Formula Drift Dopeness >>> Drama and The Usual (And Unusual) Suspects on the Podium in Texas!!
Round 6 of the Formula Drift Pro Championship brought us to a new venue, yet the top two drivers in the standings managed to maintain their chase for the championship…More after the jump!
Texas Motor Speedway is located just outside of Fort Worth (or as we like to call it, #FortTwerk), and holds a full schedule of NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide Series, Camping World Truck Series, IndyCar, and more races. Various different models were out on track all weekend running practice laps…They seemed like they were moving slow, but the optical illusion of the gigantic, 1.5 mile oval and 24 degree banking is deceiving.
On Thursday morning before practice began, the judges took the drivers and their spotters out for a track walk, showing them where the clipping points and problem areas would be. This not only helps the drivers greater visualize the track and predict how they must react, but also helps the judges learn from the drivers where problems in tandem might arise. A number of the drivers were questioning the second inner clipping point, saying that it would force the follow driver to back off in order to maintain proximity and stay on course.
Kyle Mohan used the track walk to visualize his line and figure out where he should be putting his car, while Ken Gushi and Mike Essa point at what is most likely Larry Chen following them around like a paparazzi.
Vaughn Gittin Jr. was being his usual self, asking lots of questions and trying to clarify (for both himself and the other drivers) what exactly the judges are expecting to see on the perfect run. There has been a lot of controversy around his penalty and fine given to him after Round 5 for a suspension link that was out of compliance with the rulebook; Vaughn defended his team by saying that it was a manufacturing defect, which many fans do not believe. Let us know what you think in the comments, we’re curious as to what the community-at-large feels about this situation.
Ryan Tuerck started off practice strong, and was running some really aggressive lines through the course. Sadly, he failed to qualify after dropping a tire and getting a low score of 76.
The three judges (from left: Andy Yen, Ryan Lanteigne, and Brian Eggert) were watching the beginning of practice very closely to make sure that the course wasn’t creating any major issues.
“Hometown Hero” Nate Hamilton was ripping throughout practice, only to have a major off in the touch-and-go section, getting airborne for a few seconds and breaking some front suspension arms. This led to a misaligned setup and meant he wouldn’t qualify high enough to make the Top 32. This may have been a rough year for Nate and his 144 Motorsports team, but his progress is evident and should make him even stronger next season.
One driver who was extremely impressive was Robbie Nishida, who had one of the fastest cars through the course, especially through the last sweeping turn.
Not all drivers were having great weekends, though. Tyler McQuarrie has had a rough season with tons of problems with his Camaro, and he couldn’t manage to put down a reasonable qualifying run. It’s too bad…McQuarrie is an experienced driver who could easily compete for podiums and wins with a reliable vehicle.
Fredric Aasbo was caught up in the judging tower watching his competitors during practice…With his 2nd place qualifying position and a solid Top 8 finish, he manged to move up into 3rd in the driver’s championship standings, with an outside chance at taking the win at Round 7.
One driver whose championship hopes took a turn for the worse is Daigo Saito, who after qualifying in the bottom half of the field ended up being knocked out in the Top 32. Car troubles seemed to be plaguing him all weekend, and at one point a spare motor could be seen sitting next to his vehicle.
His Top 32 battle with Matt Powers was one of the best of the round, with Saito dropping a tire and Powers putting down a clean run behind him to take the win.
Just look at that smile. I think I’d feel the same way if I beat Daigo Saito and Ron Bergenholtz was that pumped.
This dude is Rob Primo, and he’s the tallest Formula D driver. Ever. It seemed like the fast and technical track layout suited his driving style, as he qualified high in the field and managed to battle Toshiki Yoshioka through two OMT’s.
In their first OMT battle, it seemed as though Primo slowed down through the touch-and-go section…Yoshioka anticipated Primo to speed up however, so he was forced to run a shallow line and go for a tight pass. Somehow he pulled it off without making contact, but the judges had told the drivers that passing would not be allowed unless the lead car was clearly off course. This was another controversial call…How do you feel about this one? Do you think the call was correct, giving Yoshioka a 0 and making them run again, or do you think Primo should have been at fault due to his slower-than-normal speed?
Another controversial battle was between Robbie Nishida and Team OMG driver Odi Bakchis. Nishida had an excellent follow run, sticking to Odi like their cars were magnetically attracted to one another. On Odi’s follow run, however, Nishida dropped a tire and hit a clipping point marker, giving himself a 0. Odi followed him off track, dropping two tires and giving himself a 0 as well. Nishida was initially given the win, but after a protest from Odi’s team the judges overturned the call and the two ran again after the opening cermonies. That means this was the only event in FD history thus far with 17 drivers in the Top 16.
Speaking of controversy, here is the battle to discuss…Pat Mordaunt vs. Vaughn Gittin Jr. in the Great 8. Mordaunt had an excellent follow run, closing in on Vaughn’s door through the touch-and-go section and maintaining great proximity through the sweeper. On Vaughn’s follow run, Vaughn looked to misjudge Mordaunt’s speed going into the second inner clipping point, and straightened out for a split section before re-initiating drift and finishing the run. Vaughn was given the win originally, but after a protest was filed by Mordaunt’s team, the call was overturned after watching dozens of replays and Mordaunt was given the win. Do you think this was the right call? Do you think they should have ran OMT, or should Vaughn have kept the win?
In my honest, personal (Disclaimer: NOT OMGDrift’s opinion WHATSOEVER) opinion, I think that the protests as a whole are not a bad idea. It allows the drivers to keep the judges honest and fight for important points in the championship. Mistakes can be made, and if no one can speak up on behalf of the drivers, biased judging could occur. Protests help make this a non-issue. However, if a call is overturned due to a protest, I believe it should always be considered a OMT. Bad calls happen; after a protest, both drivers can agree that a poor call was made, and run again. Even if you were the winning driver, you have to accept that the original battle and original call holds the credibility of the judges and the sport as a whole, and cannot be simply overturned the opposite way without a re-run.
The Top 4 was one half expected, and one half the complete opposite; the expected drivers being Mike Essa and Chris Forsberg, who were second and first in the championship entering this round. No surprise here that the two were going all out and maintaining excellent proximity…However, Forsberg pushed too hard in the latter part of his follow run and straightened out, sending Essa into the finals.
The other half of the Top 4 was Pat Mordaunt and this man; Team OMG Driver Matt Field. Mordaunt had a hard time keeping up with Field, letting him run away into the finals and onto his first podium finish in his career! Note the awesome backfires in the last two photos…These cars are ridiculous at night.
During the final between Essa and Field, Field did exactly what Forsberg did in the previous battle and pushed too hard going into the last turn, straightening out and giving Essa the win. Matt was definitely excited about his 2nd place finish though!
Although Field toke home 2nd place, Essa and Forsberg are still 1-2 in the championship…Just the other way around. Essa now leads Forsberg by 15.5 points going into Round 7 at Irwindale. Aasbo (3rd), Gittin (4th), Saito (5th), and Pawlak (6th) all have an outside shot at the championship as well, making this a 6-way shootout.
Congrats to Mike Essa and Chris Forsberg, and a special congratulations to Matt Field on his first podium!! He’s definitely been waiting a long time to shower himself with champagne Ayrton Senna-style.
Be sure to check out the Facebook gallery with tons more images and get ready for some great driver blogs from Matt Field, Odi Bakchis, Kyle Mohan, Jeremy Lowe, and Joon Maeng!