The sixth round of the 2012 Formula D season is in the books, with Rhys “Mad Skills” Millen securing his second victory in a row at Las Vegas.
We’ll get to Rhys’ fantastic performance in a bit, but first, we’re going to give a play-by-play of the action that led to that victory. More after the jump!
It had been hot and dry all day, but just before the top 32 spectacle was scheduled to commence, the skies let forth a downpour, accompanied by high winds.
As the rain came down, several people took shelter under the canopy of Tyler McQuarrie’s car hauler. Minutes later, everyone was given the boot as McQuarrie brought his Camaro to his pit, performing a solid, and quite loud, burnout to help dry and heat up his tires.
After a short delay, the action was underway, with the first match being between number one qualifier Fredric Aasbo and 32nd qualifier Chris Forsberg.
Forsberg was battling engine issues, taking on the Norwegian Hammer with only seven firing cylinders. Aasbo defeated Forsberg and his wounded 370Z to advance on.
The next battle took place between 2011 Formula D champion Daijiro Yoshihara and Kyle Mohan.
Last year’s champ proved too much for Mohan, as Yoshihara advanced after Mohan spun, followed promptly by some donuts. Keep an eye out for an upcoming driver blog from Mohan.
Up next was Toshiki Yoshioka against Matt Powers, with S15 going against S14, respectively. Yoshioka had tapped the wall during qualifying, but it didn’t seem to affect his performance, and he advanced on.
Justin Pawlak kept on McQuarrie’s door during his follow run, but it would be the Camaro that went to the next round.
The highest qualifying V8-powered car, the Camaro of Conrad Grunewald, went up against Ryan Bell. Grunewald would advance, three-wheeling his car in the process.
Matt Field faced Ken Gushi in the sole FR-S of the field. Gushi would defeat Field, but not before what was presumed to be a leaky oil line caused a small fire under his car.
Current points leader Vaughn Gittin Jr., who had qualified fifth, was up against Dave Briggs. Gittin Jr. made quick work of Briggs, advancing the Monster Energy/Falken Tires Mustang to top 16.
In the battle between Joon Maeng and Luke Lonberger, it would be that little red Corvette that made it to top 16.
Rhys Millen’s first win of the initial round came against Alex Lee, where the motorsports veteran was simply too much for the young Canadian.
Roland Gallagher saw himself facing Chris Ward, and also saw himself go to the next round in his teal and orange S13.
A spectator standing behind me along the fence made a comment to no one in particular that there would be carnage during the battle between Daigo Saito and Tony Angelo. And he was dead accurate.
On his lead run, Angelo smashed his Scion tC into the wall along the western set of k-rails, hitting hard enough to knock the entire wheel assembly off the vehicle.
Angelo got out of the car unscathed, standing on the door sill of the Scion to let the crowd know he was okay.
Tony wouldn’t be the first driver to lose a wheel on Saturday, but we’ll get to that here shortly.
After track crews cleaned up the mess and Angelo’s car was hauled off, action resumed with Chelsea DeNofa, driving Joon Maeng’s old RX-8, going up against Ian Fournier. DeNofa was able to defeat Fournier to advance the Mazda to the next round.
Up next was Robbie Nishida against Aurimas “Odi” Bakchis. Bakchis took a hard wall impact during Thursday night’s practice session, so he qualified Friday and competed Saturday using a borrowed car. Nishida, who had been driving possibly better than he had all year, put Bakchis away and advanced. Despite the loss, we were just as happy as everyone else to see Bakchis okay from the aforementioned crash and out competing again right afterwards.
Ryan Tuerck and Denniz Mertzanis were up next, with Tuerck and the RETAKS Nissan coming out the victor.
Michael Essa followed Tuerck’s win by beating Patrick Goodin.
Danny George, piloting the only Miata in top 32, faced Walker Wilkerson in the final bout of top 32.
George, on his lead run, smashed the back of the Miata against the k-rails going into the second corner, but brushed it off like it was nothing to finish the run, complete with dangling bumper.
On his next run, George stayed clear of the wall, but Wilkerson defeated him to move on.
With the top 32 reduced to the top 16, it was time for driver introductions, complete with a mini-fireworks show. Soon after, the action on track resumed to see who would be crowned champion in Sin City.
Kicking off top 16 was Aasbo against Yoshihara. Aasbo, who had been on fire with blistering performances, defeated Yoshihara to make it to top eight.
The second round two battle saw Tyler McQuarrie’s Camaro defeat the S15 of Yoshioka.
Next up was Grunewald and Gushi, with Grunewald taking his Camaro to the next round. There were no fires on Gushi’s car this time around.
In another battle of American makes, Gittin Jr. knocked out Luke Lonberger. Things were looking good for Gittin Jr., who was gunning for his third first place finish in a row.
Next was Roland Gallagher against Millen. Our own Ross Fairfield had a direct radio link to Gallagher’s car, trying to get him to convince Rhys that the Pikes Peak champ needed to drive slower to put on a show for the fans, and then just leaving him in the dust if he agreed. Unfortunately, these tactics didn’t quite plan out, and the blue and white Genesis Coupe move on.
Saito and DeNofa were on next, with Saito getting the win.
Up next was Tuerck against the Soarer of Nishida. Nishida, who had driven an S13 last year in Vegas and been eliminated fairly early on, soldiered forward to top eight with another great round of driving.
The final top 16 battle took place between Wilkerson and the sole BMW of Essa. Wilkerson spun on his follow run, and would not make top 16.
Aasbo battled McQuarrie in the first top eight match, where The Hammer smashed The Rock to place Aasbo in the final four.
In the last muscle car battle of the night, Gittin Jr. defeated Grunewald, putting him one step closer to a podium finish.
One of the most memorable moments of the night came during the next round, with a highly anticipated match between Saito and Millen.
Millen would lead on the first run, with Saito right up on him the whole time. But it was the next run that ended in a much more dramatic fashion.
In almost a repeat of Angelo’s crash from earlier, Saito smashed into the same wall at almost the same place, also tearing off his front left wheel assembly, prompting the crowd to cheer and holler, either due to the intensity of the crash, or of Saito’s somewhat polarizing reception with fans.
Unlike Angelo, who opened every compartment on the car in an effort to thoroughly check the damage, Saito stood by with almost a zen-like calmness, before getting in the tow truck and heading back to the pits.
After the track was once again cleared of debris, it was Nishida and Essa’s turn to have it out. Essa gave a valiant effort, but Nishida was on a hot streak and advanced to the final four.
With only four drivers left, it was time for each of them to go for broke in an effort to achieve that podium finish.
Up first was Aasbo and Gittin Jr., with Aasbo keeping the momentum alive he’d had all weekend, putting away the points leader and putting himself in the final match.
And that match would be decided in the battle between Millen and Nishida. Both drivers had put on stellar performances up until this point, but only one of them would make it to complete against Aasbo, and that driver was The Kiwi.
With the final match set between Aasbo and Millen, Nishida and Gittin Jr. were in position to battle it out for third in the consolation match. The battle was well fought, but Gittin Jr. edged out Nishida to secure a third place finish.
Now, it was time for the number one qualifier and the Pikes Peak world record holder to finish off the night, and oh how dramatic it was.
Aasbo led on the first run, but came off of the first turn too hot, unable to get it straightened out and smashing the back of the car directly against the barrier your author was standing behind, making this shot the last thing your author saw before turning and ducking. The impact knocked the camera off the wall of the guy standing next to me, even knocking the memory cards out of his GoPros.
At this point, nobody knew how bad the damage to Aasbo’s tC was. I saw his car being loaded onto a flatbed tow truck and head towards the pits, so myself and many other media personnel headed to where the victory ceremonies were to be held, most certain that Millen would be making his way over at any minute.
But alas, Aasbo’s crew was able to get the car back together to have one more honest run against Millen. I wasn’t able to snap any photos of the final run, but I did get a photo of the damage to Aasbo’s car when all was said and done.
Though his third place finish broke his winning streak, Gittin Jr. was still very excited about his podium finish, and that he also remained the points leader, with a 25.5 point edge over Saito.
Aasbo was all smiles as well, and his second place finish bumped him to sixth in the points, just six points shy of Yoshihara.
And of course, Rhys Millen once again claimed victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The win has him sitting third in points behind Gittin Jr. and Saito.
Stay tuned this week for exclusive interviews with Gittin Jr., Aasbo and Millen about their performances this weekend, and watch for the fan question compilation video as well!