This past Saturday marks the return of Formula Drift once more, now in its 11th season. A slew of new cars made up the field, as well as several old favorites. The competition proved unexpected, with several of our favorite names falling out of the competition far earlier than anticipated. However, with a new year comes new trials and tribulations amongst the teams and competitors. 2014 is sure to put on a show.
We attended the annual first round of Formula D, which takes place in our back yard – Long Beach, California. The event is held on a series of turns that make up the Long Beach Grand Prix INDY/TUDOR circuit which occurs the following weekend. The turns are lined by white K-Rails and cable-tensioned fencing, with grandstands reaching towards the sky to give thousands of spectators a view of the carnage that occurs on the other side of the wall.
The defending champion, Michael Essa, is back with an all-new E46 M3, and it seems like he’ll be a top contender for the year once more, after a third-place finish in the first event. Previous champion Chris Forsberg took top honors in his Nissan Z – which, I can say we’re quite glad is no longer wearing the less-than-aesthetically-pleasing NOS colors. Instead, it’s carbon fiber that makes up the basis for his updated livery.
We were excited to see Matt Field’s new livery out on track, but tuning issues kept his car from even qualifying. Equally unlucky from the Nitto camp was Chelsea Denofa. A personal favorite in the field, his new car has taken a full step forward towards competitiveness. However, his newfound boost in power, and the extra grippy new compound in his Nitto NT05s lead to a broken stock axle after just one run in competition.
Frederic Aasbo’s TC is now sporting a rocket bunny kit, and his orange-over-gray livery still proves to be one of the most photogenic. Ryan Tuerck’s livery has been updated as well – and as one of the nicest guys in the sport, I’m quick to wish him well. Early practice runs lead to a run-in with Odi Bakchis, crumpling the back of his car before the weekend had even began; however, the repairs had the car looking as good as ever.
Saturday’s competition proved somewhat “anti-climactic.” Our favorite cars and drivers were all unexpectedly knocked out in early rounds. Essa and Forsberg made it to the podium, which some may say is unsurprising, however, along side them, Kenny Moen took second place. The final standings after round one make for an exciting season to come. To those who podiumed, and to those who met the wall full-force, here’s to round two!