Over the past weekend, 32 of the top professional drifters in the world converged onto the streets of Long Beach, CA to battle in round 1 of the 15th season of Formula Drift. There were newcomers from Japan, Italy, and of course the United States treating the fans to big smoky sideways action with perfect weather and a backdrop of the Pacific Ocean.
Right out the gate last year’s championship winner, James Deane, came out with near perfect runs in qualifying to secure number 2. Only to be beaten out by his teammate and Formula D Irwindale finals from 2017 winner Piotr Wiecek. It seemed like this duo was picking up where the season ended last year. Of course you cannot count out 2016 champion Fredric Aasbo who debuted a brand new 2019 Toyota Corolla hatchback built by his team over at Papadakis Racing. They were able to build this car in under 3 months from scratch having only gotten 1 of 2 vehicles brought to the united states in January. And they are still running a 4-cylinder engine instead of the now common v8 in virtually every other competitor’s vehicle.
Other notable teams are the extremely popular Forrest Wang, who took a year off of the season to come back with his Nissan S15 and kill it once again in the style department. Along with Wang coming back was newcomer to the US drift scene Frederico Sceriffo in his Ferrari 599 GTB from Italy. And Matt Field who is a FD veteran, debuted a beautiful Chevrolet Corvette C6 wrapped in Falken Tire livery.
A few changes for this season have made things like practice that much more important. Now teams are only allowed 12 tires to use during practice leading up to qualifying. Go out too early and destroy your tires you might not be able to make changes leading up to qualifying.
Heading into the Top 32 competition there was really no way to determine like in years previously who would be the person to easily advance to the next round of eliminations. Top 32 eliminations went by pretty quickly with only a few incidents. Dan Burkett in his Rad Dan Toyota supra went into the wall pretty hard under the bridge however he was able to drive it off track giving Odi Bakchis the win to advance to Top 16. Newcomer Dirk Stratton in his Stratton Chevrolet Corvette also found himself in the wall in front of the main grandstands during his fight with Vaughn Gittin Jr. Finally rounding out the Top 32, which is arguably the scariest incident in Formula D history is Frederico Sceriffo from Italy during his first run with Chelsea Denofa had some contact putting Denofa into the tire barrier. Damage wasn’t bad and they were able to do their second run. Sceriffo only made it down the main straight on his 2nd pass and had to go into the run off area. He had a fuel line break due to contact possibly made with Denofa in the previous run. The Ferrari was able to come to a stop but close to a wall on the driver side, which made it difficult for Sceriffo to get out of the vehicle. His Ferrari’s engine compartment by the time he got out of the vehicle was engulfed in flames. He was able to get out unhurt thankfully and the car seems to be fixable even though the photos show some very bad damage.
Top 16 was much less eventful than Top 32. Minus number one qualifier Piotr Wiecek having to go One More Time versus Matt Coffman. And his team mate number two qualifier James Deane had to go One More Time versus previous series champion Michael Essa in his BMW.
In the Great 8 easily the most entertaining runs were put on by Forrest Wang and Chris Forsberg. These guys have a history together and surely seemed that Wang was out for vengeance. They went One More Time in multiple crazy close runs with Wang barely edging Forsberg out to advance to the Final 4.
The Final 4 saw Piotr Wiecek in his Worthhouse Racing Nissan S15 go up against 2016 champion Fredric Aasbo in his brand new and unproven Toyota Corolla hatchback. 4 cylinder vs 6 cylinder. Poland vs Norway to move into the finals. No matter the outcome Wiecek could get no worse than 3rd spot on the podium. After their fierce battle Aasbo moved on to the finals. In the other pairing we saw James Deane go up against Forrest Wang. Unfortunately in the Great 8 during Deane’s battle with Alec Hohnadell he suffered some major rear end mechanical issue. His team was unable to fix the car handing the win to Wang.
With the Final pair set, Piotr Wiecek already had claimed 3rd spot on the podium it was time to see two style warriors battle it out for the top spot on the streets of Long Beach.
Forrest Wang in his Vapetasia Nissan S15 versus Fredric Aasbo in his Rockstar Energy Toyota Corolla. It was by far not the fastest passes anyone made on the weekend but for sure some of the most elegant style and door to door action anyone saw. The duo went One More Time in the finals to please the crowd who was chanting it from the start. In the end Aasbo became the victor for round 1 leaving Wang in 2nd on the podium.
Such an amazing start for both these teams with Aasbo in a brand new vehicle he didn’t have much off season testing time in, and Wang who took a year off of the pro series but still had plenty of seat time doing other grass roots events around the country.
Standings after Round 1 of the Formula Drift Black Magic Pro Championship:
1 – Fredric Aasbo 104.00 points
2 – Forrest Wang 85.00 points
3 – Piotr Wicek 71.00 points
4 – James Deane 70.00 points
5 – Justin Pawlak 52.00 Points
Round 2 is in two short weeks April 27-28, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. You can watch it all go down live by going to FormulaD.com/live