The first ever Formula Drift event was at Road Atlanta way back in 2004 and since then Ive never missed a single one, I was there on the first event, I was there when Taka Aono and Sam Hubinette went one more time about 10 times in a row in an AE86 and a Dodge Viper, Ive seen it all; but this years Formula Drift at Road Atlanta was truly one of a kind, not for the crashes and major upsets but for the fact that this year I was going as media. Thanks to the guys at Fitted.Life we were able to get a few media passes and after all these years I could finally walk inside the fence, hang out at the grid, and generally look way more important than I really am. This is our story of Formula Drift Round 2 "Road to the Championship"
Road Atlanta is like no track on the Formula Drift tour, the layout has the most elevation change of any course and drivers say its the funnest track out there. Road Atlanta isnt just good for the drivers though, it really caters to the fans. The fans is what every one says makes Formula Drift Road Atlanta so special and this year they come out in the masses!
This year they sold more tickets than they ever had before, proof that drifting is still continuing to grow and it will for years to come!
The atmosphere in Atlanta is like no other , you get to drive right into the middle of the racetrack layout, break out your canopy (if you get there bright and early) and grab your favorite beverage. Once those two steps are complete you just sit back, relax and watch the hoonage.
The paddock area is like most FD events with the paddocks open to the public and slammed full of local and international vendors. Atlanta was packed this year so getting from place to place was a task, luckily we had our handy dandy media vest on which got us some free rides on some golf carts. Thanks Kenny!
Chris Forsberg seemed to be in good spirits in the paddock next to his 370z. Lot of orange going on with that guy.
Daigo Saito's crew hard at work on the SC430, He got 3rd place at Long Beach... would he podium again?
Speaking of Daigo's SC430 here's a picture of his 1200 hp 2jz motor. There's a lot of talk about how Formula Drift is going all V8's these days but the contrary is true. This year there was huge variety of engines running the course, V8's, turbo v6's, turbo 4's, rotary's, inline 6's, and turbo boxer 4's were seen screaming down the hill.
The turbo boxer 4 I mentioned before belongs to none other than the brand new Scion FR-S. It's cosworth built and its running a massive turbo making a solid 600 hp.
I talked to Ken (who is a super chill guy) about the new FR-S and gave me some info I had never thought about before. The Scion TC he used to drive, the one Tony Angelo drives now, couldn't be rebuilt if it was totalled. The rules that Formula Drift put in place a few years ago outlawed FWD drive cars being modified to be RWD but the TCs were grandfathered in, so if these Scion TCs (Aasbo’s/Angelo’s) are destroyed they will need a totally new car and could lose sponsorship. Speaking of Ken and the FR-S....
How about a classic, restored in the the old Toyota Livery theme?!
This guy was clearly ready for some drifting how about you?? #camera porn
The Last Supper pic, Dai usually doesn't look like a badass but in this pic he's looking so hard he could star in his own movie. We can call it Dai Hard......(that joke was so bad it was good)
While the drift cars were parked the Global time attack series was running the full track and I finally got to see the TC with the giant wing on the front!!
Alright how about we finally get to some drifting!!!!
Pro-Am finals for the SWD tour was on Friday, the Sikky crew mostly killed it. Above is our good friend J.J Alfano throwing his S13 around the horseshoe. After that came FD qualifying.
The star of qualifying was Mike Essa in his BMW Z4. He perfected the backwards entry during practice and totally killed in qualifying getting a score of 98, the highest score seen in FD in a long time. In the drivers meeting the judges called him "Captain backwards entry" LOL's ensued.
Mike is pleased.
So this brings us to Saturday, show time!
The cars lined up at the top of the hill... ready for battle!
Atlanta Native Chris Ward came out in his S13 and put some good runs in but didn't make it to the top 32. Better luck next time Chris!
Dennis Mertzanis also another Atlanta native did make it to the top 32!
Really into FC's these days and Lowe's Mazda is pure awesome!!!!!
Justin Pawlak looked flawless the entire day.
Woops! Toshiki Yoshioka takes a spin in the dirt.
Rhys Millen made it to the great 8, he's still got it!
Darren McNamara absolutely totaled his Saturn Sky at long beach so they put him in Tyler McQuarrie's old ride. This was his first time ever drifting a left hand drive car.
Danny George made it to the top 32 in his LS powered Miata but sadly the car broke during practice and he couldn't continue.
Danny even brought Bill the human clipping point from long beach! I ended up hanging out with Bill quite a bit over the weekend and turns out santa is hilarious, what an awesome guy!
Formula Drift changed the layout slightly this year, they usually go into the close side of the horseshoe and exit out the top, but this year they drove into the top of the horse shoe and exited out of the bottom. From what I heard the drivers were not too pleased.
The calm before the storm.
Phil thought it was quite funny watching Tyler McQuarrie set up his own gopro's since he was sponsered by them. Tyler and GoPro - just hire us to do this for you!!! You wont even have to pay us (just pay for all the flights, food, drinks, hotel, and massage parlors).
I mean look at that picture we're awesome and we even do video!
Ok back to the action.
So now to the top 32!!
Better luck next time Dai!!!
It's not like Chris forsberg to not make it to the top 16, he seemed to be having some trouble with the NOS 370Z.
Vaughn Gittin looking killer on the track! I like this picture so much I made it our headliner. ^
Saito the smoke machine!
Tony Angelo clearly having a good time!!
Dennis only made it to the top 32 but he sure was looking good out there.
Random story time: Apparently the racefriv shirts I made last minute to rep the Save Drifting in Atlanta cause was so popular that Russell literally sold the shirt of his back.
And now to the top 16!!
Team Rowdy unpleased with the absence of Linhberg.
In the top 16 Gittin came charging out like a man on a mission in his battle with Saito.
And on his follow run kept his mustang inches away from the Lexas, when they got back to the bottom of the hill, Gittin was super close, Daigo slowed wayyyyy down and turned his Lexas into the Monster Energy Mustang, which lead to most people thinking that was the last run for Saito but the Judges saw it differently and gave Saito the win.
Better luck next year Vaughn!
The Odi Vs Matt Power's battle was an awesome match up, clean close drifting from beginning to end. Odi came away with the win but lost to Saito in a match the most people think should have went one more time (seeing a pattern here? good)
Drivers are still fans.
Aasbo went up agianst Kyle Mohan in his Rotary powered RX8. This was a great match to hear live, the 4 cylinder Stephan Papadakis built vs the explosion sounding rotary. Klye made a few mistakes Aasbo came away with the win.
Aasbo also took down down the great Rhys Millen in a top 8 battle.
Justin Pawlak being a boss, taking out Ryan Turek and Mike Essa.
In a Walker Wilkerson vs Joon Maeng battle Joon got a little to close for comfort. Walker, at this point, has been 100% killing it all day. He was hit Tony Angela as well in a top 16 battle. Walker was surly earning his paycheck this weekend.
The battle for 3rd came down to the D1 Champ/smoke monster Daigo Saito with his 1200hp 2JZ vs the pride of the west coast Walker Wilkerson. Daigo stormed down the hill on the first run while Walker missed the start by missing a gear or something of that nature. Daigo being a good sport stopped before the first entry turned around and did it again giving Walker a fair fight against him….and Walker made it count.
Walker drove like a man possessed never letting Daigo get more than five feet away and on the lead run left Daigo by about 4 car lengths. The judges however didn’t see it this way, didn’t call it a one more time, and to the dismay of many fans gave the last podium spot to Daigo. This can only lead me to think the judges wanted Daigo on a podium spot for some reason, Odi, Gittin, and Walker all should gotten at least a one more time, but I'm sitting on the sidelines and they are up in the tower so maybe they're seeing something I didn't see. Either way, way to go Walker 4th isnt too shabby!
So down to the final battle (play final countdown song now)! The battle for first and second came down to Fredric Aasbo in the Need for Speed Scion TC and Justin Pawlak in the Falken Tire Mustang. Aasbo had been killing it all night. I have no idea what Stephan Papadakis has done to the 4-cylinder in that car but wow… It was laying down more smoke than every V8 out there. All the smoke in the world however couldn’t fix his first error of the night. On his lead run he turned in way too early for the first initiation. He had to straighten out to avoid a spin and still put his front wheels in the dirt. Pawlak as always was surgical in his sliding, perfecting the course and hitting all the clipping points. Aasbo came back with a killer follow run within inches of Pawlak the whole time, but it wasn’t enough to make up for his first mistake. the judges gave Pawlak a much deserved win.
Pawlak with the WIN! I have to admit he is looking good this year, two in a row is not an easy task. Though last year he had a lot of wins under his belt as well and didnt get the championship.Could it be Justin's year? Will Saito keep acquiring podium spots? Will Dai come back? Will Gittin get his revenge? I can't wait to see!