The Media Day held before Round 1 of the Formula DRIFT Championship has become one of our favorite events for two very simple reasons: free breakfast and drifting ride-alongs. This year’s affair, held the Tuesday before the March 31st to April 1st season opener, featured a spread of coffee, fruit, yummy pastries, and 15 sliding cars to choose from. What more logical time is there to run down who’s competing this year and who’s not? None, we say – although admittedly this is only a partial reckoning, but eff it, we’re just glad FD is starting up again! (The off-season BLOWS.)
Since it broke cover a few days ago, Fredric Aasbo’s Rockstar Energy Drink Toyota Corolla iM has been the talk of the Internet, and staffer Jofel Tolosa got to ride shotgun for a lap around the three-turn GP of Long Beach drifting street circuit. Toyota Racing teammates Ken Gushi, Jhonnattan Castro, and Ryan Tuerck joined Aasbo at Media Day, all in their refreshed 86s. And speaking of Tuerck, in the off-season he welcomed three-time champ Chris Forsberg and his now twin-turbo V6 Nissan 370Z (it used to be V8) to the Nameless Performance team; the car wasn’t on hand but Forsberg was to take part in the event’s opening press conference.
Other team ups taking part in Media Day included 2013 champ Mike Essa and his new second driver, Charles Ng, who will both be in BMW E46 for 2017 (only Essa drove at Media Day, though), and 2010 champ Vaughn Gittin, Jr. and his new partner in Mustangs Chelsea DeNofa, who won the Long Beach round in 2016 in his outgoing E46. A big chunk of Falken’s rejuvenated drift squad was also on hand – 2011 champ Dai Yoshihara and his Turn 14 Subaru BRZ, Odi Bakchis and Matt Field in matching Falken-liveried S14s, and Justin Pawlak with his Roush Performance Ford Mustang (missing were Europeans James Deane and Piotr Wieck and their 2jZ-powered S15).
Returning drivers Pat Goodin in his S13, Alex Heilbrunn in his BMW E46, and Dean Kearney in his Dodge Viper re-familiarized themselves with Long Beach’s snaking, narrow, canyon-esque course. Finally, newly minted pro driver (and Super Street man-crush) Dan Burkett took part in Tuesday’s activities, whipping his sexy Mk4 Supra around Long Beach like a blue, anti-lagging shark.
Driver Jeff Jones will be back for 2017 in his S14 but was not at Media Day; we’ve also heard that Daigo Saito is supposed to make a return this season – although at this point that seems a little farfetched (we haven’t heard a thing besides what was reported at Wrecked mag). Not returning this year are Tyler McQuarrie, Kenny Moen, and Geoff Stoneback, while recent Pro 2 graduate Ryan Litteral is also forgoing Formula D Pro to pursue other opportunities.
This is by no means a complete list but gives you a partial idea who’s back and who’s not. Enjoy our photo haul from Media Day, be on the lookout for coverage from Round 1, and if you want to watch the sideways action but can’t be in Long Beach, make sure to check out the Formula D live stream this Friday and Saturday.