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Formula DRIFT Behind The Scenes - Event

Matt Powers shows me around the newest FD venue: Palm Beach International Raceway.

Nate Hassler
Oct 6, 2011
Modp 1110 01+formula drift behind the scenes+cover Photo 2/9   |   Formula DRIFT Behind The Scenes - Event

Among all the drivers in the professional drifting scene, few are more recognizable than Matt Powers. With his bright green and white Rocket Bunny S14, the always present (but never predictable) brightly colored sunglasses and backed by the insatiable antics of the “Matt-ley Crue,” Mr. Powers is certainly a bit of the proverbial rock star in the world of FD. But the thing about Matt that you might never guess if you don’t take the time to get to know him is that his real personality isn’t like that at all. Soft spoken and polite, Matt Powers is, for lack of a better description, a straight up cool ass dude.

Modp 1110 01+formula drift behind the scenes+cover Photo 2/9   |   Formula DRIFT Behind The Scenes - Event

Born and raised in San Diego, Matt spent most of his youth surfing and causing mischief around town with his buddies. Rarely found in the classroom, Matt would rather spend time perfecting his technique in the water than learn about the War of 1812 or how to find the square root of 3.

“When I turned 16, my dad gave me his car, which was a ’84 BMW 533i,” Matt recalls. “It was by far the fastest car of all my friends, and the most beat up too. After school on the way home, we would all mess around in our cars, and eventually I found out about drifting and started drifting on the streets in San Diego.” Shortly after being bit by the drifting bug, Matt decided to start taking it a bit more seriously. He built the car that he still drives, the token Zenki S14 (once turbo-KA-powered, now propelled by a Corvette motor) he is so known for by now.

Modp 1110 02+formula drift behind the scenes+matt powers Photo 3/9   |   Matt (right) and his trusted spotter Tommy Roberts.

“I started going to events and soon after, stopped street drifting entirely and only drove on the track because it’s a lot more fun (not to mention safer — and legal),” Matt says with a laugh. “I never really aspired or tried to be a pro drifter until I got my Formula D license in 2008 at the Red Bull event in Long Beach, then I figured I would just street drive my car to Round 1 in Long Beach and quit pro drifting. I ended up having so much fun at the first event that I continued to do Formula D just for fun while being in college at an extremely uncompetitive level and ended up somehow getting fourth place at Irwindale that year.”

And the rest is history, or so they say. After his first season of Formula DRIFT in 2009, Matt has continued to get better and better. This year, Powers is sponsored by some big-name companies, and his trusty Nissan has a new heart transplant: a GM V-8. Although this is a highly contested debate, I only want to touch on the subject briefly.

Modp 1110 03+formula drift behind the scenes+autographed valve cover Photo 4/9   |   Matt is great with his fans; here he signs a Nissan KA24 valve cover, a bit of homage to his humble beginnings.

“I used to think V-8s were lame when I was younger and didn’t participate or follow professional drifting,” Matt says. “But now that I see how much the driving has improved and how exciting it is, I am fine with the V-8 stuff. I don’t really care about the whole ‘debate’ or feel the need to pay any homage to or idolize a turbocharger.” Well said, in my opinion; if it works, then use it. So far this season Matt has done better then ever. He sat in third place entering the Round 3 weekend at Palm Beach International Raceway, and Matt is excited to see how the new track works out.

Modp 1110 04+formula drift behind the scenes+crew Photo 5/9   |   Matt’s crew chief, Costa Gialamas (left), and team mechanic, Tom Roberts (right), have a chat in the pit lane near start/finish. The setup for Matt’s car will change slightly, depending on track conditions and which track the event is at. Thankfully, the V-8 is a very reliable powerplant, so aside from filling up and changing tires, there’s not a lot of tinkering that needs to be done between runs.

He runs a very tight-knit crew with Formula D — his guys have been with him since the beginning, and Matt relies on each of them for their help and knowledge. Matt Powers’ crew consists of Costa Gialamas, crew chief/fabricator; Tom Roberts Sr., mechanic; Tommy Roberts Jr., spotter; and Nate Deck, media relations.

After securing his qualifying rank and making it to the top 32, Matt had his work cut out for him on day two of the competition. In an epic “friendly fire” battle, Matt and Team Need For Speed teammate Fredric Aasbo battled it out in the first round. Fredric fought valiantly, but Matt was able to win the bout and move on because of his better line and greater angle. Next up was the faceoff between Powers and rookie driver Ryan Kado. Kado has done a great job in his rookie season by proving himself been a threat to established drivers all year. However, it was Matt’s to win once again as he slid past Kado to move on to the top 8. Here, the day belonged to someone else — Justin “JTP” Pawlak, Powers’ longtime friendly rival, took the round and went on to win first overall for the event.

Modp 1110 05+formula drift behind the scenes+teammates Photo 6/9   |   Matt Powers and Team Need For Speed teammate Fredric Aasbo shoot the breeze before the driver’s meeting. Although these guys are friends, it’s a no-holds-barred affair on track — everyone is in it to win.

Matt would have liked to finish on the podium, but after a fun and productive weekend, he’s pleased to move on and prepare for the next round of competition in New Jersey. Keep your eyes on Powers, the guy is full of surprises and we expect to see him on at least one more podium this season, and hopefully more!

By Nate Hassler
182 Articles

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