winning. We want to be as competitive as possible and I think being ahead of the curve can sometimes be as bad as being behind the curve. So we want to be right there with the right amount of angle and speed to continue to win rounds.”
LC: So obviously you can’t by any of the of-the-shelf stuff, whereas a lot of the other teams can because they’re running chassis that let them run those parts. Do you think that gives you an advantage that you build your own parts from scratch for a car that’s basically an unproven chassis?
SP: “I think it’s a double-edged sword. On one end it’s bad because we’re the only ones doing it and it takes us a while to figure out what works well for this car and how to design the components for the car.”
“The good part is we really had to get under there and understand the geometry, understand the steering and understand how that works with the driver’s feel – and then really understand how to design a good steering setup for the car. That’s taken years, but I think we’ve got a good handle on it now. So we can’t buy anything and we’ve gone through many versions and we’ve built a lot of custom parts, but that’s just what we do here anyway. Our engine, our steering, the chassis – all that stuff is unique.”
LC: That’s really interesting to see from the outside looking in, because, for example, you have guys like Kyle Mohan who is driving a very untraditional chassis for drifting, but there are other people in the world using it and they use his custom-built parts. Then you’ve got guys like Danny George, making his own knuckles and other people are using it to drift Miatas. But you’re still running the only drift Scion tC in the world.
SP: “Right – we’re the only tC. There are other cars that are similar in terms of front suspension, so it’s not that far off from other cars. But we’re not the business of selling parts, so we just build stuff for our own race cars and use them.”
LC: When Tanner was driving, how different is the new car versus the old car in terms of steering angle?
SP: “So each season we were coming up with a new steering geometry on each of the cars. The Nissan 350Z that Tanner drove had three types of steering geometry on it. The tC1 that Tanner drove had two different types of steering on it. This tC2 that Fredric is driving has had three different types of steering on it. We’re like on version seven now and each time it’s been more steering angle. Now, we’re up to like 65 degrees of angle, but with good feedback for the driver and continuing to have good front traction.”
“There’s this balance because there’s give and take. We’ve learned to not have to compromise so much and can have steering in a car with great feedback for Fredric, along with big angle and also good front end grip. So we’re pretty confident in our current setup, but we’re not the only ones doing it.”
“It seems like there are a few cars that have a great setup like that and I think the Wisefab guys have done a good job of really understanding how to do suspension and geometry and then going ahead and making the parts so people can buy it. So it’s really good for the sport. Not everyone has the luxury of a full fabrication shop and computer programs that we utilize to build Fredric’s car, nor should they need to. Let me make a point though – if someone made a good steering and suspension setup that we could buy and put on the tC, I would love to do that. The fact of the matter is, nobody does, so we have to build our own. But that’s our teams forte – it’s taking these obscure cars and making them competitive. You don’t need a team like us to build a Nissan 240SX because you can buy most of the parts off the shelf, including probably a 2JZ transplant kit or a some LS transplant kit – which is good, because we need a bunch of cars out here that are competitive. But I think it’s also nice to have these obscure cars like the Scion. That’s where we come in.”
Odi Bakchis: “I think it’s an interesting subject and something most people are starting to pay attention to. I think right around 2013 was when it started to hit the US. It’s not just the massive angle, because there was massive angle before – it’s the way the geometry works with that massive angle, so you can drive the car at massive angle.”
“Wisefab is definitely the leader in that whole theory of how to make geometry work. I remember running it for the very first time at Irwindale in 2013 and it changed the way I could drive my car. I’m sure it’s doing the same thing for team after team because we all see it.”
LC: It’s interesting that you mention that because lots of other people have said they remember when you first showed up with it too. So what’s next?
OB: “There’s only so much you can get in terms of steering angle but, as I mentioned earlier, cars were getting that much angle before, but they weren’t driven in a way that showed off that angle. Now there is a slight tweak in the way the steering actually pivots, changing the front geometry, and all of a sudden, people are able to drive with that angle all the time.”
“What I’m trying to get at is, we’re probably not at the end of the road with what’s going on with front steering geometry. This sport is so new, so you don’t know what’s going to happen after a couple years.”
Vaughn Gittin Jr: “I probably have the least steering angle in the entire field. I want more. When I get behind Kenny Moen and he’s spinning – and I remember this vividly in Long Beach and Atlanta – I’m like, ‘Oh no, he’s got 90 degrees of lock and he’s totally fine!’ I get on the radio with my crew chief and I’m like, ‘Hey Ian, you see that? I need that!’
“So yeah, we only have like 55 degrees. I think the reason why it appears that we have a lot of angle is because I drive at a lot of angle, and it’s mainly because I’m able to carry the momentum and keep the angle.”
LC: One of the guys mentioned the battle you had with Conrad in Palm Beach and you poured on the angle to not hit him. Everyone thought you were going to spin or crash into him but you pulled it off. It was so revolutionary that people still remember that exact battle.
VGJ: “That wasn’t steering angle – it was grip. Coming in behind him, I tossed the car and actually over-rotated, but picked up the throttle just at the right time. I’m not saying that was planned, but it worked out. I picked up the throttle just at the right time where the forward bite of the car got it moving and the momentum back. That’s why that specific backwards entry style pass I did on Conrad when he blew off track worked out.”
LC: So you’re saying that you definitely have the least amount of steering angle?
VGJ: “I would, 100 per cent, say that out of any 240SX or S15 – anything out here – there is no question. I don’t know what everyone else has, but I know that we have 55 degrees and I’m looking forward to having more than that in the near future.”
LC: It’s kind of funny because everyone else is saying that it’s at the maximum and it won’t go above 75 degrees.
VGJ: “75 is a lot. I only have 55, so that’s 20 more degrees.”
LC: I am also hearing that it’s too much, and that guys don’t even need to use that much. It doesn’t have to get to that point, but it’s good that it’s there.
VGJ: “For sure. You definitely don’t need that much angle, but in that situation it’s the difference between spinning and not spinning.”
“There are those times when you do get choked up and it’s nice to be able to crank a little more angle in it because you can’t maintain that momentum to keep the car from over-rotating.”
Forrest Wang: “There were guys that were running a lot of angle before, but I really liked using it in every run. I don’t use it when I mess up – I want to use it every run because it’s a more exciting style. I think, visually, it looks really good to pull off huge angle to where it looks dangerous and you’re about to spin out. It’s harder to follow and it’s harder to read because you’re at the edge, compared to when you’re running a more shallow line and being more conservative. You throw it to lock, you’re at the verge of spinning out and one little mess up and you’re looping out.”
LC: So what is lock for you then?
FW: “It’s about 70 degrees. When done right it looks like you’re about to spin out. When you pull it off just right, it looks really exciting. Basically, you’re using all of it, whereas a lot of people – even though they have that kind of angle in their rack – may not use it.”
“They use it more as a fail-safe where if they mess up a little bit, it saves them from spinning out. Because you never want to spin out. Even when I didn’t have as much angle, I would push my car to lock all the time and use as much of that steering angle as possible. Now that I have a ton of angle it’s actually challenging to make it to lock that much because you really have to whip the car and throw it really hard to get that angle. And like I said, when you do get to that angle, you’re at a fine line of going too hard and spinning out. It’s fun. I like it.”
LC: Let me know what you guys think about the evolution of steering angle in the comments section below.
Had I known the Forsberg vs Hohnadell battle was going to be so controversial, I would have gladly gone on the mic with Jarod to explain my decision. We explained split decisions or the outcome of one more times in New Jersey, but we had no way of knowing at the time what runs were viewed as controversial or confusing.
So here is my breakdown of the Forsberg vs Hohnadell battle:
Forsberg leading Hohnadell: Forsberg initiates high on the bank and gets very high early until the end of the zone. Hohnadell has a good initiation at the same time as Forsberg, but drops down lower on the bank and has less angle throughout the zone. Forsberg comes off the bank strong and is close on inner clip 1, with Hohnadell right behind him with good mimic. Forsberg enters outside zone 2 early and stays wide throughout the zone. Hohnadell is close to Forsberg entering the zone but corrects his angle multiple times and surges forward and falls back a few times during the entirety of outside zone 2. Forsberg gets close to inner clip 2, with Hohnadell close behind. Forsberg fills outside zone 3 fully all the way around and finishes strong. Hohnadell surges forward and falls back twice but keeps fairly steady angle behind Chris.
Hohnadell leading Forsberg: Hohnadell initiates much lower on the bank than Forsberg did and stays lower throughout outside zone 1. Forsberg initiates with Hohnadell and is on the same line, but a couple of car lengths behind. Hohnadell comes off the bank well and does a good job on inside clip 1. Forsberg is in proximity and mimics perfectly. Hohnadell hits the outside zone marker (drivers were told this wasn’t a deduction in qualifying as long as the tire wasn’t over the line, and it isn’t in tandem either.) and is very close to one tire off, but the replay isn’t conclusive. Forsberg follows closely and also hits the outside zone marker. Hohnadell has an angle correction and surges forward in outside zone 2, while Forsberg is close behind. Hohnadell has great angle as he exits outside zone 2 and crosses inside clip2. Forsberg mimics perfectly and anticipates Hohnadell’s transitions through this sector and is close for outside zone 3. Hohnadell’s angle fluctuates through outside zone 3 (possibly his left rear tire making contact with the banking) and finishes with good angle. Forsberg stays close to the finish.
What set Forsberg apart in this tandem battle was his finesse and smoothness when transitioning, and the consistency of the angle he held through each corner. He was also higher on outside zone 1 throughout the entirety of the zone, which is by far the highest difficulty section of the track.
Hohnadell has improved greatly since he started competing in Formula Drift, and he showed himself to be a serious contender against Forsberg. But during this run, while he was fast, aggressive and stylish, he lacked the refinement and control that Forsberg exhibited in the lead and chase position. Due to the many bobbles, corrections and surges throughout the course, we had to give the win to Forsberg, who demonstrated his ability to drive at the same speed and on sometimes better lines with more vehicle control and finesse.
*I would of posted the DailyMotion video and referenced the time code but the #FDNJ file seems to be broken*
Englishtown (former host of Formula Drift New Jersey) hosted a Pro Bro Down post Wall Speedway to have some fun and enjoy the wild course of the famed drift mecca Englishtown. The typical suspects were in attendance with the addition of the HGK Racing builds, Mats Baribeau, Pat Goodin, and Chelsea DeNofa.
The main event coverage has been delivered by Andrew Jennings to show off some of the really close bank battles going down during competition. I love this snap of Justin Pawlak ramming into and going wheel to wheel with Yokoi in this run. Flick through our gallery to see the pits, driver faces, and some tandem battles for Round 4 of Formula Drift at New Jersey.
After qualifying in a close second spot behind Ken Gushi at New Jersey’s Wall Speedway yesterday, Speedhunters driver Fredric Aasbø battled through the ranks and the rain today to take his second top podium spot for the 2015 Formula Drift season.
The win came after an epic battle on the bank with Dean Kearney at the round dubbed ‘The Gauntlet’. And we suspect Kearney, who hails from Ireland, was at a distinct advantage in the wet conditions thanks to his home country’s lovely climate. The Irishman started his climb to the final behind the wheel of his Oracle Lighting Dodge Viper by beating Vaughn Gittin Jr. in the Air Force Top 32 – and things only got better from there. But in the end, Kearney couldn’t quite match the precise, consistent Aasbø and his Rockstar Energy Drink/Hankook Tires Scion tC in the GoPro Final Battle.
The struggle for third and fourth positions was fought out between Japan’s Masashi Yokoi in his D-Max Nissan Silvia S15…
And Ryan Tuerck in his Retaks Scion FR-S, seen here battling Scandinavia’s Kenny Moen. Tuerck would take the win for third after some tense moments.
Aasbø’s win at the same place he took his very first Formula Drift round victory last year, and another solid performance from Tuerck has really tightened up the 2015 FD Pro Championship. In fact, right now just 8 points separate the top three drivers! Ryan Tuerck leads on 275.00, closely followed by Odi Bakchis in second with 274.00, and Fredric Aasbø sits in third on 268.00. The pressure will definitely be on for this trio at the fifth round ‘Throwdown’ at Evergreen Speedway in Seattle, Washington, next month.
We’ll be back soon for a closer look at how the New Jersey event played out, so keep an eye on Speedhunters.com for the full story in the coming days. In the meantime you can check out all the battles from ‘The Gauntlet’ via Formula Drift’s On Demand video service.
Thursday night July 9, Irwindale’s own Formula DRIFT open practice sessions will resume on the course that the entire civilized world now knows as the legendary “House of Drift” … aka: Irwindale Speedway right at the top of the 605 freeway.
2015’s action-packed Thursday night under-the-lights practices will be held monthly with events now set for:
Each of the Thursday night sessions will start with a (public invited) technical inspection for the competition vehicles at 4PM and drift practice will run flat out from 5 to 8PM. The fan gates open at 4PM and there’s plenty of close-free parking.
Open to the public (fans can watch from the stands and visit the pits as well) admission is only $10 per person. These will be nights when fans can see some of the best of the best getting tuned-up for the 2015 season as well as catching the acts of some of new, upcoming Drift talent as they test their driving skills and machines against the established pros.
Anyone can run their properly-equipped* car for $75 and they can register right at the track on Thursday night.
Thursday Night Drift Requirements
Group C Requirements:
Helmet: No open face, SA2010, SA2005
No loose items: Interior, trunk
Fire Extinguisher: secure mount, 2lb min
Fluid Leaks: No Fluid Leaks
Catch cans: Coolant, Oil if non OEM
Gas Cap: Present and sealed
Fuel line: check hose clamps and fittings
Battery: Secure mount, positive covered
Brake light: Min 2 functioning
Brake pedal: good feel maintain pressure
Key or Master cutoff operation, location marked
Lug nuts: Present and secure
Steering: Smooth, no binding
Tow hooks: Front and rear (OEM at own risk)
Hood and Trunk: Securely latched
Windshield: OEM or Lexan secure mounting
Seat: OEM with stock belts or FIA with harness
Group B Requirements: plus listed above
Suspension: Coilovers or Non OEM suspension
Differential: Welded or clutch type
E-Brake: Functioning, cable or hydro
Group A Requirements: plus listed above
6 point roll cage: 5”x0.095 DOM
Door Bars: Nascar or X on both doors
Harness bar and Diagonal
Seat belts: 5 point minimum required
Fire Suit: SFI 3-2A/5 with fire resistant gloves and shoes
Round 4 of the 2015 Formula Drift Championship, appropriately dubbed “The Gauntlet”, rolled into Wall Stadium Speedway located in Wall Township, New Jersey on June 26-27, marking the halfway point of the season. With unpredictable weather in the forecast and wet conditions promised sometime in the weekend, the chase for the championship would certainly see some mixing up at Wall.
Wall Stadium Speedway; a high-banked, short oval tucked in the quiet Wall Township in New Jersey. Most of it’s time is spent as a track for weekly racing on the big oval for Late Models, Hobby Stocks, and many other staples in the grassroots American paved oval racing that many small towns have.
However, once a year the track is taken over by Nissans, Toyotas, Fords, and Chevrolets that you don’t normally see racing on the banks. Formula Drift comes to town and turns this quiet oval speedway into a fast paced smoke show.
Wall also demands respect, as it’s not unusual to see her chew up cars and spit them out without forgiveness when drivers tempt that old, battered steel barrier.
The first battle of the Top 32 is between the Enjuku Racing Nissan 240SX of Nate Hamilton and the Greddy Racing Scion FR-S of Ken Gushi. It was a hard battle and Hamilton actually hit the back of Gushi’s car in the first inside clip. The action was amazing, and was one of the best battles for Nate in a while. They switch around and Gushi stayed about a car length back until just past the first inner clip, and Hamilton wasn’t has high on the bank as Gush was. It was just as intense, but Ken Gushi won in a two-to-one decision with Andy Yen wanting to see a one more time.
Conrad Grunewald in the Megan Racing Chevrolet Camaro would need to overcome the CX Racing Nissan 240SX of Matt Field. Field was all over that rear zone of the bank’s wall, and kept a one to one-and-a-half car length lead until the finish when Grunewald closed in on his door. It was looking like a similar run when they swapped, until Grunewald spun after the inner bank, nearly taking himself and Field out. Because of that, Field took the win.
It was the fight between Achilles Tire driver Robbie Nishida in the Infiniti G37, versus Daigo Saito in the Nissan GTR. Saito stayed back but surged on the inner flatter banks, but Nishida kept a good pace and line, though he had a lot of steering corrections. Saito had an earlier initiation on the bank, but Nishida spins out on the inner bank after the first front clip because of too much aggression. Saito got the win, or he would have. A few moments after the battle, the judges used a replay to see if Saito went over the line at the start that is supposed to be treated as an invisible wall. He did, but the starter didn’t flag, which would have resulted in a restart. So the result was nullified by the judges because of that error and would be rerun. That’s when Saito put a big gap between Nishida and himself. Robbie Nishida went on the attack at the inner rear zones, but once again Daigo Saito got the win.
Last event’s winner Ryan Tuerck in the Retaks Scion FR-S went up against the Chase Bays Nissan 240SX of Brandon Wicknick. Tuerck stayed ahead for a while, but Wicknick got very aggressive on the inner course. Wicknick was too aggressive on the second inner oval and hit Tuerck, causing Tuerck to spin out. It could have been avoidable contact, so the judges deemed it was Wicknick’s fault and Tuerck would have to fix his car before he could continue. Tuerck was given ample time to fix his car, which took four-and-a-half battles for repairs. Wicknick took the lead, but he needed Tuerck to spin or straighten out. Instead, Wicknick would go two tires off at the very end and get a double zero. Tuerck gets the win and moves on to the Top 16.
The Enjuku Racing Nissan 240SX of Pat Goodin looked to get past the SLP Chevrolet Camaro of Mike Essa. Essa had a crash on his second qualifying run, so his car wasn’t 100 percent. On his lead, Goodin was very high on the bank, but Essa used proximity through the entire course by sacrificing angle and a bit of line. It did catch him off on the exit of the first inner bank, though. Essa was a bit sloppy on his angle on the bank. To the second zone, Goodin wasn’t as close as Essa was on his follow run, but Essa’s run wouldn’t be good enough. Pat Goodin is awarded the win from all three judges.
The Get Nuts Lab Nissan Silvia of Forrest Wang looked to get past a struggling Dai Yoshihara in the Turn 14 Distribution Subaru BRZ. Dai used a very low line on the follow as Wang got right up on the bank rail. Dai stayed at the door of Forrest until the last rear zone in the inner bank. Dai looked really good on his lead run, but Wang closed it in at the second front clip and ended with about half-a-car back. However, Forrest Wang would get the win.
Next up was the GT Radial Mazda RX8 of Kyle Mohan versus the Gatebil Nissan 240SX of Kenny Moen. Moen got right on the wall, but Mohan stayed very close until the last rear zone. It was a very aggressive run by both drivers and impressed the judges, though Mohan had a slight mistake in the last rear zone. Mohan was up on the wall, but Moen stayed right at his rear bumper. Moen then lost a bit of ground towards the end. Kenny Moen got the win, but Andy Yen wanted to see a OMT in this battle.
The Oracle Lighting Dodge Viper of Dean Kearney would have to take out Vaughn Gittin, Jr.’s Monster Energy Ford Mustang. Gittin had a huge lead until the second rear zone, but Kearney closes up toward the finish. On Kearney’s lead run, Gittin uses a very unusual start but it seems to work. Kearney rides the wall but he hits the second inside clipping point. It looked like Gittin would have the win, but he has a huge mistake before the last rear zone by going off line, dropping two tires, and straightening out. Because of that, Kearney took the win.
The start of this battle between the Rockstar Energy Scion tC of Fredric Aasbo and the Gold in the Net Toyota Chaser of Mats Baribeau was rerun after Aasbo went over the line. After a second but clean start, Aasbo rode high on the bank while Baribeau takes out a cone on the second zone. Aasbo held a large lead, but Baribeau had a little bit of a bobble at the last zone. When they swap around, Baribeau rode against the wall, but keeps it going while Aasbo was very aggressive. It all goes wrong for Baribeau when he went off course at the end by taking a tire off and going up onto the bank before the finish. All three judges give Aasbo the win. Rain began to fall, and weather started to play a factor in the runs.
Jhonnattan Castro in his E3 Spark Plugs Nissan 370Z would go against the HGK BMW M3 of Kristaps Bluss. Castro took a high line on the bank, but Bluss was very aggressive and stayed right at the door of the Z! In the final rear zone, Bluss hits Castro and spins the both of them out. The judges rule that Bluss was at fault, so Castro held the advantage. Castro would take the car behind the wall for repairs. Castro came back and Bluss created a huge gap between the two drivers on his lead. Bluss continued that aggressive drive, and Castro only catches up by the last rear zone. However, the mistake in his follow run causes Bluss to lose despite his amazing lead run, and Castro moves on.
Next up was the GT Radial BMW 3-series of Chelsea Denofa, and he would face off against the Achilles Radial Nissan 240SX of Geoff Stoneback. Denofa was very aggressive on the bank, and Stoneback had to use less angle and a lower line to keep up through the entire course. While the rain continued to drizzle on and off, Stoneback ran his lead run and a double initiation. Denofa goes way wide and hits the bank on the second rear zone, and, despite Denofa’s wheel returning to zero, he kept his angle and line. They go one more time because of really sloppy runs by both drivers according to the judges. For the one more time, Stoneback stayed right with Denofa, but on the second rear zone, he loses line and slows too much. Stoneback’s lead run looked much better, but Denofa stays right with him through the entire course. Chelsea Denofa gets the win and moves on the Top 16.
The Drift Paddock Nissan 350Z of Pat Mordaunt faced off against the Perry Performance Nissan 240SX of Marc Landreville. Mordaunt opens up a large lead and was very aggressive on his run, while Landreville takes out the first front clip and destroys his front bumper, driver’s front fender, and driver’s side skirt. Mordaunt completes the course and gets the advantage. Landreville has to be towed off and later reveals that his car took too much damage to continue. Mordaunt moves on and continues his streak of Top 16 appearances in 2015.
Next was the domestic battle between the Roush Performance Ford Mustang of Justin Pawlak and the Falken Tire Chevrolet Camaro of Tyler McQuarrie. Pawlak looked good but, McQuarrie had the proximity through the course on Pawlak’s lead run. Swapping around, McQuarrie kept a high line and opened a gap, but Pawlak closed up at the second front clip and nearly hits him before the last rear zone. Very aggressive battle between them in both runs and the judges loved it. However, Justin Pawlak got the win with two of the judges going for him, and Bryan Eggert went with them going one more time.
In this swap battle, it was the Sikky Mazda RX8 with an LS engine driven by Dan Savage going up against Masashi Yokoi in the D-Max Racing Nissan Silvia with a 2JZ. Yokoi showed again why he was hyped in his debut, as he stuck to Savage’s door for nearly the entire course! Savage had a great lead run until the final outer zone. Yokoi could have been a little higher on his lead, but Savage got too aggressive and he nearly hit Yokoi at the final rear zone. Savage wasn’t as consistent as Yokoi because of that aggressive driving on his follow run, and that gives Yokoi the win.
The NOS Energy Nissan 370Z of Chris Forsberg would face the Get Nuts Lab Nissan 240SX of Alec Hohnadell. Forsberg was up near the wall, but Hohnadell was right at the bumper of the Z, then Forsberg began to open up a gap at the second front clip. Hohnadell closed in again at the last rear zone and the pair swapped around. Hohnadell had a large lead and continued to force Forsberg to get more aggressive. It looked like Forsberg dropped a tire at the front clip, but he closed up again on the final rear zone. Despite what looked like a better run by Hohnadell, Chris Forsberg got the win.
The final battle of the Top 32 would be between the ARK Racing Nissan 240SX of Odi Bakchis and the DNA Motoring Nissan 240SX of Jeff Jones. However, Jones did not finish the course as something was wrong with his car. They take his car back to the pits to investigate, but Jones’s car is done and Bakchis moves on.
The first pair of the Top 16 would be Ken Gushi and Matt Field, and they would attack a course that was very wet. No rain was falling, but water remained on the course. This meant that speeds slowed down and the drivers looked like they were in slow motion. Gushi over rotated and Field spun out behind him thanks to the soggy conditions. It was judged that Field spun without help from Gushi’s spin, and Field was at the disadvantage. Field knew this and poured his talent all on this run and kept the car in control, while Gushi took caution. However, Field spun out on the final rear zone before the finish, and that allowed Ken Gushi to move on.
A lot of people are starting to look at Ryan Tuerck as the punching bag of Formula Drift, as every run he’s had, there has been contact with the other driver in some form or another. He would face off Daigo Saito, whose car was finally beginning to run right. Ryan was banging off of the rev limiter on the very wet bank, and Saito showed tons of car control by staying door to door with Tuerck throughout the run. Saito was nearly right at the Tuerk’s front bumper in the inner rear zones. It was an amazing run by both, and the only mark against Saito was that he came off the bank earlier. When they changed positions, we began to start seeing some smoke, but it was still a slick track. Daigo showed even more car control and pulled off more separation until the finish where Tuerck closes up. However, both drivers did well enough to warrant a one more time call by the judges.
In the OMT run, Tuerck has a huge lead until the first front inner clip. On the second rear zone, Tuerck and Daigo make contact and both spin out. Daigo is judged at fault for the contact with Tuerck. On his lead run, Daigo uses a middle line until the very wet middle section, which slowed the cars down a lot. While he was very close, Tuerck didn’t make contact or do anything to result in a zero for him, and got the win.
Pat Goodin has been a driver to look out for this season with some very good runs in 2015. Forrest Wang, though, continued to look like the driver he’s always been as, even in a new car. Goodin was on the wall and opened up a gap, but had a bit of a waiver before he spun out on the final rear zone. Goodin threw away a chance at the Great 8 as he was looking better than Wang. Goodin had more angle throughout his run, but hitting the bank with his rear bumper caused him to lose traction on the rear tires, resulting in a spin. Leading this time, Wang has a ton of angle on the bank, and then Goodin adds insult to his own injury by spinning out on the first clipping point while Wang is able to finish. Forrest Wang gets the win.
The battle of the Europeans would be between Kenny Moen and Dean Kearney. The bank was starting to dry out, and this may have led to Moen hitting the wall on his lead and straightening out. He doesn’t crash, but it is a zero. On his lead, Kearney has a later initiation than Moen, but still runs a good line. Moen nearly hits the door of Kearney, but they don’t make contact. The inner section was still very wet as the cars lost speed before the finish. Dean Kearney moves on because of Kenny’s zero.
The other pride of Norway, Fredric Aasbo, would face off against the pride of the Dominican Republic, Jhonnattan Castro. Aasbo holds a very high line, but because he goes over the center line at the start, there is a restart. Leading, Aasbo has another high, wide, and a handsome drift, while Castro straightens out on the bank resulting in a zero for him. Aasbo had a correction after the first front clip and it looked like he straightened out, but the inner course is still very, very wet, so it was not counted as a zero. On Castro’s lead run, he struggles with the bank and completely loses it in the second rear zone. Aasbo nearly contacts Castro but avoids him. Aasbo completes the course and gets the win.
Pat Mordaunt was in his third Top 16 appearance for 2015 and looked to make it a third Great 8, but Chelsea Denofa stood in his way. With Denofa leading, Mordaunt was lower on the bank and spun out in the second rear zone. Denofa keeps it going and finishes the course, giving him the advantage. A huge gap was created by Mordaunt on his lead against Denofa, while both drivers were very slow on the inner portion. Mordaunt gained some grip at the second front clip to nearly cause a non-chase situation for Denofa, but Denofa got the win as the gap wasn’t enough to overcome the spin Mordaunt had on his follow.
Justin Pawlak was on a redemption run after his issues at Orlando Speedworld, and he wanted to make quick work of Masashi Yokoi. On Pawlak’s lead, Yokoi isn’t as close as his previous battles, but Pawlak spun coming off of the bank. Yokoi uses him as a spinning clipping point and completes the course. On his follow, Pawlak went in too aggressive knowing his zero was a huge disadvantage, and hits Yokoi. However, Yokoi continues on despite being hit. That’s two zeros for JTP, and Yokoi moves on.
Both drivers are viewed as very consistent, but Chris Forsberg has experience on Odi Bakchis. However, you wouldn’t know it after Forsberg spun at first inner clip on his lead, and gave the advantage to Bakchis. On his follow, Forsberg would spin out once again at the same inner clip as his lead, and Odi moves on.
On his lead run, Ken Gushi goes straight after initiation while Ryan Tuerck continued on with his normal line. The track is starting to dry out and affected the run for both drivers, but Gushi drifts up on the bank in the second rear zone. Gushi had the bigger mistakes so the advantage was going to Tuerck. Ken understeers once again on the bank on his follow and bangs panels with Tuerck. It was a punching fest between the two drivers and made everyone get up on their feet! However, the mistakes by Gushi overcome his aggression, and Ryan Tuerck moved on taking out the two time number one qualifier.
When Forrest Wang and Dean Kearney met for their battle, the track began to dry out as smoke started to plume out of their rear fenders. Leading, Wang had a opened up a gap against Kearney after the second rear zone, but Kearney dives in close in the last rear zone. When they switch places, a restart was called for a false start by Kearney. Starting over, Kearney takes off at the right moment and stays up on the bank, while Wang charges up on Kearney at the first rear zone. Contact was made by the drivers at the second front clipping point. Wang was too aggressive and charged in, so he was deemed at fault. Judges give the win to Dean Kearney.
Chelsea Denofa put on pressure against Aasbo on the follow, but Fredric Aasbo keeps his cool on his lead run. Denofa continued to be aggressive but, on the second rear zone, he straightened out and gave the advantage to Aasbo. Denofa looked really strong on the bank, but Aasbo kept a safe, but competitive distance. With no mistakes, Aasbo got the win, as the straightening out of Denofa gave himself the defeat.
While Odi Bakchis admitted that he isn’t comfortable with the rain, it sure didn’t seem to be affecting him! He keeps a good lead run and maintains his composure despite an aggressive follow by Masashi Yokoi in the first rear zone, even making contact! Another great, insane battle as the conditions continued to change! Yokoi held a middle high line, and Bakchis got aggressive. At the first front clip Bakchis lost some ground, but gained it back at the second front clip and stayed door to door with Yokoi to the finish. These guys weren’t playing around! Andy Yen goes for a one more time call, Brian Eggert said Odi won, but Ryan Lanteigne went with Yokoi! No decision meant they were going one more time!
In that battle, Bakchis starts with a good line, but Yokoi stays right as his door! From the front clip to the finish, Yokoi sticks with Bakchis! They swap and Masashi flicks it into the bank, but Bakchis is right on his bumper. Bakchis and Yokoi stay door to door from the second rear zone, and it was a battle! Yokoi gets the win, but both drivers earned praises from the judges, Ryan Sage, and Jarod DeAnda!
The first Final 4 battle was Ryan Tuerck versus Dean Kearney to see who would go on to the finals. If Kearney was defeated, he would not see the podium since he was the lowest qualified driver of the four. Tuerck ran a very high line up the bank with lots of angle on his lead, but Kearney was all over him! However, Tuerck was able to pull a gap on Kearney. They switch around and Kearney rides the wall, and Tuerck spins out coming off of the bank! Dean Kearney is going to the finals and Ryan Tuerck would have to hope that Yokoi would lose to Aasbo to get a podium.
The rain began to fall once again as Yokoi changed his tires from his one more time battle against Bakchis. He and Aasbo started, but a restart was called because Yokoi went over the line before getting behind Aasbo. It was evident in that short sprint that speeds have dropped again, but Aasbo is able to keep enough momentum to keep his tC up high on the bank on his lead. Aasbo made a minor mistake at the first front clip, but Yokoi made a similar mistake at the second front clip. The advantage in Aasbo’s favor. The rain was getting harder and the wind was blowing more as Yokoi took his lead run. He ran up on the wall and Aasbo fell back until the second rear zone. Aasbo still looked better than Yokoi, and they finish tight, door to door! Fredric Aasbo goes to the final battle for first, as the mistakes made by Yokoi were enough for his defeat. Ryan Tuerck got his wish, and gets third place thanks to qualifying higher than Yokoi.
The weather gets worse, but Fredric Aasbo held a high line on his lead while Dean Kearney made a slight mistake just past the front clip. However, Kearney closes it in from the last rear zone to the finish going door to door! Kearney needs an amazing lead run to force a one more time call. Kearney initiates into the first turn with both drivers going very, very slow. Kearney runs over the first front clip, but had a slight lead of about a car length. Then, Aasbo closes back up at the final rear zone and with no distinct advantage by Kearney, and the win goes to Fredric Aasbo for his second 1st place podium in 2015! This was also the second time that Aasbo won at Wall.
By taking third Place, Ryan Tuerck is in the points lead by a single point, with Odi Bakchis in second. Fredric Aasbo sits third in points only seven back, while Ken Gushi is in fourth, with 47 points separating himself and Tuerck. Finally, Chris Forsberg is in fifth with only 50 points to make up to get the points lead. First and tenth are only separated by 120 points with only three rounds to go. Mathematically, it’s still anyone’s game, but the top five would need to falter in the final three events for the 2015 Championship. Hankook Tire holds the Tire Manufacturer Points lead, with Nitto and Achilles following. Scion holds the Vehicle Manufacturer Points Lead, with Nissan and Ford following.
Next up will be the second World Championship Round at Fuji Speedway in Fuji, Japan on July 11th and 12th, while the next U.S. round will be atEvergreen Speedway in Monroe, Washington on July 24th and 25th. That round is also the second Pro2 Championship event, so that will be a very busy weekend for everyone, including us here at AmDrift. We’ll see you then!