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Formula D Round 6 at Infineon Raceway - Fear And Loathing In Norcal

Scene: Formula D Round 6, Infineon Raceway Sonoma, CA 09-13-08

Charles Trieu
Jan 1, 2009
Photographer: Sean Klingelhoefer

So Sean and I get to cover another event for your reading pleasure. But this time, we were sent on a long three-day road trip all the way up the coast to Sonoma. Our trip wasn't as colorful compared to trips with Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo, but there were definitely some parallels. Definitely some fear-and-loathing shenanigans along the way.

My '87 Cressida would probably implode if I tried to get north of the Valley. Sean's '96 Civic is still rocking a D16 SOHC equipped with three working cylinders, and a blown head gasket that he assures will go away with the use of a Mugen radiator cap. So both our cars were pretty much deathtraps in the making. Luckily for us, Mister Wong (yes, he makes us call him that) was kind enough to call Moe at Mitsubishi and con him into lending us a test vehicle for our trip.

Don't call it an EVO. Moe hooked us up with a pre-production '09 Lancer Ralliart. The latest generation of the Ralliart is nothing like the previous. For this generation of Lancers, the Ralliart is pretty much a cheaper EVO. It's got a all-wheel-drive 2.0L 4B11 turbo engine similar to the EVO, minus about 60 hp. On top of that, it was equipped with Recaro seats and a Twin Clutch SST transmission from the MR. After finding out that MSRP is about $13k less than the MR, I really started to consider buying one. But not after a long reckless test drive of one first, of course. Thanks Moe!

Sean loved driving the car so much, he wouldn't even pull over when I asked him to so we could play with the cows and sheep at the farms. Geesh, at least let a guy run through the Grapevine til I puke. (Not to mention the "wouldn't it be fun to ride a dirtbike through that orchard" idea - SK.) Our first stop was Fatlace in San Francisco. Mark Arsenal was kind enough to team up with Formula D, to host Cone Killers, an autograph signing and release party for the next day's drift event. SF again proves it's the coolest city on the planet. Even on a Thursday, the city was alive with tons of people out. Unfortunately, we couldn't stay long in SF, and had to move north to Sonoma.

Being the two newest members on the Super Street staff, Sean and I have never been to a Formula D event for work before. It's always been just for viewing pleasure. We were hoping that this time around, we would be treated like kings. NOT. We didn't even get to park our lovely Lancer in the pits with all the other crew persons. I even got yelled at when we avoided parking attendants and tried to park closer to the gate. However, the silly blue Formula D vests, designated to media crews, gave us access to the track. Sean was a little pissed that the blue vest was XXXL and didn't work with his skinny jeans. But that allowed us to stand and shoot on the track, closer to the action then we ever got as a spectator. The drift cars were pretty amazing up-close. But standing so close we were engulfed in tire smoke and exhaust fumes. We had to take several breaks and fill our lungs with cigarette smoke just to survive.

Practice day on Friday didn't yield any crashes as we hoped. So no spectacular photos from Friday. The competition did get hot on Saturday but there were no serious crashes either. I must admit the underdog-lover in me, was happy to see a couple small cars take out some of the giant cars, near the finals. Ryan Tuerck's Solstice took out Samuel Hubinette's high-horsepower Dodge Viper, and Rhys Millen and his Solstice beat out Conrad Grunewald's Corvette. Tons of horsepower doesn't equate to winning in Formula D. Skills pay the bills son!

Although Ken Gushi made it to the top 16 qualifiers, his Beams powered Scion tC sounded like it was having some drivetrain problems and didn't get too far in the rounds. "Wild Bill" Sherman came out swinging in his burgundy S13.5 240SX and beat out guys like Forsberg and Tuerck. Almost no one could shake this guy off. He went undefeated until finally losing to Tanner Foust and his 350Z. Sherman landed a third place spot, while Foust went on to battle Rhys Millen for first place, where Foust won. After seeing all the well-built cars up close, Sean and I were definitely swayed into building drift cars. I'm now looking to buy a 240SX, while SK is getting a chubby for hachi-rokus. Hatchbacks and pop-up headlights FTMFW Sean!

After Formula D, we busted the midnight mission home. About six hours later, I got home at 3am. Somehow I managed to survive all the speeding, crappy fast food, cigarettes, exhaust fumes, tire smoke, pissing in strange places, lack of sleep and more cigarettes. I do love my job!

By Charles Trieu
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