This exciting, action packed round marked the completion of one decade of the Formula Drift series, and with approximately 20,000 fans over the course of the weekend, this was Formula Drift’s highest attending event in the sport’s history. Held at Irwindale Speedway, The Final Fight is the most anticipated and adrenaline filled round of the popular series, and all of the drivers are eager to get out on the track and competitively slay some tires.
Michael Essa, driver of the GSR Autosport/Yokohama M3, came into the event with the points lead and ended up qualifying first, giving him the advantage when entering the Top 32 eliminations. Essa advanced to the Top 16, but was unable to finish the event because of a blown motor, thus leaving the door open for Chris Forsberg, driver of the NOS Energy Drink/Hankook Nissan 370z.
Forsberg entered the event second in points and had a very solid car, but was eliminated by the 2012 champion, Daigo Saito, in the Great 8. This left Essa in the points lead where he would claim his first Formula Drift championship, also marking this the first time a European car has ever won the championship. “Coming into this event I wanted to prove that this season wasn’t a fluke and sitting on the sideline wasn’t how I wanted the event to go down, but unfortunately that is what happened tonight,” stated Essa.
The consolation round consisted of Robbie Nishida in the Bridges Racing/Achilles Tire Lexus SC300 and Forrest Wang in the Get Nuts Lab/Achilles Tire Nissan 240SX. After two intense runs, Wang got the better of Nishida and went on to score his first ever Formula Drift podium finish.
Daigo Saito in the Achilles Tire/Bridges Racing Lexus SC430 and Tyler McQuarrie in the Mobil 1/GoPro Chevrolet Camaro were the last drivers left to compete in the event. The last two rounds were full of adrenaline, insane angle, and blistering entry speeds as Saito and McQuarrie battled it out for first and second.
Unfortunately in the very last match, Tyler McQuarrie’s entry speed was a bit too fast and struck the wall, leading Saito to the first place podium spot. Over here at LSXMag, we’re really into Camaros, in case you haven’t noticed, and we were really pulling for McQuarrie in this season, but a second place podium finish is more than acceptable, rather than not placing podium at all.
Another one of our drivers to watch was Conrad Grunewald in the Hankook Tire/Megan Racing Chevrolet Camaro, which is in fact powered by a GM Performance LS7 making 715 HP and 615ft-lb of torque. Grunewald had some great runs in practice, and ended up qualifying 19th for the Top 32. Matched up with Grunewald in the Top 32 was Frederic Aasbo in the Hankook Tire/Scion Racing Scion TC, who was also putting down some solid runs over the course of the weekend. Unfortunately, Grunewald was knocked out by Aasbo in the Top 32, leaving him sitting at the 12th spot in points for the season. Nonetheless, both Camaro drivers finished off the season with spots in the top 16 for points.
Throughout the whole season both Camaro drivers were quite consistent in qualifying. The only round that Grunewald didn’t qualify for was the first event in Long Beach – he managed to qualify for Top 32 in every other round. McQuarrie made Top 32 qualifying in every round, but placed second in The Final Fight. McQuarrie and Grunewald definitely hold it down for the muscle cars in the drift world, and we can’t wait to see what next season will turn out like. The best of luck to both teams next season!