Formula Drift Invades Road Atlanta

05/11/2022

Formula Drift Invades Road Atlanta

05/11/2022

Drift fans from across the country and beyond made their annual pilgrimage to the birthplace of Formula DRIFT at Road Atlanta for the series' second round of competition this year. What appeared to be a record crowd was treated to a knock-down, drag-out elimination bracket that would see defending series champion Fredric Aasbo ascend the ranks to victory and secure his spot at the top of the standings.

Fredric Aasbo not only took the win but also the lead in the points Championship.



The threat of severe weather earlier in the week all but cleared up by the time the gates opened on Friday, with only a light shower or two in the morning that would see the track completely dry by the time practice started in the afternoon. Constant, sometimes intense wind ensured the smoke wouldn't linger over the battleground, and temperatures fell into the low 50s by the top eight bracket on Saturday, making what was possibly the coldest Atlanta round since the series began in 2004.


Thirty-seven drivers began the knock-out qualifying session, with five drivers being eliminated not by a low score, but simply by mechanical or technical issues that caused incomplete runs. Matt Field in his Drift Cave/Falken Tire C6 Corvette took the top qualifying honors with a score of 93, tying Chelse DeNofa in his Pennzoil/BC Racing Mustang RTR Spec 5-FD but edging him out by being a bit more flashy and earning a higher style score. Aasbo would place himself and his Rockstar Energy Toyota GR Supra in third place with a score of 89.


2022 saw New Zealander Darren Kelly debut a 2022 Aston Martin Vantage, its V12 engine boosted by twin turbos.



In a sport dominated by cars from the country in which the sport originated (Japan), it's refreshing to see something new from time to time. Though Federico Sceriffo has campaigned a Ferrari 599 in the series for several years now, 2022 saw New Zealander Darren Kelly debut a 2022 Aston Martin Vantage, its V12 engine boosted by twin turbos, at round one in Long Beach, CA. A decade ago it would have been hard to imagine a Ferrari and an Aston Martin competing in Formula DRIFT, yet somehow neither car truly feels out of place. Both drivers achieved personal bests in Atlanta, with Sceriffo netting his first top sixteen appearance, and Kelly making it into the bracket of thirty-two; neither driver would make it beyond those marks.


Top sixteen competition got off to a rocky start, as Alec Robbins in the Fasetto Nissan 350Z charged a little too hard going into the keyhole in his battle with Field, burying the 350Z in the rocks and requiring a tow. Though he would return for his second battle with Field, he wouldn't advance to the next round. In the second pairing between Jeff Jones in the EVOL Auto Works Nissan 370Z and Travis Reeder in the Travis Reeder Racing BMW E46, Reeder would drop a tire coming off the first transition down the hill, then the two would collide on the way back up. Jones was deemed the winner, though he wouldn't be able to best his 2021 performance of fourth place overall as he was eliminated by Field in the great eight.

Matt Field in his Drift Cave/Falken Tire C6 Corvette took the top qualifying honors with a score of 93



Three-time series champion Chris Forsberg was campaigning the all-new NOS Energy Drink Nissan 400Z, making it look as if the new-for-2022 ride had been his chariot for years. He started off his top sixteen pairing against a very strong looking Jhonnattan Castro and his Gerdau Metaldom Toyota GR86, who had just taken Kelly's Vantage out in top thirty-two. Forsbserg would face another Toyota in the great eight, this time being the RAD Industries/GearWrench/GT Radial Mark IV Supra of “Rad Dan” Burkett. As in the battle with Castro, Burkett cut corners to try and keep pace with the Z car, ultimately giving Forsberg the nod to advance to the semi-finals.


When it came time for Field and Forsberg to battle it out for a spot in the finals, the two veterans drivers left nothing on the table. Field retained the quickness he had been showing throughout the competition, running away from Forsberg on his lead run coming out of outer zone two and up into the keyhole. Forsberg mashed the throttle and caught up to Field, retaining proximity through the remainder of the run. When the lead role was reversed, Field kept pace with Forbserg until a technical issue forced him to shut down the Corvette transitioning out of the keyhole, and at that point Field would have to be satisfied with a well-earned third place finish. Though Forsberg had made it to the finals, his night was far from over.


Alec Robbins in the Fasetto Nissan 350Z charged a little too hard going into the keyhole in his battle with Field


Aasbo began his path to the finals with a win over Justin Pawlak and his Falken Tire Ford Mustang in the top sixteen. Though a close battle, the judges felt Aasbo's chase run lent itself more to their favor, and the Norwegian Hammer would advance to face Papadakis Racing teammate and 2022 round one winner, Ryan Tuerck in his Rain-X/Nitto Tire Toyota GR Corolla. The pairs' first set of runs were deemed worthy of a one-more-time call, prompting an eruption of cheers from the packed house.

On their second set of runs, the two made contact outside of outsize zone two, and Tuerck's car appeared to bog down slightly before re-initiating chase. Citing a possible broken transmission, Tuerck would face defeat and bow out to his teammate.


Bakchis would be the next rung on Aasbo's ladder to the finals. On their first set of runs, Bakchis kept his S15 on the A90 Supra's door for the majority of the run, falling back somewhat on the transition out of outer zone two before the climb back up the hill. When the two switched positions, Aasbo performed a far better chase, with the judges' scores being tipped in his favor.


Aasbo and Forsberg, one-time and three-time champions, their six-cylinder chariots pushing 1,050 and 1,200 horsepower, all respectively, looked to be a fairly dead-even pairing. In their first set of runs, the judges were unable to determine a winner and a one-more-time was called, again to deafening cheers of the crowd. As the battle moved into its third round, Forsberg transitioned early into inside clip three during his chase run, skating across the infield and putting himself in a massive scoring deficit going into the final match. There, Aasbo drove a bit more conservatively knowing he just had to finish the run without a major error to secure the victory, which he did without issue. Forsberg's second place finish mirrored that of his initial placement at Road Atlanta in 2004.


Three-time series champion Chris Forsberg was campaigning the all-new NOS Energy Drink Nissan 400Z, making it look as if the new-for-2022 ride had been his chariot for years.



“What an incredible weekend. From struggling in practice with set up issues, to not getting much seat time, and making a small mistake in qualifying, we gradually got better and faster and cleaner. I feel like we peaked at just the right moment,” Aasbo said after the trophies were awarded and the champagne had been sprayed. “Against this stacked field of drivers with incredible skill and fantastic cars, this win feels particularly sweet. And I really want to thank the fabulous fans for remaining at the track late into the night to celebrate with us.”


With his win and high-finishing performances by fellow Toyota drivers, Aasbo extended the manufacturer's championship points lead over Chevrolet by a margin of almost 100 points (351 to 262), while also maintaining Nitto's position over Falken in the tire manufacturer's championship (351 to 335).


“As a chilly event comes to an end, the on-track action was super-hot with Fredric Aasbo not only taking the win but also the lead in the Championship,” said Ryan Sage, Formula DRIF president. “Matt Field and Ryan Tuerck are close behind, with Chris Forsberg and Odi Bakchis also having a great weekend and completing the top five. We love coming to Road Atlanta for the amazing fans and the track is a favorite for many people, but we’re now looking forward to Orlando for FD Pro round three and the opening round of the Link ECU PROSPEC Championship.”

author

Nick Quigley
6 Posts