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The sun may be just about 94 million miles from Earth, but those in attendance at Formula DRIFT’s Crossroads event at World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis might attest that it felt like the life-giving ball of plasma was hovering just over the track. Heat index readings of 105 degrees Fahrenheit at times, coupled with the infamous extreme humidity tested the endurance of teams, fans, media and staff throughout the weekend. Though pop-up storms peppered the radar around the region, the series evaded rainfall that had adversely affected track conditions in two of the last three rounds.
Though this marked the sixth entry of the Pro series for the 2021 season, it also marked the third time the ProSpec series had joined in on the fun. For the ProSpec competition, it would be Mike Power taking top honors, with Tommy Lemaire earning second place and Steve Misko wrapping it up with third. At the Pro level, Fredric Aasbø took a familiar position at the top of the heat while teammate Ryan Tuerck stood by him in second and Dylan Hughes repeated his performance from round five to take home the bronze, his second time ever on the podium.
Heat was definitely a factor in how everything progressed over the weekend. With heat indices soaring north of 100F, drivers, staff, track workers and fans did everything possible to keep cool.
Things kicked off Thursday afternoon with practice sessions for both sets of competitors. While some were seeing the course for the first time (built specifically for Formula DRIFT and debuted for the 2019 season), returning drivers got settled into a familiar landscape, adjusting for a few minor changes in clipping point and zone locations new for 2021. Whereas in years past top thirty-two and top sixteen competition would be split between two days, the new format and schedule slid the entire competition into one time slot, creating extra pressure on teams to make sure the cars are ready to be thrashed on without the safety net of an entire night devoted to repairs if need be.
On the ProSpec side, top qualifying honors went to Christian Nelson in his RTS/Wallis Fab Nissan 350Z, who came out swinging late in the pecking order and seemed to surprise the judges with a score of 92. Unfortunately for Nelson, the excitement was short-lived. Striking the wall with his car in the burnout box preparing for his first battle against Hooman Rahimi, and unable to fix it in time by calling his five-minute competition time out, he took himself out of the competition and allowed Rahimi, the thirty-second qualifier, to essentially be gifted entry into the top sixteen.
Mike Power in his Power Racing/MA Motorsports Nissan Silvia S15 began his climb to the top by winning his first battle against Austin Matta in the Don’t Matta Racing Nissan S14. The two collided when Matta decelerated too much in outside zone two on his lead run, causing Powers to have nowhere to go but the side of his car. Power called his five-minute competition time out and got back to the line for his lead run against Matta, and though both drivers made mistakes, Power's were less severe, and he got the nod to advance.
Power met Micah Diaz and his HoldFast/GT Radial/Proper Fabworks BMW E46 in top sixteen, once more making contact but none too severe. After a one-more-time was called by the judges for less than stellar runs from each, Power got the win and found himself in the great eight.
Mike Power leads Ricky Hoffman onto the bank to complete an early practice run. Power's consistent runs throughout the weekend would help lead him to victory in ProSpec.
It was there Power met Dmitriy Brutskiy, and in true-to-form fashion for this event, Power’s car acted like a magnet for accidents and the two collided where the Matta incident had occurred previously, leading to an incomplete run for Power. Despite being at a severe disadvantage for his lead run, Power laid down a blistering lap, with Brutskiy spinning just before the finish line in an attempt to keep pace. Though both drivers were at a disadvantage, Power was granted the win.
There would be contact yet still in Power’s next battle against Steve Misko and his Misko Motorsports/TireStacks Nissan S14.75, but the judges ruled Misko’s improper deceleration was to blame, securing himself a bronze as a result but sending Power onto the finals. It was there that Power met rookie Tommy Lemaire and his S15-befaced Nissan S14. With clean passes between the two and Lemaire spinning on his follow run right at the end, Power was awarded the win – his first since Orlando in 2020.
“The car felt amazing and allowed me to be really aggressive,” said Power on top of the podium. “We had a couple of close calls but it worked out in the end. I couldn’t have done it without my team, family, and especially my sponsors. We’re going to take this momentum straight to Irwindale and hopefully get another trophy.”
Dmitriy Brutskiy in his Essa Autosport/ISC Suspension BMW E46 went into this round tied in first for points with Nick Noback’s and his KoruWorks BMW E46, but Brutskiy inched ahead by a mere 15 points with his sixth-place overall finish compared to Noback’s eighth. Lemaire sits only 22 points back from the lead, so there’s plenty to fight for in the fourth and final round.
ProSpec driver Josh Love drops a tire and three-wheels it through outer zone one during a practice lap. Dirt drops in this area weren't uncommon and kept track officials busy resetting corner markers
The clouds of ProSpec smoke and tire debris had barely evacuated from the oppressive atmosphere when Pro drivers lined up for their competition. Just like ProSpec, Pro qualifying saw a new face on the top rung of the qualifying ladder. This time it was Alec Robbins in his Fasetto Nissan 350Z, laying down a very impressive 96-point run to catapult him to the top of the order. With fellow driver Frederico Sceriffo facing the same fate as Nelson’s 350Z in ProSpec, the FFF Drifting Department Ferrari 599 GTB was out of contention for the duo’s first pairing and allowed Robbins a free pass to top sixteen.
Aasbø and his Rockstar Energy Drink Toyota GR Supra started at top-32 base camp in a battle with Kyle Mohan and his KMR/Renewable Lubricants/Mazdatrix Mazda RX-8. Aasbø all but left Mohan behind on his lead run. When the roles were reversed, Mohan jumped the start three times in a row, disqualifying him from competition and gifting Aasbø a free pass to top sixteen.
Another easy win came to Aasbø against the Buy Now Japan Nissan Silvia S15 of Wataru Masuyama, who botched his lead run. Paired with Aasbø’s much better follow run, the Norwegian Hammer would get the nod to top eight.
Dylan Hughes and his BMW E46 lead Aurimas “Odi” Bakchis through outer zone one during the pre-qualifying warm up session. The two would do battle in top sixteen competition the following day, with Bakchis bowing out to Hughes, who would go on to take third place.
Michael Essa and his FCP Euro/Liqui Moly/GT Radial BMW M3 would be the next opponent for Aasbø. The two former series champions went one-more-time in their first pair of runs, but Essa dropped a tire on his second follow run, de-beading it from the wheel and prompting discussion of the rules governing tire change allowances when such an event transpires. After some deliberation, Essa was able to replace his tire, but Aasbø grabbed the win with the debacle-filled run of Essa’s ruled an incomplete.
Next came a battle of titans, as Aasbø sought victory over long-time rival and 2020 series champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. and his Monster Energy Ford Mustang RTR Spec 5-D. Perhaps one of the most anticipated battles of the night, the two behemoths dueled it out with a vengeance, but Gittin Jr. failed to leave it in the judges’ hands as he spun going into outer zone two, sending Aasbø to the finals.
All of this culminated into the final pairing between Aasbø and teammate Ryan Tuerck in the Gumout/Nitto Tire/Mobil 1 Toyota Corolla Hatchback, a car that used to be driven by Aasbø himself. Tuerck had knocked off Jonathan Nerren, Chris Forsberg and Alec Robbins to ascend to his spot in the finals. The latter of those matches resulted in the worst accident of the weekend, as Robbins went a little too hard into outer zone two, smashing the barriers with the left rear of his car, rotating it further and hitting again with the front left before coming to rest facing the opposite direction. It’s not how the number one qualifier wanted to spend his first time in the great eight, but he got out of the car unscathed and will return for the next round.
Fredric Aasbø leads Papadakis Racing teammate Ryan Tuerck around the track for the final battle of the very long night. Tuerck's RWD-converted Corolla was piloted by Aasbø during the 2019 season.
Tuerck would also strike the wall with his passenger rear tire on his chase run, though not nearly as bad as Robbins, and used his only five-minute competition time out to check everything over for his lead. Aasbø, true to form, made another pass devoid of any major error and secured victory, his first since Irwindale in 2020.
“It was an insane night in St Louis and I feel we got gifted a lot of rounds – with Kyle (Mohan) jumping the start three times, Michael spinning out, and Jr. breaking the rear suspension,” Aasbø said after the podium ceremony. “It’s the first win of the year for us and we’re absolutely delighted. We’re also getting closer to the Championship lead, and it’s going to be a thriller going to the team’s home course in California.”
Formula DRIFT returns to Long Beach on September 17-18 before wrapping up the season in Irwindale October 22-23. After St. Louis, Matt Field leads Chelsea DeNofa by 14 points, with Aasbø only 19 back from the lead, putting championship contention in the hands of several drivers.
Fredric Aasbø (center) took his Rockstar Energy Drink Toyota GR Supra to victory with teammate Ryan Tuerck (left) following him in second and Dylan Hughes (right) securing the bronze. St. Louis marks the first win for Aasbø since Irwindale last year.