Event Dopeness >>> Formula D Round Six: After Dark
By now, you most likely already know how this round turned out. Therefore, I’m not going to regurgitate information you’ve already obtained. Instead, I’m taking a different approach, talking about my first Formula D experience. I realize I’m a bit more than a day late, but hopefully the photos prove I’m not also a dollar short.
I’m going to be honest with you all:
Before I flew to Las Vegas for round six, I had probably never watched more than 45 minutes of Formula D action, and that was on a live stream one day when I was editing photos and alt+tabbing back and forth between the action and other work. I did a bit of quick “research” before heading to the track as to which driver was associated with which car, who to really watch for, and how the points standings were arranged. Needless to say, I was practically a Formula D virgin going into the event. (The following are from Thursday)
Prior to round six, I hadn’t been to Vegas since I was 11. I don’t drink or party, so the entire premise of the “Vegas experience” never really caused me to have any desire to make it a priority to return. When I realized I could make the trip for FD at a good price, I figured I’d take the opportunity and meet some of the people I work with (Drew, Ross, Frosty, Leann and Chris), expanding my drifting horizons beyond my usual grassroots and pro-am coverage all the while. Besides, I used this event as an excuse to finally buy my own Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS, and I’ll be damned if I wasn’t going to put it to use.
After a series of delays by our own Ross Fairfield on Thursday, we made it to the track for the crew/media-only practice session. Now, when I heard it was being held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, I was under the impression it would be held ON the track, not in the parking lot like it was.
However, the parking lot setup works much better in my opinion for my photography, as it allows me to constantly move around without having to wait for a signal from a corner worker. Besides, the majority of drift events I’ve shot over the past year have been held in parking lots – I was used to the arrangement, and that made things easier. With the practice session in full swing, I realized this was a much different ballgame than what I was used to. I was watching drivers initiate drifts into a parking lot at sometimes more than twice the speed I’ve seen more locally on actual tracks. If this was how practice went, I was dying to see how qualifying was going to be the next day.
When we arrived at the track on Friday, it was HOT, but in a much different way than I’m used to. I live in southern Illinois, where heat is associated with excessive humidity, making even a ten-second trek outdoors makes one feel like they’ve just ran the Boston Marathon. If I recall, the mercury rose to 108 that day, but with Vegas’ super dry heat, I don’t recall sweating even once.
With the fan meet and greet underway, our own Ross was to be found showcasing his modeling skills for Jeff Abbott, seemingly receiving more attention than the actual models.
I spent most of my time shooting on Friday concentrating on getting my camera settings dialed in for the next day’s competition. It had been a while since I’d shot drifting at night, which presents a much different challenge than doing so during the day. It was kind of a throwback to the first drift events I’d ever shot last summer during Drift STL’s Midnight Madness events at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill.
Then out of nowhere came the “lol wut” moment of the night, courtesy of Mike Ryan and his purpose-built Freightliner.
Finally it was time for Saturday’s competition. I was told I’d be stalking Robbie Nishida for his upcoming driver blog, so I did just that before the racing started. Aside from Robbie, I was introduced to Jeff Abbott, Kyle Mohan, Luke Lonberger, Alex Lee and Dean Kearney. I must say that I’ve never known a sport where the stars are so accessible to the fans.
When the top 32 event began, I knew I was about to see drivers throw down harder than I’d ever seen before. With the sun starting to set, the main event was underway and the action was hotter than the temperature.
Vaughn Gittin put on an impressive display of speed and smoke early on in the evening.
Ken Gushi and his Scion defeated Tyler McQuarrie who was driving the Falken S15, a result of Justin Pawlak’s Mustang having motor issues and Falken making the decision to have Pawlak drive McQuarrie’s 350Z instead.
Rhys Millen and his Genesis proved too much for Sam Hubinette and his Challenger, knocking him out in top 32.
Emmanuel Armandio slammed sideways into the tire wall with impressive force, sending pieces of his Titan-powered 350Z airborne.
Mike Ryan was back with his Freightliner.
With the top 32 narrowed down to the top 16, the qualified drivers and their cars were brought back to the track for the introduction process.
Top 16 competition was just as intense as I had expected. What I normally experience at the events I cover is a few clouds of smoke and some bits of rubber hitting me here and there, I was constantly being sprayed with shredded tire to the point where I had to look away briefly after each car passed by me, and after Friday night, could barely swallow on Saturday due to the sheer amount of smoke inhalation.
Fredric Aasbo leads Matt Powers on an early Top 16 bout.
Ryan Tuerck defeated Chris Forsberg to eventually face Darren McNamara.
Vaugh Gittin Jr. was eliminated by McNamara.
Kyle Mohan’s 100+ mph wall impact was a sight to behold, and though visibly shaken from the accident, he wasn’t seriously injured.
Toshiki Yoshioka leads points leader Dai Yoshihara on one of the final runs of the night.
Darren McNamara eliminated Ryan Tuerck to face Rhys Millen in finals.
Finals came down to Rhys Millen and Darren McNamara, with Millen taking the win.
When it came time for awards, several dozen of us media guys (and girls) were corralled into a small area in front of the stage, so it was a bit of a fight to get a good position from which to capture the celebratory activities.
With the conclusion of the awards ceremony, I left the track with a new found appreciation for the sport, the sponsors and the fans. I’m definitely paying much more attention to the professional series now, and really wish I could make it to Irwindale for the grand finale. They say “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” but it wouldn’t be fair to deprive you, the audience, of a bit more evidence of the awesome time a Formula D event is, now would it?