Irwindale Speedway, the House of Drift. Earlier this year we received news that Irwindale Speedway was shutting down and people began wondering what would happen with the final round of the 2012 Formula Drift Championship Series. Fortunately, the event remained on the calendar and later news confirmed that it was going to be held at Irwindale once again; and it was. This past weekend Irwindale was host to Formula Drift’s final Round 7 in 2012.
The 2012 season has come with a lot of determination from drivers, some controversy in the judging and the infamous use of the word “proximity,” and plenty of upsets. This year was also another shot for drivers like Justin Pawlak, who almost had the championship in his grasp last year, to win. A few of the drivers vying for this year’s win were rookie Daigo Saito, Vaughn Gittin Jr, Justin Pawlak, and Rhys Millen. With only a small gap in points separating each of these drivers, there was little room for error and unfortunately, mistakes were made that came with the cost of winning the series.
OMGDrift driver, Kyle Mohan in the Nexen Tire RX8, was set to go against former 2011 FD Champion Dai Yoshihara in the Falken Tire/Discount Tire S13. These two have met before in battle and Dai has typically come out as the winner…until now. Kyle was able to knock out Dai early in the main competition.
Chelsea DeNofa’s tandem match in the Bergenholtz Racing RX8 against Pat Mordaunt in the A’PEXi SC 430 brought a lot of excitement in the stands during their second run. As they were exiting the final corner, Chelsea pushed too hard, right into the front passenger side of Pat’s car. Unfortunately for DeNofa, this gave the win to Mordaunt to advance.
Two OMGDrift drivers, Jeremy Lowe in the Enjuku Racing/BC RX-7 and Matt Field in the CX Racing/BlackTrax Performance S14, were paired up, and they put down one of the best tandem battles of Top 32. Matt stuck right on J.Lowe’s door, but Jeremy couldn’t quite get as close, giving Matt the win.
Another OMGDrift driver, Joon Maeng and his Lucas Oil/American Reel TV S13, was paired up against Tyler McQuarrie and his Mobil 1/GoPro Chevy Camaro. Tyler had a great follow run, but Joon pushed a bit too hard on his follow run into the second outer zone and clipped the wall, straightening out and giving the win to Tyler. Joon has had a pretty rough year, switching teams and building his own program back up, but we’re sure he’ll be a tough opponent in 2013.
After beating Dai Yoshihara in Top 32, Kyle was set to go up against Rhys “Mad Skills” Millen in the Hankook Tire Hyundai Genesis. Although Kyle put up a good fight, Rhys took the win to take on Daigo.
Going into Top 16, Vaughn Gittin Jr. was still in the championship lead, but he spun in his battle against Pat Mordaunt and knocked himself out. This left the door wide open for both Daigo Saito and Rhys Millen to take home the championship. Since he was knocked out early in the competition, Vaughn had no other choice but to watch from the judges stand as the rest of the event unfolded and determined the outcome.
This year it seemed that the drivers were going harder than ever, evident in the sheer number of crashes on the inner bank. Tony Angelo took his Scion Racing/Hankook Tire tC into the wall early in practice on Friday, then did it again in his Top 32 battle on Saturday. The rumors are that this will be the end of this chassis, which has been around for a few years now…What do you think Tony will drive next year?
One of the most talked about runs this round was the battle between Daigo Saito in the Achilles SC430 and Matt Field. With each run, Matt was smooth and extremely aggressive as he was all over Saito in his follow run and scraping the wall near the judges’ stand. It was such a close match that the judges had to call for a “One More Time” to try and determine a winner.
The crowd was in an uproar as Matt continued to push to beat Daigo but the win was given to Daigo in the end; however, it wasn’t without controversy. Many fans were excited while others questioned the judge’s call, wondering why Daigo won or why it wasn’t at least another OMT.
The championship then came down to one final battle…Daigo Saito vs. Rhys Millen.
Rhys had been looking strong throughout the entire weekend.
Rhys pushed too hard coming into the inner bank, and smashed into the wall, ripping his front-left wheel off with the coilover still attached.
No one could believe what just happened…Daigo Saito had just won the Formula D Pro Championship in his Rookie season!
The event wasn’t over yet though, as “JTP” Justin Pawlak in the Falken Tire Ford Mustang and Ryan Tuerck in the Retaks/Maxxis Tire S13.5 had to do battle to determine who would go up against Daigo in the final. It was a close battle, but JTP was given the win.
Because Rhys Millen had wrecked his car in his battle with Daigo, Ryan Tuerck automatically took 3rd place and did a bye run for the fans. Tuerck is always trying to have some fun.
The battle between JTP and Daigo would be a grudge match to end the season…And JTP went out with, quite literally, a bang. He slammed into the inner bank, bouncing the car up into the air a couple of times as Daigo ran away with the win.
As soon as Daigo stepped out of his car, fellow teammate Robbie Nishida and members of the Achilles crew were there to celebrate the victory.
Daigo Saito took home 1st place with Justin Pawlak in 2nd and Ryan Tuerck in 3rd.
This season was full of new drivers, intense drama, and insane tandem…We know that 2013 will be even better.
Stay tuned for driver blogs from all of the OMGDrift drivers!
-Mike Griffith and Leann McGlasson