As per every year, round one of the Formula Drift season kicked off this past weekend in Long Beach and we couldn’t be happier. Where else do you get to watch high-horsepower monsters of all sorts sliding around a grand prix course, leaving billowing clouds of tire smoke? Well, yeah, the internet, but you catch our drift (pun intended)
This year marks the 11th season of the Formula Drift series, and all of the teams came out swinging – a lot of the teams built new cars, swapped new engines into their current chassis, or brought on new drivers. Naturally, we were excited to see all of the cars that are under LS power, because LS engines are kind of our thing.
After a two year hiatus from Formula Drift to race overseas in the World Touring Car Championship, Charles Ng made a return to Formula Drift with his rad Infiniti G37 Coupe sporting a Vortech-supercharged LS3 between the strut towers. Ng was really close to qualifying in the top 32, but one point shattered that chance, ultimately knocking him out of the first round. Don’t worry, we will be seeing a lot more of Ng and his Speedhunters/Achilles Tire G37 in the upcoming rounds of the series.
Danny George also had a rough start this season due to a last minute finish on the build and not getting enough time to properly shake down the car before competition. He had a pretty bad crash into the tire barrier in turn one, but having the car repaired forced him to rely on one qualifying run, which looked really good until he stalled in the last corner leaving him with a zero. Expect to see more of George and his 1,000 horsepower LS3 Mazda Miata (equipped with enough nitrous to supply a dental office) in the next round taking place in Atlanta, Georgia.
We have a feeling that this season is going to be a good season for Daijiro Yoshihara and his new LS7 single-turbo Subaru BRZ – He did get knocked out early by Chris Forsberg in the Top 32 leaving him 26th in points, but we have a good feeling he’ll be back to his aggressive, precise driving once he gets more comfortable with the new chassis.
Another driver we were really looking forward to watching perform was Joon Maeng and his Lucas Oil-sponsored, Vortech-supercharged LS7 Nissan S13 hatch. Unfortunately, he had a crash in qualifying which resulted in a DNQ.
We hope he and his crew can get the car straightened out for the next round because we really want to see all of the claimed 1,125 supercharged-horsepower in action!
You may have seen Dennis Mertzanis’s 1,000 horsepower Vortech-supercharged LS7 Hyundai Genesis Coupe sponsored by Kenda Tire and ARK Performance when we posted an article about it a few weeks back. Mertzanis managed to knock Chelsea DeNofa out of the Top 32 to secure his spot in the Top 16, but didn’t secure a spot in the Great 8 due to Forrest Wang winning over the judges votes.
Conrad Grunewald qualified 12th for the main event in his Megan Racing/Hankook Tire Camaro and knocked out Jhonnattan Castro in the Progreso Nissan 370Z for a spot in the Top 16. While going up against Fredrick Aasbo and his Hankook Tire/Scion Racing TC in the Top 16, Grunewald wasn’t able to carry a drift into the first turn and hit Aasbo in the right rear. Grunewald was given time to repair his car as he had a bit of front-end damage, but Aasbo moved on to the Great 8 because Grunewald’s first run was considered a zero.
After qualifying in a healthy 3rd place, Tyler McQuarrie and his GoPro/Mobil 1 Camaro went up against Tony Angelo in the Scion Racing FR-S in the Top 32. Knocking Angelo out of the Top 32, McQuarrie went on to face Odi Bakchis and his LS3-powered Feal Suspension/Nitto Tire Nissan S14 after Bakchis knocked out Ken Gushi in the GReddy/Scion Racing FR-S from the Top 32.
In the Great 8, Bakchis went up against Justin Pawlak in the Falken Tire Ford Mustang and had a solid lead run, but that wasn’t enough to advance to the Final 4 after making contact with Pawlak in his lead run. Bakchis is proving to be a strong contender this year and is definitely one of the drivers to keep an eye out for during the course of the series.
Darren McNamara in the Falken Tire Nissan S14 is also one of those drivers to watch out for this season. Qualifying 15th for the main event, McNamara went on to defeat Dean Kearney and his Oracle Lighting/SRT Viper in the Top 32, advancing to the Top 16 where he went up against Vaughn Gittin Jr. and his Monster Energy/Nitto Tire Ford Mustang RTR.
McNamara was really holding his own against Gittin and that led him to advance to the Great 8 where he would face Chris Forsberg in his Hankook Tire 370Z. Forsberg is definitely bringing the heat this year, showing how hungry he is for the championship. McNamara’s driving was awesome, but not enough to win the judges over, allowing Forsberg into the Final 4 where he defeated Pawlak to get into the final battle with Kenny Moen and his Bridges Racing Nissan S14.
Forsberg and Moen Put on an awesome show in the final round, but Forsberg’s finesse and aggressive driving style won the judges over, giving him the first round win in Long Beach. As always, Round 1 at the Long Beach Grand Prix course was a lot of fun – there was awesome driving, new faces, and a lot of V8-powered cars this year. We can’t wait to see how the rest of the series will play out, because in drifting, anything can happen in an instant – stay tuned!