Words: Matt Field
Photos: Alex Wong, Emotive Image, and Larry Chen
Leaving the first round of competition at Long Beach, the team and I had some serious mechanical issues to work out. My crew and I worked day and night to get the car back to 100%. Coming out swinging, the team and I captured the top spot of the podium at the Motegi Super Drift Challenge, winning that event two years in a row.
With very little time, we prepped the car and sent it off with Full Pull Transport on it’s long journey to Orlando, FL. The team and I were feeling confident with our setup and our ability to adapt to very bumpy and rough circuit. Orlando is known for its hard transition from banking to flat where we pull off the first outer zone. Nonetheless, we began to dial the car’s Parts Shop Max suspension in during Thursday practice. Finishing off the day with our heads held high and a dialed car, we got some rest in preparation for a hot qualifying session the next day.
With temperatures rising and the other drivers turning it up, Friday was shaping up to be a good day. Further dialing in our suspension, our Holley Dominator ECU, and our pressures in our Falken Tire 615k+ tires we had a great range to cover our lead and our follow runs for the entire field of drivers. During practice we felt we had an amazingly quick car. We had the ability to put distance on anyone we led, and mirror all drivers we followed. All this, before we went into qualifying. For whatever reason, I just could not manage to put two strong runs together during qualifying and we ended up in 18th position. It wasn't the car, it wasn't the team, I just struggled during these runs, making simple mistakes that I had not made all weekend, but it really didn't matter. We had a car for competition, and we were prepared to take down anyone standing in our way.
Competition day rolled in and the team and I were prepared for battle.
Our first battle of the Top 32 was with Juha Rintanen. Putting our heads together and coming up with the proper setup for this battle was important. We followed first and was all over him. Maintaining proximity through the whole course, we swapped positions and i took off on my lead run. With a 6 car gap with me in the lead position, we were awarded the win. Huge props to my team for this battle, we had a much faster car, but they gave me a setup which I could properly follow the car with considerably less power, which is very difficult to do in drifting.
Our next battle was against 2015 Champion, Fredric Aasbo. The team and I were very confident in the car and our ability to adapt a proper setup to stop the Papadakis Racing team. We were in the chase position against Fredric first, maintaining great proximity through the whole bank, especially pressuring their Toyota hard coming into inner clip 1. Right at this moment, where the banking transitions into flat, we de-beaded a tire. The tire had lost all it’s pressure during the harsh hit to flat bottom. We finished up the run with air in one rear tire and were forced to forfeit. Formula Drift’s rules do not allow a tire change in the middle of the battle. With only one functioning rear tire on the car, that deemed it a wrap for us. Not getting the chance for a fair fight is disappointing, but that's just racing. Sometimes you need to take risks for the sake of victory, and sometimes you get the air let out of your tires, literally. The team and I had our heads held high, knowing we had the car to beat that weekend. But we defeated ourselves but also learned a valuable lesson, which is technically a win in itself.
Next stop is Road Atlanta, and I am confident in the team’s ability to succeed. Time to let Orlando go and focus on the ATL, see everyone this weekend!