Another Street Life Tour is in the books, marking the first time the event has played host to U.S. Drift. Despite the somewhat low turnout of drivers, the action was just as exciting as any year prior. With no major (or minor, really) incidents to cause any delay, the action flowed smoothly and consistently until one driver walked away with the first place trophy and the big wad of cash that went with it. More after the jump!
Whereas in the past there have usually been well over 30-40 drivers turn up for what is definitely one of the most highly anticipated pro-am events of the year, turnout for 2014 saw just 17 drivers start the early morning practice sessions.
Street Life Tour has also typically played host to a round of Midwest Drift Union competition, but this year that changed and instead Kil-Kare Speedway catered to round three of U.S. Drift’s 2014 season. On hand to give advice and judge was some guy who I heard was apparently important in Formula D. I couldn’t find anything to confirm these rumors, however. I think his name was Chris Forsberg?
This event usually marks the only time I see certain drivers. Adam Ouziel used to be an MDU regular, now I see him only at Street Life Tour it seems.
Bill Cook was back with the drift taxi, but this time the only ridealongs he gave were to his crew and yours truly up to the grid.
The inside of his GS300 is decidedly more spartan than the inside of my own LS400.
In case you were wondering what those red banners were hanging from his rear spoiler were, well, now you know.
I tend to notice many drivers have earbuds in prior to making a run. Whatever it takes to get mentally prepared and stay focused, right?
There were engines for just about every type of fan out there, from the monster 13B of Mike Feiock…
…the supercharged LS of Jonathan Nerren…
…and the SR20DET of Josh Collins.
Heading up the US Drift point standings going into round three was Salvatore DiPompo, one of a handful of drivers I’ve never seen perform in person.
There was also some solid advice stuck to his gauge cluster.
One of the things I like most about Street Life Tour is that it’s one of the few, if not the only, events where I can climb up the judges’ tower for a better view of the action.
Due to the lack of entrants, qualifying didn’t so much determine who would make top 16 so much as it did the order. Troy Manners would clench the top spot in a car largely the same as it was last year.
“Same car just small adjustments,” Manners said. “I added a little more boost and make 390 hp and 420 ft/lb torque, just a little more power but it really brought the car on for this year. It’s on point and definitely solid.”
Andrew Lewis grabbed the second qualifier position. He earned the nickname “Steely Dan” by the staff/judges/Forsberg in practice due to his choice of wheels.
Midwest Drift Union series points leader Brian Peter, who is used to qualifying at least in the top three, found himself back in eighth, a performance which could have been somewhat to blame on rough luck prior to practice.
“My car didn’t pass tech and I spent all of practice with my team trying to figure out an electrical problem,” Peter said. “We figured it out right at the end and we got to the start and they let me run two laps. So I figured it out and ended up having a mediocre qualifying in eighth.”
The top sixteen drivers got about an hour or so of tandem practice, then it was on to the main event.
Drivers made their way to top 16 formation in front of the grandstands for the opening ceremonies, which always present the drivers with an opportunity to rally up the crowed for their support in the competition.
It’s also the last chance drivers have to relax and chill out for a bit before getting their game faces on.
After the presentation of colors, it was go time for the top 16 drivers.
Manners took a fairly easy win in the first matchup against Kyle Prewitt, the latter of which spun out on Manners’ chase run.
Bill Cook’s drift taxi was then up against Peters’ 2JZ-powered FC, with Peter taking the win.
“I ended up getting paired with with by buddy Bill which is cool because we’ve known each other forever and I don’t really get to drive with him very often,” Peter said.
Josh Collins then got the win over the problem-ridden car of Cody Grim.
“I watched him run and he was not as fast as I was, so my lead run I ran a normal run,” Nerren said. “He asked me if I was going to launch off the line and I said no, I’ll take it easy off the line and make it fair but once I get going I’m going to take off. I had 3-5 car lengths on him the entire run.”
“My follow run, since I knew I was faster than him, I initiated maybe two car lengths behind him,” Nerren added. “I made a slower pass but maintained control and just made sure I closer to him than he was to me and I ended up getting the win. I played it as safe as I could but I wanted to make sure I got the win.”
Andrew Lewis and Adam Ouziel met in a battle of S13s, with Lewis advancing on.
In the next round, Mike Feiock took out the points leader to put the rotary in the top eight.
Austin Meeks’ super clean S14 looked good, but ultimately fell to Chris Allen’s Mustang.
Rounding out the top 16 battles was that between Hooman Rahimi and Jim Bissey; the red Z of Rahimi would be packing it up after their sets of runs.
With the rosters said for top eight, the first match was between Manners and Peter, with Manners ultimately advancing on after a one-more-time.
“That was a hard battle,” Manners said. “The first set of runs we were pretty equal. On the second set of runs I was pretty well on him on my chase run, I put down a good lead run and got the win there.”
Peter partly blamed the defeat on mental mistakes.
“Driving MDU my car is usually faster and usually have to pedal it and give the other driver a little bit of room,” Peter said. “I didn’t get to watch anyone’s practice because I was working on the car, and I gave him some room which was a big mistake. I couldn’t catch up until the last two corners. We went one more time and I made the same mistake I usually make; I stared at the car and not paying attention to where I am on the course. As I was following him I didn’t realize where I was on the bank, and I had to make a bunch of corrections and kind of went off course a little. He drove really hard and he really deserved it.”
Jonathan Nerren and Josh Collins were up next, and Nerren ended Collins’ day with a win and advancement to top four.
“(Collins) didn’t run as much angle and was slower so I played it safe,” Nerren said. “On my lead run I ran my own run, hit the clips and put my car where I wanted it. On the follow run, I left a small gap for a small bit of safety in case he spun, but he was slower than I was so I kept a safety net in there because I didn’t want to run over him or take myself out.”
Nerren also seemed to have taken some bits out of his exhaust system as it scraped around the track in a display of sparks.
The following battle between Lewis and Feiock was by far one of the closest of the event.
“It could have been he or I easily,” Lewis said.
Lewis took the win, but it definitely wasn’t for lack of effort on Feiock’s part. Both drivers were on each others’ doors for basically the entire runs, with Feiock displaying some of the most aggressive driving I’ve ever personally witnessed from him.
Bissey’s win over Allen eliminated the sole American entry to move on to top four.
Manners would continue his string of wins by taking down Nerren to move on to the final four.
“He was definitely consistent and fast all day,” Nerren said of Manners. “When I went against him, I entered faster than I had all day. But on my lead run I came out a little too far off the bank and didn’t follow the line the judges wanted and had to make a correction, and that was the issue carrying extra speed into the bank. The rest of my run was on my point, but at the end of the day the judges saw where I made that mistake and I think that’s ultimately what gave him the win in top four.”
“That was a pretty close battle,” Manners said. “We were pretty on each other but I ended up getting the advantage there.”
Being down but not out, Nerren was supposed to run against Bissey, but with the latter having a broken axle, Nerren brought home the bronze.
“Having never run this track before, we just tested what worked,” Nerren said. “We changed out setup a little bit all day, changing things until the car felt nice and controllable and easy to drift while being quick at the same time,” Nerren said. “By the end of the day, we had the car where we wanted it.”
And with that the stage for the final match was set between Lewis and Manners, with Manners ultimately getting the win and remaining undefeated in his 2014 season.
“I laid down a decent set of first runs, but they weren’t my best,” Manners said. “He was pretty well on me and we got a one more time. On the one more time in the final, I laid down one of the best runs I’d had all weekend, and he chased me decent but I kind of lost him through the infield. I laid down a real good chase run, I was right on his door for most of the run and ended up getting the win.”
Manners said it was also a good thing there weren’t any more runs.
“After we finished the last run, I don’t know if my clutch overheated or what but I couldn’t get my car to come out of gear, so I was hoping we didn’t go again,” he said. “I was really beating on it against Andrew Lewis giving it everything.”
Manners’ win bumped him up to third in the U.S. Drift standings. He said he’d like to take the next step towards Formula D next year; it’s said that every driver who has won at Street Life Tour in the past has gone on to compete at Formula D at some level.
“I still have an FD license from last year so I don’t have to win again to go to Pro 2, so I’ll try and get a good proposal together and hopefully do at least a few Pro 2 events,” he said.
As for Lewis, his FD license from last year is also still valid.
“I’m aiming for Pro 2,” Lewis said. “That’s my goal. This is my last event (this year); I’m taking this car apart and probably selling the chassis. I have an S14 sitting there, it’s a California car and absolutely beautiful. Painting it the same color and keeping it JZ but making the drivetrain as stout as I can. I’m done with this car.”
At the conclusion of round three, Bissey surpassed DiPompo to take a 247-237 lead to be on top of the standings, and Manners’ win bumped him up to third.
U.S. Drift rounds four and five will be held back to back on October 4 at Virginia International Raceway. With just 16 points separating first and third place, the championship is still up in the air.